Sections: Introduction | The Qumran Community | The Qumran Library | Two Thousand Years Later | Conclusion

Like the scrolls themselves, the nature of the Qumran settlement has aroused much debate and differing opinions. Located on a barren terrace between the limestone cliffs of the Judean desert and the maritime bed along the Dead Sea, the Qumran site was excavated by Pere Roland de Vaux, a French Dominican, as part of his effort to find the habitation of those who deposited the scrolls in the nearby caves. The excavations uncovered a complex of structures, 262 by 328 feet which de Vaux suggested were communal in nature. In de Vaux's view the site was the wilderness retreat of the Essenes, a separatist Jewish sect of the Second Temple Period, a portion of whom had formed an ascetic monastic community. According to de Vaux, the sectarians inhabited neighboring locations, most likely caves, tents, and solid structures, but depended on the center for communal facilities such as stores of food and water.

Following de Vaux's interpretation and citing ancient historians as well as the nature of some scroll texts for substantiation, many scholars believe the Essene community wrote, copied, or collected the scrolls at Qumran and deposited them in the caves of the adjacent hills. Others dispute this interpretation, claiming either that the scroll sect was Sadducean in nature; that the site was no monastery but rather a Roman fortress or a winter villa; that the Qumran site has little if anything to do with the scrolls; or that the evidence available does not support a single definitive answer.

Whatever the nature of the habitation, archaeological and historical evidence indicates that the excavated settlement was founded in the second half of the second century B.C.E., during the time of the Maccabees, a priestly Jewish family which ruled Judea in the second and first centuries B.C.E. A hiatus in the occupation of the site is linked to evidence of a huge earthquake. Qumran was abandoned about the time of the Roman incursion of 68 C.E., two years before the collapse of Jewish self-government in Judea and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

The Late Second Temple Period (200 B.C.E. - 70 C.E.)

In 168 B.C.E., the Maccabees (or Hasmoneans), led by Judah Maccabee, wrested Judea from the rule of the Seleucids--Syrian rulers who supported the spread of Greek religion and culture. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the recapture of Jerusalem by the Maccabees and the consecration of the Temple in 164 B.C.E. The Maccabees ruled Judea until Herod took power in 37 B.C.E.

Contemporary historian Flavius Josephus divided Judeans into three main groups:

Sadducees
The Sadducees were priestly and aristocratic families who interpreted the law more literally than the Pharisees. They dominated the Temple worship and its rites, including the sacrificial cult. The Sadducees only recognized precepts derived directly from the Torah as binding. They, therefore, denied the concept of the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the existence of angels. The Sadducees were unpopular with the common people.
Pharisees
The Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, maintained the validity of the oral as well as the written law. They were flexible in their interpretations and willing to adapt the law to changing circumstances. They believed in an afterlife and in the resurrection of the dead. By the first century C.E., the Pharisees came to represent the beliefs and practices of the majority of Palestinian Jewry.
Essenes
The Essenes were a separatist group, some of whom formed an ascetic monastic community and retreated to the wilderness of Judea. They shared material possessions and occupied themselves with disciplined study, worship, and work. They practiced ritual immersion and ate their meals communally. One branch did not marry.

In 6 C.E., Rome formed Judea, Samaria, and Idumea into one province governed by procurators. A Judean revolt against Rome in 66 C.E. was quickly put down. Qumran fell to the Roman legions in ca. 68 C.E., the Temple in 70 C.E., and Masada in 73 C.E.

Scrolls

These scroll fragments were displayed in the exhibit at the Library of Congress, May - August 1993. They were provided courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The exhibit captions and translations (below) provide background on the fragments and their relationships with the other Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qumran Community, and its Library.

The Phylactery Scroll

The command "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes" (Deut. 6:8) was practiced by Jews from early times. In the Second Temple period the sages established that "tefillin" (phylacteries; amulets in Greek) would include four scriptural passages inscribed on parchment placed in box-like containers made of black leather. One of the phylacteries was worn one on the left arm and the other on the forehead. These served "as a sign upon your hand and as a symbol on your forehead that with a mighty hand the Lord freed us from Egypt" (Exodus 13:9, 16).

The Dead Sea region has now yielded the earliest phylactery remains, both of the leather containers and the inscribed strips of parchment. As a rule, phylacteries include the same four selections, two from the book of Exodus (Exod. 13:1-10; 13:11-16) and two from Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21). The scriptural verses were penned in clear minuscule characters on the elongated writing material, which was folded over to fit the minute compartments stamped into the containers.

References:
Milik, J. T. "Textes Hebraux et Arameens." In Les Grottes de Murabba`at, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, II, pp. 80- 85. Oxford, 1961.

Yadin, Y. "Tefillin (Phylacteries) from Qumran [XQ Phyl 1-4])" (in Hebrew), Eretz-Israel 9 (1969):60-83 and plates.

The Phylactery Scroll

 

Tefillin. Mur 4 Phyl. Parchment. Copied first century-early second century C.E. Fragment A: height 17.7 cm (7 in.), length 3 cm (1 3/16 in.) Fragment B: height 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.), length 2.8 cm (1 1/8 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (3)

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The Community Rule Scroll

Originally known as The Manual of Discipline, the Community Rule contains a set of regulations ordering the life of the members of the "yahad," the group within the Judean Desert sect who chose to live communally and whose members accepted strict rules of conduct. This fragment cites the admonitions and punishments to be imposed on violators of the rules, the method of joining the group, the relations between the members, their way of life, and their beliefs. The sect divided humanity between the righteous and the wicked and asserted that human nature and everything that happens in the world are irrevocably predestined. The scroll ends with songs of praise to God.

A complete copy of the scroll, eleven columns in length, was found in Cave 1. Ten fragmentary copies were recovered in Cave 4, and a small section was found in Cave 5. The large number of manuscript copies attests to the importance of this text for the sect. This particular fragment is the longest of the versions of this text found in Cave 4.

Reference:
Qimron, E. "A Preliminary Publication of 4QS[superscript]d Columns VII-VIII" (in Hebrew). Tarbiz 60 (1991):435-37.

The Community Rule Scroll

 

Serekh ha-Yahad. 4Q258 (S[superscript]d). Parchment. Copied late first century B.C.E. - early first century C.E. Height 8.8 cm (3 7/16 in.), length 21.5 cm (8 7/16 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (7)

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The Calendrical Document Scroll

A significant feature of the community was its calendar, which was based on a solar system of 364 days, unlike the common Jewish lunar calendar, which consisted of 354 days. The calendar played a weighty role in the schism of the community from the rest of Judaism, as the festivals and fast days of the group were ordinary work days for the mainstream community and vice versa.

According to the calendar, the new year always began on a Wednesday, the day on which God created the heavenly bodies. The year consisted of fifty-two weeks, divided into four seasons of thirteen weeks each, and the festivals consistently fell on the same days of the week. It appears that these rosters were intended to provide the members of the "New Covenant" with a time-table for abstaining from important activities on the days before the dark phases of the moon's waning and eclipse (duqah).

References:
Jaubert, A. "Le Calendrier de Jubiles et de la Secte de Qumran: Ses origines Bibliques," Vetus Testamentum 3 (1953):250-64.

Talmon, S. "The Calendar of the Judean Covenanteers." In The World of Qumran from Within: Collected Studies, pp. 147-85. Jerusalem, 1989.

Talmon, S. and I. Knohl. "A Calendrical Scroll from Qumran Cave IV -- MiĆ¾ Ba (4Q321)" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz 60 (1991):505-21.

The Calendrical Document Scroll

 

Mishmarot. 4Q321 (Mishmarot B[superscript]a). Parchment. Copied ca. 50-25 B.C.E. Height 13.4 cm (5 1/4 in.), length 21.1 cm (8 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (10)

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The Torah Precepts Scroll

This scroll, apparently in the form of a letter, is unique in language, style, and content. Using linguistic and theological analysis, the original text has been dated as one of the earliest works of the Qumran sect. This sectarian polemical document, of which six incomplete manuscripts have been discovered, is commonly referred to as MMT, an abbreviation of its Hebrew name, Miqsat Ma`ase ha-Torah. Together the six fragments provide a composite text of about 130 lines, which probably cover about two-thirds of the original. The initial part of the text is completely missing.

Apparently it consisted of four sections: (1) the opening formula, now lost; (2) a calendar of 364 days; (3) a list of more than twenty rulings in religious law (Halakhot), most of which are peculiar to the sect; and (4) an epilogue that deals with the separation of the sect from the multitude of the people and attempts to persuade the addressee to adopt the sect's legal views. The "halakhot," or religious laws, form the core of the letter; the remainder of the text is merely the framework. The calendar, although a separate section, was probably also related to the sphere of "halakhah." These "halakhot" deal chiefly with the Temple and its ritual. The author states that disagreement on these matters caused the sect to secede from Israel.

References:
Strugnell, J., and E. Qimron. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, X. Oxford, forthcoming.

Sussman, Y. "The History of `Halakha' and the Dead Sea Scrolls -- Preliminary Observations on Miqsat Ma`ase Ha-Torah (4QMMT)" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz 59 (1990):11-76.

The Torah Precepts Scroll

 

Miqsat Ma`ase ha-Torah. 4Q396(MMT[superscript]c). Parchment. Copied late first century B.C.E.-early first century C.E. Fragment A: height 8 cm (3 1/8 in.), length 12.9 cm (5 in.). Fragment B: height 4.3 cm (1 11/16 in.), length 7 cm (2 3/4 in.). Fragment C: height 9.1 cm (3 9/16 in.), length 17.4 cm (6 7/8 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (8)

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Artifacts from the Qumran Site

These artifacts from the Qumran Site were on display in the exhibit at the Library of Congress, May - August 1993. They were provided courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The exhibit captions (below) provide background on the objects and their relationship with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qumran Community, and its Library.

Phylactery (Leather)

Phylactery case A is constructed of two pieces of stitched leather. It contains four chambers and each compartment can hold a minute slip containing a prayer. Meant to be worn on the arm, phylactery case B has only one compartment. It is formed of a single piece of leather folded in two, with one half deeply stamped out to contain a tiny inscribed slip. A fine leather thong was inserted at the middle, and the halves were folded over and stitched together. Cases C-E are similar to the four- compartment case A.

Reference:
Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, I, p.7. Oxford, 1955.

Qumran Phylactery Cases. Leather. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. 4Q Phyl cases 1008. Case A: length 3.2 cm (1 1/4 in.), width 1 cm (3/8 in.). Case B: length 2.2 cm (7/8 in.), width 1.2 cm (1/2 in.). Case C: length 2 cm (3/4 in.), width 1 cm (3/8 in.). Case D: length 2.3 cm (7/8 in.), width 2.6 cm (1 in.). Case E: length 1.3 cm (1/2 in.), width 2.1 cm (13/16 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (84)

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Wood

Wooden artifacts are rare finds in the material culture of the ancient Near East, and few specimens from the Roman period have survived. Because of unusually arid climatic conditions at Qumran, however, many wooden objects were retrieved including bowls, boxes, mirror frames, and combs. Their fine state of preservation facilitates the study of ancient woodworking techniques.

Similar to most ancient combs, these combs are two-sided. One side has closely-spaced teeth for straightening the hair, and the other side provides even more teeth for delousing the scalp. Both combs are fashioned from boxwood.

Combs. Wood. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. 52.3, 52.3a. Comb A: length 6 cm (2 3/8 in.), width 9.5 cm (3 3/4 in.). Comb B: length 6.3 cm (2 1/2 in.), width 8 cm (3 1/8 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (85, 86)

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This deep bowl has a flat base, expertly turned on a lathe. Several concentric circles are incised in its base, and the rim of the bowl is rounded. Most wooden objects found in the Qumran area are of "acacia tortilis," a tree prevalent in the southern wadis "valleys" of Israel.

Bowl. Wood. First century B.C.E. 52.40. Height 4.9 cm (1 15/16 in.), diameter 26 cm (10 1/4 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (87)

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Pottery

Locating pottery, coins, and written material at an archaeological site establishes a relative and an absolute chronological framework for a particular culture. Pottery vessels found in the immediate area of Qumran and items from the surrounding caves and cliff openings are identical. The area seems to have been a regional center and most likely was supplied by a single pottery workshop.

A large number of cylindrical scroll jars were found at Qumran. Utilitarian items found in Qumran include small jugs, flasks, drinking cups, cooking pots, serving dishes, and bowls. A storeroom found during the excavation contained more than a thousand pottery items arranged by function. This trove included vessels for cooking, serving, pouring, drinking, and dining.

References:
De Vaux, R. Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls. London, 1973.

Lapp, P. Palestinian Ceramic Chronology, 200 B.C.-A.D. 70. New Haven, 1961.

 

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  • Qumran Pottery Examples

  • Large Jar

  • This elongated barrel-shaped jar has a ring base, a ribbed body, a very short wide neck, and two loop handles. The vessel was probably used to store provisions.

    Two-handled Jar. Pottery. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ 1634. Height 37.25 cm (14 1/2 in.), diameter 18.7 cm (7 1/4 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (55)

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This type of lamp was found in strata associated with Herod's reign (37-4 B.C.E.). A similar lamp was uncovered in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, in strata dating to the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.), thus raising questions as to the date of the lamp.

Characteristic features of this lamp type are a circular wheel-made body, a flat unmarked base, and a large central filling hole. The spatulate nozzle was hand-built separately and later attached to the body. Traces of a palm-fiber wick were found in the lamp's nozzle.

Herodian Lamp. Pottery with fiber wick. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. 52.2. Height 4.3 cm (1 11/16 in.), length 10 cm (4 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (74)

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Plates, bowls, and goblets were found in one of the rooms at Qumran, with dozens of vessels piled one on top of the other. This room probably served as a "crockery" (storage area) near the assembly room, which may have functioned as the dining room.

These fifteen, wheel-made plates are shallow, with a ring base and upright rim. The firing is metallic. Hundreds of plates were recovered, most of them complete, some with traces of soot.

Plates. Pottery. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ 1591 a-o. Height 2.6-5.5 cm (1-2 3/16 in.), diameter 13.6-16.4 cm (6 7/16-13 3/8 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (40-54)

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During the excavation of the Qumran ruin, these V-shaped drinking goblets were found stacked in what had been a storeroom. The quality of their construction and craftsmanship leads some contemporary archaeologists to argue that the site was a Roman villa, because the presence of vessels of this quality would not be in keeping with the austerity of an ascetic community.

Stacked Goblets. Pottery. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ 1587 a-h. Height 26.5 cm (10 7/16 in.), diameter 16 cm (6 1/4 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (65-72)

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Vase, Jug, Cooking Pots, Bowls, Pottery

These objects are representative of the finds from the immediate area of Qumran. The repertory of pottery from Qumran chiefly consists of modest utilitarian items including cooking pots, vases and small jugs, serving dishes, drinking cups, and bowls. These items on display are a small selection of the more than 1000 pottery items found at the site.

 

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    An elongated piece with a ribbed body and a ring base, this vase has a short neck that is turned inside out. Height 17 cm (6 5/8 in.), diameter 9.5 cm (3 3/4 in.) KhQ364

    First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ364, KhQ 1192, KhQ 1565, KhQ 2506, KhQ 2506/a, KhQ 1601/a-b. Height 8.5-22 cm (3 3/8 in.-8 5/8 in.), diameter 17-26 cm (6 5/8-10 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (59-64)

  • This globular jug has a ribbed body and a long, tapering neck ending in a splayed rim. A single-loop handle extends from the rim to the upper part of the body. Height 19.5 cm (7 5/8 in.), diameter 14 cm (5 1/2 in.) hQ 1192

    First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ364, KhQ 1192, KhQ 1565, KhQ 2506, KhQ 2506/a, KhQ 1601/a-b. Height 8.5-22 cm (3 3/8 in.-8 5/8 in.), diameter 17-26 cm (6 5/8-10 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (59-64)

  • Cooking Pot (1). This flattened pot has a ribbed shoulder and a short, wide neck. The firing is metallic. Height 15 cm (5 7/8 in.), diameter 24 cm (9 3/8 in.) KhQ 1565

    First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ364, KhQ 1192, KhQ 1565, KhQ 2506, KhQ 2506/a, KhQ 1601/a-b. Height 8.5-22 cm (3 3/8 in.-8 5/8 in.), diameter 17-26 cm (6 5/8-10 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (59-64)

  • Cooking Pot (2). Cooking Pot (3). These two pots have a similar globular-shaped design. The surface of the body, from shoulder to base, is ribbed. Two ribbed handles span the vessel from the rim to the upper part of the shoulder. The firing is metallic. Traces of soot are discernable over the lower part. Height 20.5 cm (8 in.), diameter 26 cm (10 1/4 in.) KhQ 2506. Height 22 cm (8 5/8 in.), diameter 23 cm (9 in.) KhQ 2506

    First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ364, KhQ 1192, KhQ 1565, KhQ 2506, KhQ 2506/a, KhQ 1601/a-b. Height 8.5-22 cm (3 3/8 in.-8 5/8 in.), diameter 17-26 cm (6 5/8-10 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (59-64)

  • Hemispherical in shape, these bowls have a ring base and an inverted rim. Bowl A: Height 8.5 cm (3 3/8 in.), diameter 12.4 cm (4 7/8 in.). Bowl B: Height 9.2 cm (3 5/8 in.), diameter 13.5 cm (5 5/16 in.). KhQ 1601/a-b

    First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. KhQ364, KhQ 1192, KhQ 1565, KhQ 2506, KhQ 2506/a, KhQ 1601/a-b. Height 8.5-22 cm (3 3/8 in.-8 5/8 in.), diameter 17-26 cm (6 5/8-10 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (59-64)

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Basketry and Cordage

Basketry and cordage represent major types of perishable finds retrieved in this arid part of Israel. The basketry fragments on display are made of date palm leaves, a material convenient for making baskets and mats. Reconstruction of weaving or plaiting techniques is possible because of the exceptional conditions inside the caves of the Dead Sea region. The technique used is a type of plaiting that was popular during Roman times and remained in favor through the following centuries; a variant is still used in the Near East today. Basketry was probably very common, as it is to this day, in various household activities. However, in times of need, baskets and mats also served for collecting and wrapping the bones and skulls of the dead.

Cordage was made from materials indigenous to this region: palm leaves, palm fibers, and rushes. Cords had various uses as packaging and reinforcing material and as handles for baskets.

Basket Fragments

Because of the exceptional conditions inside the caves of the Dead Sea region, several baskets and mats of plaited weave survived intact, allowing the reconstruction of weaving or plaiting techniques. The Qumran plaited basket is made of a single braid ("zefira" in Mishnaic terms) composed of several elements (qala`ot) and spiraling from base to rim. The coiled braid was not sewn together; instead, successive courses were joined around cords as the weaving progressed. In a complete basket the cords are not visible, but they form horizontal ridges and a ribbed texture. Each basket had two arched handles made of palm-fiber rope attached to the rims by passing reinforcing cords through the plaited body of the basket.

Basket Fragments. Palm leaves. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. 11Q. Fragment A: Length 26 cm (10 1/8 in.), width 16.5 cm (6 1/2 in.). Fragment B: Length 21.2 cm (8 1/4 in.), width 19.5 cm (7 5/8 in.). Four courses preserved. Technique: Braid of 13 elements in 2/2 twill plaiting. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (77, 78)

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The cordage on display represents binding materials of varying thickness and use. Fragment A may have functioned as a ridge or reinforcing cord. Fragments B-D are heavier cords and may have been used in packaging or to tie bundles and waterskins. Fragment E (image not available for online exhibit) is a detached handle.

Fragment A: Cord. Palm leaves. 1Q and 2Q. Diameter 3 mm (1/8 in.). Technique: 2-ply cable, final twist in "S" direction (z2s). Fragments B-D: Ropes. Palm leaves and undeterimined rushes. Diameter 7-10 mm (1/4-7/16 in.). Technique: 3-ply cable, final twist "Z" (s3z); one rope has an overhand knot. Fragment E (image not available for online exhibit): Heavy Rope. Diameter 15-20 mm (5/8-13/16 in.). Technique: Compound 3-ply cable, final twist "Z" (z3s3z). All fragments courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (79-83)

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Leather

The Judean Desert at the Qumran site has yielded a number of leather objects which permit the study of ancient tanning techniques. Water skins, large bags, pouches, purses, sandals, and garments have been found in various desert sites.

The majority of these leather objects are fashioned from sheepskin; a few pieces, particularly those used as patches, are of goatskin and calfskin. These skins were tanned by using vegetable matter, specifically tannic acid extracted from nuts and pomegranates.

Shown here are sandal soles of the "soleae" style. Intact sandals of this type, dating from different centuries, were found at Masada and in the Cave of Letters, all in the Dead Sea region.

These soles are made of three layers of leather secured with leather bindings. Through slits situated near the heel, tabs entered the upper sole. The upper part of each tab was pierced by two vertical slits through which the main strap was threaded. The two ends of the main strap were then threaded into a slit on the upper part of the sandal, near the toe, where they were tied, holding the foot onto the sole.

Sandal A. Sandal B. Leather. First century B.C.E.-first century C.E. Sandal A: length 22 cm (8 5/8 in.), width 6.8 cm (2 5/8 in.). Sandal B: length 21 cm (8 1/4 in.), width 5.5 cm (2 1/8 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (88, 89)

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Stone

Stone vessels, usually manufactured of malleable limestone, were commonly found in the Jerusalem area in the late Second Temple period. There are abundant examples in Qumran, in a variety of shapes and sizes, which demonstrate expert workmanship.

The reason for the use of some of these vessels can be found in Jewish ritual law (halakhah). Stone, in contrast to pottery, does not become ritually unclean (tamei). Jewish law maintains that pottery vessels which have become ritually unclean must be broken, never to be used again, whereas in similar circumstances stone vessels retain their ritual purity and need not be discarded (Mishnah. Kelim 10:11; Parah 3:2).

Widespread use of these stone vessels is particularly evident because of their discovery in the excavations of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. Some of these vessels served the same functions as ceramic vessels, and some had particular shapes and functions. Although the raw material is common in Jerusalem, the cost of production was, no doubt, far greater than that of pottery. The flourishing manufacture of stone vessels came to an end in the wake of the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.).

Cylindrical cups of this type are frequently found in sites of the Second Temple Period. It is believed that their capacities correspond to the dry and liquid measures mentioned in the Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic laws governing all aspects of Jewish life.

The surfaces of these vessels were pared with a knife or adze, and their surface was left un-smoothed. The vertical handles rule out the possibility that they might have been produced on a rotating lathe.

Measuring Cups. Limestone. First century C.E. KhQ 1036, KhQ 1604. Cup (A): height 7.5 cm (3 in.), diameter 8 cm (3 1/8 in.). Cup (B): height 12.8 cm (5 in.), diameter 19.4 cm (7 1/2 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (38,39)

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This large goblet-shaped vessel was produced on a lathe, probably in Jerusalem, and is extremely well crafted. It is surprising that an ancient lathe was capable of supporting and working such a large and heavy stone block. The vessel may shed light on the shape of the "kallal," mentioned in the Talmudic sources as a vessel for holding the purification ashes of the red heifer (Mishnah Parah 3:3).

Large Goblet. Limestone. First century C.E. Height 72 cm (28 1/4 in.), diameter 38.5 cm (15 1/8 in.). Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (37)

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Coins

In 1955, three intact ceramic vessels containing a total of 561 silver coins were found under a doorway at the Qumran excavation site. The vessels were filled to the brim with coins and their mouths were covered with palm-fiber stoppers. Two out of three of the hoard vessels are of a type otherwise unknown at Qumran. New members of the sect may have had to surrender their worldly goods to the treasurer of the community. The vessels and their contents then, would constitute the deposit of one or a number of new adherents. On the other hand it should be noted that depositing coins at a building's foundation, often under doorways, was a common practice in antiquity.

Pere Roland de Vaux, a mid twentieth-century excavator of Qumran, relied heavily on coin evidence for his dating and interpretations of the various strata of the site. The early coins in the hoard were minted in Tyre and included tetradrachms of Antiochus VII Sidetes and Demetrius II Nicator (136/135- 127/126 B.C.E.), as well as six Roman Republican denarii from the mid-first century B.C.E. The bulk of the hoard represents the autonomous continuation of the Seleucid mint: the well-known series of Tyrian shekalim and half-shekalim, minted from 126/125 B.C.E. onward. These are the same coins that were prescribed in the Temple for the poll tax and other payments (Tosefta. Ketubot 13, 20).

References:
Meshorer, Y. Ancient Jewish Coinage. Dix Hills, N.Y., 1982.

Sharabani, M. "Monnaies de Qumran au Musee Rockefeller de Jerusalem," Revue Biblique 87 (1980): 274-84.

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  • The Qumran Hoard of Silver Coins. 24 silver coins. Between 136/135 and 10/9 B.C.E. Q2;Q3;Q5;Q6;Q8;Q19;Q20;Q21;Q27;Q32;Q65;Q79;Q84;Q87; Q118;Q121;Q122;Q125;Q127;Q131;Q133;Q138;Q143;Q153. Diameter 3/4-1 1/8 in. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (13-36)

  • The Qumran Hoard of Silver Coins. 24 silver coins. Between 136/135 and 10/9 B.C.E. Q2;Q3;Q5;Q6;Q8;Q19;Q20;Q21;Q27;Q32;Q65;Q79;Q84;Q87; Q118;Q121;Q122;Q125;Q127;Q131;Q133;Q138;Q143;Q153. Diameter 3/4-1 1/8 in. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (13-36)

  • The Qumran Hoard of Silver Coins. 24 silver coins. Between 136/135 and 10/9 B.C.E. Q2;Q3;Q5;Q6;Q8;Q19;Q20;Q21;Q27;Q32;Q65;Q79;Q84;Q87; Q118;Q121;Q122;Q125;Q127;Q131;Q133;Q138;Q143;Q153. Diameter 3/4-1 1/8 in. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (13-36)

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Sections: Introduction | The Qumran Community | The Qumran Library | Two Thousand Years Later | Conclusion