Dear Joe Zias,

    First, I think your observations on the apparent bedouin burials in the 
auxiliary cemetery (if I may call it that) is one of the more important 
recent contributions to Qumran archaeology, alongside Hirschfeld's 
identification of the remains as a fortified manor house based on comparison 
with architectural layouts of other sites.  
    A couple questions.  
    First, do I recall correctly that others have argued that more than one 
skeleton in the main cemetery were female or possibly female?  Certainly 
spindle whorls and fabric fragments at Qumran show a female presence at the 
site.
    Second, are there other social contexts in which cemeteries are found 
that are predominantly male?  It seems to me a sectarian interpretation of 
this datum is not the only possible one.  For instance, a very basic 
question, what are the ratios of males to females in agricultural or 
industrial sites?  This seems especially relevant since the fortified manor 
house layout suggests the site may have been more of an agricultural 
enterprise (perhaps associated with the palms of Ein Feshka) rather than a 
private domicile.
    Third, even if one granted a hypothesis that the site were sectarian, 
what sect is indicated by the archaeological data?  The halachic texts have 
important affinities with Sadducee tenets, and indeed the only Qumran texts 
with significant parallels to Josephus' description of the Essenes are 1QS 
and certain portions of CD that display influence from 1QS.  This had an 
undue influence on the earliest generation of scrolls scholars who hadn't 
seen 11QT, 4QMMT, etc.  So one must ask, does the archaeology of the site 
better correlate with Essenes or Sadducees?  Mikvaot were common to all the 
sects, I imagine.  It seems to me the toilet found within the site of Qumran 
rather argues against an Essene identification.  And what of the proximity of 
the cemetery to Qumran?  It seems to me a sound archaeological approach would 
consider possible correlations with all three sects, not jump the gun and 
equate religious features at the site (e.g. the mikvaot) as pointing to the 
Essenes.  Pliny is often prematurely invoked, but the religious architecture 
is primarily associated with Period Ib, while at best Pliny's testimony 
points to Essenes in Period II (and not necessarily as owners of the estate).
    I will be very interested in your insights.

Best regards,
Russell Gmirkin

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