The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Synopsis

The Dead Sea Scrolls are among the most interesting and important archaeological discoveries ever made, and the excavation of the Qumran community itself has provided invaluable information about Judaism and the Jewish world in the last centuries B.C.E.

Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, the Qumran site continues to be the object of intense scholarly debate. In a book meant to introduce general readers to this fascinating area of study, veteran archaeologist Jodi Magness here provides an overview of the archaeology of Qumran and presents an exciting new interpretation of this ancient community based on information found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other contemporary documents.

Magness's work offers a number of fresh conclusions concerning life at Qumran. She agrees that Qumran was a sectarian settlement but rejects other unconventional views, including the view that Qumran was a villa rustica or manor house. By carefully analyzing the published information on Qumran, she refines the site's chronology, reinterprets the purpose of some of its rooms, and reexamines the archaeological evidence for the presence of women and children in the settlement. Numerous photos and diagrams give readers a firsthand look at the site.

Written with an expert's insight yet with a journalist's spunk, this engaging book is sure to reinvigorate discussion of this monumental archaeological find.

Excerpt

At best, material culture is viewed as a rather uninteresting or
quaint by-product of the real meat of acted social relationships: the
props to the play…. But … when your wish is to understand people
who are dead, artifacts are all you have. They last
.

Qumran is one of the most famous and remarkable archaeological sites in the world. It is famous because of its physical proximity to the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. It is remarkable because without that association it would probably never have attracted much attention. Every day busloads of tourists are unloaded at the site. Many of them must be disappointed, for after having heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls and having visited Herod’s visually stunning palaces at Masada earlier that day, they find themselves at a small, unimpressive ruin (see Fig. 9). The main attraction is Cave 4, which is easily visible from the site (see Fig. 2) and which many visitors must mistake for the cave in which the first scrolls were discovered (Cave 1). Cave 4 is a manmade cave cut into the marl terrace on which Qumran sits (see below), whereas Cave 1 is a natural cave in the limestone cliffs a little over 1 kilometer (over half a mile) to the north, and is not visible or easily accessible from the site.

Qumran was not a major tourist attraction before the late 1980s. When I worked as a guide in the Dead Sea region in the late 1970s, Qumran was virtually deserted. The only visitors’ facilities consisted of a crude shelter next to . . .

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