Dear Joe Zias,
Thanks for your comments.
I agree that Golb's idea of Qumran as fortress with military cemetery is
dead, but I don't think Hirschfeld's analysis of the site of Qumran can
be easily dismissed (although his proposal of Essenes above En Gedi appears
incorrect). The lower Jordan valley and Dead Sea littoral was important in
terms of palm plantations, balsam and other aromatics. Qumran appears
connected to Ein Feshka which had palms, and there is evidence of palm
products at Qumran. There is also the unexplained installations at Ein
Feshka, doubtless agriculturally related. So I don't think there is a real
problem in viewing Qumran as an agricultural site (where I am including date
harvesting, balsam collection, etc., as agricultural enterprises).
What slight evidence there is in Josephus on Essenes contemporary with
Period I (i.e. the episode with Judah the Essene in 101 BCE) sees them
comfortably ensconced in Jerusalem and teaching at the temple. My own
interpretation of Qumran Period Ib is that it was one of the sites where
(largely Sadducee) former partisans of Alexander Jannaeus went into exile
when driven from Jerusalem by the Pharisees in the well-known episode in c.
76 BCE. The (much-debated) Hymn to King Jannaeus found at Qumran provides
some support for this hypothesis IMO. Such a historical background for the
expanded Period Ib site would adequately explains the mikvot at the site.
Certainly these are exciting times in terms of Qumran archaeology.
Hopefully a full publication of the archaeological data, seasoned with a
little healthy debate, will serve to clarify many important issues regarding
the site and its occupants.
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