Dear Mathew, 

I share your caution regarding spindle whorls and fabric fragments as indicators 
for female presence or non-presence in Qumran, for several reasons:

1. Our records on "small finds" from Qumran are less than insufficient and do not 
allow us to gain a nearly complete picture of what was found and where. So, it is 
impossible at present to determine the exact level of female presence and examine 
a possible gender-related use of space in and around the building at Qumran.

2. Methodologically, I think it is flawed to base an argument (positive or 
negative) on so-called "female" objects alone. Jodi Magness has recently 
attempted in a paper to show that the "lack" of "female" objects from Qumran 
indicates that there was no significant female presence at the site. However, how 
many clear "male" objects do we have from Qumran (apart from arrow heads etc. 
that are usually attributed to Roman soldiers)? Does that mean that there were no 
men at Qumran? Certainly not! And we should also not forget that most objects 
(ceramics, glass etc.) are "neutral" or "inconclusive" in terms of gender 

3. The question of what object should be termed "male" or "female" very much 
depends on gender-related roles and patterns of activity in a given society. 
There are no general rules and one should be careful not to infer anachronistic 
criteria into a past society. I have learnt a lot from reading studies by Miriam 
Peskowitz (esp. her 1993 Duke dissertation "The Work of Her Hands. Gendering 
everyday life in Roman-period Judaism in Palestine (70-250 CE), using textile 
production as a case study", later reworked into a book- and her article "The 
Gendering of Burial and the Burial of Gender", JQR 4 (1997)) and Tal Ilan (esp. 
her study "Bone of My Bone" in her book "Integrating Women into Second Temple 
History", Tübingen 1999). What we should avoid is the common circular argument: 
because the "Qumran-Essenes" were "celibate" (we "know" that from Pliny and 
Josephus, don't we?) there can be no women at Qumran (and if there were, their 
presence is insignificant) - and because there are no women, the site must have 
been inhabited by "celibate Essenes".

4. A final word to the cemetery: Until now 40 individuals from 37 graves have 
been examined according to modern anthropological methods (leaving out Steckoll's 
material). 21 published individuals were sexed as male, 10 as female, among them 
5 children, three were undetermined, one individuum (Q 07) remains disputed. 
Contrary to Joe Zias, I cannot see why I should doubt the expert analyses from my 
German and American colleagues and date the graves in the so-called "fringes" 
later than the rest, and I find two female individuals (Q 22 and Q 24 II) in the 
main cemetery.
The 21:10 ratio is not exceptional: En el-Ghuweir has 13 male and 6 female 
individuals, the chamber tombs from En Gedi 52 male and 27 female, the Goliath 
tomb in Jericho 15 male and 9 female, the Caiaphas tomb from Talpiyot 14 male and 
9 female (all numbers according to the relevant publications). Beside these 
ratios there are other grave complexes that come more closer to the usual ratio 
of 107,5 males vs. 100 females in pre-industrial societies. The clue is that we 
cannot expect that each grave complex or cemetery always reflects the BIOLOGICAL 
sex ratio. The reasons for that are certainly manyfold: ideology is only one 
factor. So we cannot base our argument about the ideological outlook of a certain 
population on how far the sex-ratio in their funeral material matches the 
biological "norm".

To sum up: Until now, I have not seen a convincing argument why Qumran should not 
have been inhabited by women, although we might not be able at present to give an 
exact male-female ratio.

All the best, 


Mathew G. Hamilton schrieb:
> Russell Gmirkin said:
> "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."
> Having just read Women's work, the first 20,000 years, women, cloth, and
> society in early times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, I am puzzled by
> Russell's comments regarding "spindle whorls and fabric fragments at
> Qumran" showing "a female presence at the site." Perhaps I am missing the
> obvious, but could somebody please explain why "spindle whorls and fabric
> fragments" are linked to "a female presence."
> I am aware that women in the ancient world (and even now) are linked to
> the production of fabric far more than men, but it is not an exclusive
> link, so spindle whorls and fabric  fragments may tell us nothing about
> the presence or otherwise of women at Qumran.
> Matthew Hamilton
> Moore Theological College Library
> 1 King St Newtown NSW 2042 Australia

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