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orion-list Facts Do Matter!
Joe's selective and flawed readings of an article I sent him a few days ago
("Bones of Contention", Qumran Chronicle 9/1, 2000, 51-76) urge me to set a
few things straight and bring the discussion on the bone material from
Qumran back from speculation to scientific facts. To make my point clear, I
go through Joe's remarks and comment upon them.
>remember that it was originally my colleague in Germany Dr. Olav
>Rohrer-Ertl who resexed the four skeletons not me.
This is true, and therefore everybody is well advised to go to Dr. Olav
Roehrer-Ertl's publications first, before one sides with any secondary
comments about the material by people who are not familiar with the
material. All anthropological, physical, chemical and environmental data
are presented and discussed in three long articles in:
Bernhard Mayer (ed.), Jericho and Qumran. Neues zum Umfeld der Bibel
(Regensburg: Pustet Verlag) 2000:
O.Rohrer-Ertl etc, Graberfelder von Qumran I: Anthropologische Datenvorlage
(published before in RQ 19/73, 1999, 3-46), 165-226.
O.Rohrer-Ertl etc, Graberfelder von QumranII: Naturwissenschaftliche
F.Rohrhirsch, O.Rohrer-Ertl, Graberfelder von Qumran III: Zum Versuch der
Nachweisbarkeit eines religiosen Eigengeprages von Khirbet Qumran, 277-309.
The readers of Joe's "exegesis" of Rohrer-Ertls work have to remember,
however, that his interpretation is not necessarily in accordance with what
the Germans originally said. Everybody is invited to check that for himself
>The material was
>originally regarded in the field as male by Professor Kurth, a well
>respected French Physical Anthropologist in the 1950's.
Sorry, Professor Kurth was not French, he was German (as Joe had plenty of
time to discover if he had read Roehrer-Ertl's report in Revue de Qumran
19/73, 1999). The well known French anthropologist Father de Vaux was also
working with was Henri-V. Vallois. Maybe a negligable detail, but let's
keep with the facts here, too (more details on this cooperation in my
article in QC).
>Upon seeing the
>material and taking the necessary measurements I saw that Kurth was
>correct. Resexing material is done all the time and is legitimate
>however it must be based on firm scientific grounds. I suspect that my
>German colleague was not familiar with comparative anthro. data here and
>therefore erred in his assessment.
This statement frankly blows my mind! I leave it up to colleagues in
physical anthropology to assess Joe's methodology and the value of this
statement. Again, dear readers, compare the charts provided in
Rohrer-Ertl's first article to see yourself what the exact identifications
of Vallois and Kurth actually were and where Rohrer-Ertl changed them.
There is nothing more rewarding than the original! Joe, any possibility
that you might be wrong in your measurements that took just a few days,
instead of Rohrer-Ertl who has worked on the bones for years? I really
admire your chutzpa!
>When my German colleague sexed the
>material coming from the eastern part of the cemetery and said that it
>was female I concurred with his assessment, but disagreed with his
>dating of the material.
Here, half of the facts were left out, butthey also matter. Yes, there are
women in the eastern section of the cemetery (the so-called "fringe"). But
why didn't you mention, Joe, that "your German colleagues" also said that
there is no archaeological or scientific reason to doubt that all bones are
roughly of the same age? It is this sort of quoting the half of the
material one likes and silently dismissing the other that one does not like
that makes archaeological work on Qumran so difficult. For all who do not
read German, their arguments are repeated in my QC article.
>2. As for the dating of the woman and sub adults (excepting T-9) prior
>to the German's C-14 dating of three contentious tombs I was in a
>meeting in which I announced to colleagues here in Jerusalem that the
>material was definitely Bedouin (Mamluke/Turkish) for a variety of
>reasons. Suddenly someone in the hall, rose his hand and said that a
>unpublished manuscript was circulating ( which which I hadn't seen)
>in which were carbon 14 dates which substantiated my dating. Last week
>my colleague J. Zangenberg e-mailed me an article from a Polish Journal
>in which he claims that the c-14dating is irrelevant as it was based on
>material which was used for packing! One can therefore ask, did De
>Vaux's team select for packing and transport, material which gave C-14
>dates from the Turkish period. Where did they get material which was
>several hundreds of years old in the 1950's and use it for packing? Is
>the C-14 date on the 'packing material' which coincides with my dating
>based on archaeological/anthropological just a coincidence for all three
>tombs. Secondly, he claims that they mistook organic material
>(bark/cork) for bone, the former which was used for packing in the
>carbon 14 tests. Hard to believe that experienced scientists could not
>tell the difference between tree bark/cork and bone.
Actually, it is hard to believe what Joe is reading into my article. Let me
make that very clear: I do not want to be quoted in the same sentence with
an "unpublished circulating manuscript". Whoever accepts those "unpublished
circulating manuscripts" - I certainly don't. It strikes me that Joe seems
to have this position adopted without checking? Is that true? In Qumran
research, the time of quoting "unpublished circulating manuscripts that I
have not seen" should definitely be over. In my opinion Joe's line of
argumentation is not compatible with the standards of academic research!
One second thing: It is not Rohrer-Ertl who was not able to distinguish
between bork and bone. I made it very clear in my article (and for more
details I refer to Rohrer-Ertl's work) that the Germans were well aware of
the differences! Unnecessary to mention that! They ran these tests as a
kind of counter-check to the tests on the bones which did not produce any
conclusive data. I did not say that "they" (the Germans!?) mistook "organic
material for bone", I said that whoever takes the 200 BP dates as referring
to any bone material makes a fundamental mistake and combines data that are
not compatible. Again: Here are the bones, none of them are datable
according to C14 so far, - there is the packing material which is dated to
around 200 BP. But why do I repeat all that, it is in the article (pp.
72-73). And Joe: concerning the range of deviation common in C14 dating, a
date of 200 BP does not say that the packing material is "several hundreds
of years old". A date of between the 16th and the 19th century cannot tell
you anything else but the the material is "modern". Don't speculate! Again:
its all in these three articles, read them and you avoid such kind of
speculation and unfair insinuations we can see in Joe's mail.
Regarding my article Joe quotes, please read it yourself and decide, if Joe
quotes me correctly.
>The only problem which I was forced to address was to spend about 6
>months reading what others before me had to say and believe me that was
>a lot. :-) Some good, some bad, some irrelelant, and some absurd.
>Therefore, I first went to the hard data, the skeletal evidence and they
>had to wade through the literature not, visa versa as you suggest. My
>prior commitment/agenda was science, nothing less, nothing more.
I am not sure what Joe is saying in the last two sentences, but I have the
feeling that Joe in his research missed the most fundamental set of data,
though generously shared by his German collegues with him during his visit
some time ago, and readily available in print well before the Boston SBL
conference in 1999. Joe, please correct me, if I am wrong.
The only thing I can do is to invite all orion subscribers (including Joe)
to look at the data that are published.
After all such hard but necessary words, I do not want to quit before
thanking Professor Baumgarten for his controversial, but illuminating paper
in Nashville and his summary on this website. His remarks to me are
definitely more worth discussing than speculations about bones.
All the best
[Yet another long message permitted by the moderator. AP]
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