The misinforming and/or misleading in Yizhar Hirschfeld's new book, Qumran
in Context: Reassessing the Archaeological Evidence (2004) begins already with
the dust cover photographs. We see two wooden combs and a string of beads set
over a photo of Qumran.
But these two wooden combs are not from Qumran! Despite the explicit claim in
the caption. They are both from the Wadi Murabba'at caves and were published as
such in Discoveries in the Judaean Desert II (1961), part 2, planches, pl.
XIV.8 and Pl. XIV.9. In any case, such combs were used to remove lice from
hair, and lice infest either gender. Y. H. made the same wrong claim in J. of
Roman Archaeology 16 (2003) 648-52.
And the beads, apparently, are intended to suggest feminine luxury. But these
beads, found in the cemetery, are, with quite high probability, from a burial
from long after the time that the Essenes left Qumran, circa 68 CE. The
important article by Joe Zias in Dead Sea Discoveries (2000) on some later than
Second Temple Burials is mentioned and dismissed quite briefly, on page 161
note 222, and misleadingly in the mere two sentences allowed to Zias's
important contribution; jewelry dating is not mentioned there. The more
extensive study by Christa Clamer (in Humbert and Gunneweg ed.) is briefly
mentioned, but again with no mention of Jewelry dating. Clamer even notes an
Ain Feshkha burial of a woman with jewelry apparently including a (lost!)
Turkish (?) coin. In brief, at least some of the burials of women at Qumran are
post Second Temple Period. By the way, Joan Taylor's PEQ 134 (2002) 152 informs
us that a 19th century visitor to Qumran, A. A. Isaacs, considering the
cemetery "... believed they were Bedouin." Also, BTW, G. L. Harding mentions an
early (1949?) sounding in the cemetery, and, though his dating may quite well
have beeen mistaken, initially estimated (in Illustrated London News; I'll dig
up the date if needed; also, BTW, he mentions an Aramaic Enoch scroll--was he
mistaken?) the cemetery as third or fourth century AD. The contribution of Zias
in DSD is widely accepted, though a reader of Hirschfeld would have no clue of
In brief, these two cover photographs mislead the readers.
The subtitle of the book matches that in Hirschfeld's long SBF Liber Annuus
article (nominally 2002, available 2004), already shown to be problematic on
ane list. Other errors appear in the book's main text.
There is nothing wrong with looking at the region ("context"--and the 1QSerek
hayahad quotation of Isaiah 40:3 is a big hint on the Essene self-location),
but nothing about the region/context excludes Essenes.
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