Dear Joe,

You wrote:

>My attempt to define the site of Qumran, Ain el-Ghuweir and posssibly
>Zissu's site in Jerusalem as Essene is based mainly on demographics, i.e.
>the lack of women with the exception of one at Qumran and the lack of young
>children at all of the three sites. 

This is your analysis of the matter -- but not the only 
analysis --, in which you disagree with Roehrer-Ertl over 
the classification of the bones long in his hands. At the 
same time, you reject -- apparently out of hand -- the 
finds in the cemetery of three women made by Solomon 
Steckoll, who you note was not an archaeologist but more 
of a journalist and of whose work you have the opinion 
that it is totally unreliable. In dismissing both Roehrer-
Ertl and Steckoll you might end up with data that reflects 
the demographics you now have in mind, but I personally 
would like to know more. 

Your complaint with Roehrer-Ertl was that the heights of 
the remains of three bodies he declared female were 159, 
159 and 163cm, which are well above the average height for 
women of the period (150cm), but quite normal for males of 
the time (160cm). This makes sense, but is it sufficient 
to overturn the learned opinion of a specialist in the 
field whose acquaintance with the bones has been since in 
1991? Is it not true that your contact with all the bones 
was for brief periods over less than a week?

The treatment of Steckoll in footnote 56 on page 240 of your 
article seems only to be an ad hominem dismissal of the man 
leaving the work untouched. (Puech of course is (yet again) 
welcome to his opinion, here of Steckoll.) You make the 
complaint that Steckoll's work in the cemetery was illegal, 
but at the time he started his operation there, the territory 
was under the control of the Jordanian government, and 
Steckoll actually had permission from that government to 
perform his work. It was only after the 1967 war that Qumran 
past under the control of Israel and all such cemetery digs 
were disallowed. 

Nonetheless, there are three women accredited to graves in 
the central part of the cemetery, as published in a journal 
of repute, the Revue de Qumran. Steckoll's efforts were of 
such low esteem that he was allowed to publish another article 
in the same journal.

>My argument with Golb et al is that the problem facing Qumran scholars is
>basically an anthropological/archaeological one whereas nearly all the
>interpertations have been made by textual scholars which is why the obvious
>has been overlooked.  

I need to add here that it was people without a basic 
anthropological/archaeological background who first 
suggested the Essene Hypothesis, people who were prepared 
to overlook the inconsistencies in Pliny to use him in 
support of the Essenes at Qumran -- when Pliny clearly 
says that the Essenes "fled" the littoral of the sea 
and where do we find Qumran? on the littoral! The 
Hirschfeld site above Ein Gedi fits neatly into the 
description found in Pliny as naturally Ein Gedi is below 
it and it seems more likely than Qumran to have been a 
poor religious retreat. So, there is nothing at all to 
tie the Essenes to Qumran, except for tendentious 
readings of scrolls and perhaps your demographic analysis, 
but it in no way directly suggests any particular group.

(And the reason why I previously mentioned Golb was 
because you spent your time attacking his positions 
rather than doing the job of considering the evidence for 
the Essenes, an action that wan't done in the section you 
headed "Discussion: Is Qumran Essene?". One would have 
expected something to follow which attempted to resolve 
the question.)

>As for the large number of copies of certain texts which you cite, I believe
>that many scholars today would agree that not only were many of these
>scrolls not Qumranic in origin but may have been stored there in the caves
>for safe keeping. 

This of course opens up an interesting area of arbitrarness. 
How does one know that any of the scrolls belonged to 
inhabitants of Qumran? It cannot be assumed and it hasn't 
been shown.

I also support the notion that the scrolls were stored in 
the caves, however.

Let me mention here my own analysis of the scrolls deposit: 
in 63 BCE the Sadducees were in possession of a number of 
fortresses (and/or other military sites), which at that time 
included Qumran -- not as a fortress, but an ancilliary 
establishment (it has an extremely strategic position 
directly on the coast from Hyrcania, in line of site of 
Machaerus and Jericho, and commanded a view of the shipping 
on the sea). With the wind of Pompey's arrival and the 
strong possibility of an apocalyptic war, valuable texts 
(as indicated by the Copper Scroll) were gathered in 
Jerusalem and sent to sites around the country, including 
Jericho and Qumran. Long before the storage process could be 
finished the process had to be abandoned (due to the need to 
defend Jerusalem) and the bulk of the scrolls were sealed in 
cave 4, where they lay until the 1950s.

>The pottery analysis of several scrolls jars would seem to
>belie this assertion. Lastly, as for literacy, it would be hard to imagine
>that the men of Qumran would not be literate on the basis of what is known
>about the sect.

What would make you think such an idea? In America today 
there is a *functional* illiteracy rate of over 20%. This 
is with obligatory education for everyone. As to the Essenes 
all indications we have of them point to a poor background: 
denial of familial ties, wearing of clothes in rags being 
acceptable, despising of riches, (at least according to 
Josephus), and there is nothing in any of the ancient 
accounts to make one think that they were overendowed with 

The few dozen people at Qumran worked in their shops. The 
analysis of Qumran as an early Roman Manor house by Hirschfeld 
seems reasonable, at least after the building of the acqueduct.
(In fact in his comparison of numerous similar sites around 
Israel, he concluded that "There is no evidence from the 
excavations or in the historical sources that the Essenes 
inhabited the site of Qumran at any time." He is, of course, 
correct, though he could have made the statement generic as 
"a religious group" and not just "the Essenes".) As a 
productive centre, Qumran's population would have had their 
"productive" work to do. There is no reason to believe that 
the Qumran inhabitants were of the elite who belonged to 
schools in which they could learn the process of reading and 
writing (and Ben Sira indicates how much of an elite they 
were), or could dedicate the time necessary to learn to read.

I remember reading an article about literacy in Judea, though 
I don't have the details at hand -- perhaps someone else has 
read it. It suggests a very low literacy rate. Why should this 
not also be true of the Essenes, who were after all of a class 
of people from whom one wouldn't expect people with the 
necessary education?


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