It is possible that Qumran was established as a fort during the Hasmonean period, was abandoned, and was later reoccupied and expanded by Jewish sectarians.
Recent research into the archaeology of Khirbet Qumran, the site associated with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has generated new debate about the origin of the settlement. Many scholars now question the conclusions of the site’s excavator, Roland de Vaux, who argued that the settlement was initially established as a sectarian settlement. Renewed examination of Qumran points to the origin of the settlement as a fortress dating to the Hasmonean period. This article examines the history of the interpretation of Qumran as a fortress, the sudden rejection of this interpretation with the discovery of the scrolls, and the slow and contentious return to this original interpretation. The article demonstrates that it is not necessary to reject the idea that the settlement at Qumran was a fortress in order to argue that later sectarians present at the site were responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Since the discovery of the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, Khirbet Qumran has garnered a prized position at the center of scrolls studies. Qumran earned this place of honor after excavations began there in 1949. Combining the discovery of similar pottery types at the site and in the caves where the scrolls were found and the discovery of writing implements in Locus 30 with descriptions of a community described within several of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Eleazar Sukenik and Roland de Vaux formulated what has come to be known as the “Qumran-Essene hypothesis.”i Comparing information gleaned from the scrolls with additional archaeological discoveries at Qumran, namely, the presence of several Jewish ritual baths, de Vaux concluded that Qumran was established by a sectarian group of Jews seeking isolation in the desert.ii De Vaux argued that these residents were responsible for the documents discovered in the nearby caves. Eleazar Sukenik identified the group with the Essenes,iii mentioned by Flavius Josephus,iv Philo of Alexandria,v and Pliny the Elder as living in the area to the northwest of the Dead Sea.vi As a result, the subsequent years of research on Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls has centered on the relationship between this sectarian establishment and the documents discovered in the nearby caves.
Qumran, however, was not always understood as the archaeological remains of a sectarian settlement. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of the published reports regarding Qumran described the structure principally as a fortified structure. This defensive building possessed a complete water catchment system and was strategically perched upon a highly defensible plateau overlooking an ancient route leading up into the Hyrcania Valley, or Buqei’a.
Recent reexamination has renewed interest in the interpretation of the initial Second Temple period establishment at Qumran. Specifically, archaeologists Yizhar Hirschfeld, Yizhak Magen, and Yuval Peleg have all concluded that the initial Second Temple period establishment of Qumran was a field fortress in recent publications.vii However, this understanding of Qumran as a fortress has drawn criticism from other archaeologists like Jodi Magness, who has defended de Vaux’s interpretation of the site as that of sectarian origin.viii
This article will examine Qumran’s history of interpretation as a fortress and will furthermore demonstrate how this interpretation is not incompatible with the later presence of a sectarian community responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is possible that Qumran was established as a fort during the Hasmonean period, was abandoned, and was later reoccupied and expanded by Jewish sectarians. Thus, accepting the original interpretation of Qumran as a fort may be the best way to understand the complex nature of Qumran.
HISTORY OF EXPLORATION AT QUMRAN
Explorers and scholars knew of Qumran long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of these travelers published accounts of their travels to Qumran and described the ruins they saw there. Over the years, the accounts of many of these explorers increasingly identified the remains at Qumran as those of a fortress.ix
Flemish explorer Louis-Félicien Caignart de Saulcy explored the Dead Sea in the winter of 1850–51. De Saulcy’s original intent was to locate and identify each of the “Cities of the Plain” mentioned in Gen. 19. When he came across the ruins at Qumran, he concluded they were the remains of biblical Gomorrah. De Saulcy based this identification partly on the similarity in sound of the names “Gomorrah” and “Goumran.”
One of de Saulcy’s comments describes the remains of Qumran as “the foundations of a tolerably extensive square enclosure.”x Magness correctly argues that much of de Saulcy’s description of the site was confused, but she notes that de Saulcy’s description of what are apparently the outer walls of the main building was accurate.xi De Saulcy also made note of a cave in “the side of the mountain lying between us and the great range, and in advance of the Ouad-Goumran,” which was most likely a reference to Cave 4.xii
Henry Poole and Elijah Meshullam visited Qumran in November of 1855, led by a local sheikh named Abu Dahuk.xiii Poole was skeptical of de Saulcy’s identification of Qumran as biblical Gomorrah. After touring ‘Ein Gedi and arriving at Qumran from the cliffs to the south, Poole wrote:
I found the remains of an aqueduct, walls, pools, and some buildings: one pool measured 58 x 17 inside and 11 ft. deep; it has been plastered on large unhewn stones. A smaller pool measured 21 x 9 ft.; it was filled up with rubbish. The main wall was close to the side of the large pool on the sea side, between which and the sea were a number of graves…The ruins were 238 ft. above the Dead Sea, and the base of the hills, containing the graves, about 100 ft. above the sea. From the state of the ruins and graves, I should think Ghomran must have been a much more modern town than the supposed Gomorrah of De Saulcy.xiv
Poole had discovered the Locus 71 pool and either the Locus 117 or 118 miqvah. Poole also makes mention of the wall separating the main building at Qumran from the cemetery.
Albert Isaacs visited Qumran in December of 1856. British counsel James Finn and photographer James Graham accompanied him. Isaacs made note of the water channel, the tower, and a wall at Qumran. Isaacs described the tower as being constructed of uncut fieldstones that were cemented together. He stated:
It can hardly be doubted that this formed a tower or stronghold of some kind. The situation is commanding, and well adapted for defensive operations.xv
Isaacs also noted the filled-in pools of Loci 117 and 118 and the southeastern pool of Locus 71. James Finn described “wadî Gumrân” as “a hill with some ruins upon it,” specifically suggesting it was “some ancient fort with a cistern.”xvi Isaacs and Finn were therefore the first explorers to identify the ruins at Qumran as those of a defensive fort that was strategically located on a plateau overlooking the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
In January of 1858, M. E. Guillaume Rey visited Qumran. In his journal, he wrote, “C’est là qu’est le birket Ghoumran.”xvii Joan E. Taylor notes, “In calling it a birkeh, Rey seems to understand the main feature of the site as being a pool or reservoir.”xviii Rey also made note of the cave previously noted by de Saulcy.xix Rey made specific mention of pottery sherds strewn across the surface, stating, “un petit birket et diverse arasements de mur constituent ces ruines auxquelles les Arabes donnet le nom de Kharbet Ghoumran.”xx Rey also noted approximately 800 tombs, which Bedouin assured him were neither Islamic or Christian because of their north-south orientation.
In 1873, British surveyors Claude Conder and Herbert Kitchener came to Qumran. Conder and Kitchener noted that the site sat upon a natural plateau approximately 300 feet above the level of the Dead Sea. They noted the western wall of the main building and described the northwest tower as the remains of ruined buildings amongst heaps of rough stones.xxi Conder and Kitchener also noted a small birkeh, which they described as, “rudely lined with stones, unhewn, the joints packed with smaller stones and roughly plastered. A flight of steps leads down the sides.”xxii Conder and Kitchener were most likely describing either the Locus 117 or 118 pool to the west of the tower.
In 1873, French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau located Qumran, and identified it as “Khurbet Goumran.” Clermont-Ganneau was mostly unimpressed with the ruins but did note that there were the remains of poorly built walls, quite a bit of pottery, a small birkeh with steps leading down into it, and a cemetery that included approximately 1000 graves.xxiii He excavated the area to the east of the main building, including one of the graves. Clermont-Ganneau concluded that they must have belonged to a very small town, even if it were a town at all.xxiv
Arguably the best description of pre-scrolls Qumran came from British scholar Ernest W. Gurney Masterman, who visited Qumran and ‘Ein Feshkha on numerous occasions between 1900 and 1901.xxv Masterman made specific observations regarding the positioning of the site atop a plateau overlooking the ‘Ein Feshkha Springs:
The whole of these ruins stand on a commanding position, surrounded on all sides, and especially to the south, by steep declivities; at one point at the northwest corner, however, a narrow neck connects it with the plateau to the west. From this site, every point of the ‘Ain Feshkhah oasis and all its approaches can be overlooked; it is, also, a fresher, healthier station than any spot in the plain below…The site is just such a one as would have been chosen in, say, Roman times to protect the springs and the road passing through the district to the south, a road which very possibly at such times may have been continued along the shore around Râs el-Feshkhah.xxvi
Masterman’s description of Qumran’s location is consistent with the requirements of a fortified settlement.xxvii It is therefore no surprise that he concluded the ruins “may have very well been once a small fortress.”xxviii Hirschfeld correctly notes that Qumran’s “location on the eastern frontier of the kingdom of Judea in the early Hasmonean period was also one of great importance.”xxix
Masterman also made note of the cemetery. He noted his bewilderment regarding a cemetery containing “upwards of a thousand well-arranged graves”xxx next to what he understood to be a fortress. He cited Clermont-Ganneau and concluded that the cemetery was not of Bedouin or other Muslim origin, based upon the north-south orientation of the graves. Masterman’s confusion is understandable. The cemetery was obviously ancient, dating at least to a pre-Islamic period. Why would such a small fort require a graveyard of over one thousand tombs? Masterman left the question unanswered, stating that it is, “difficult to suggest an explanation of the great cemetery which lies on the same hill to the east.”xxxi
German explorer Gustaf Dalman visited Qumran in February of 1914. He noted the rubble ruins of Qumran and noted the water channel that ran to the site from the northwest and the head of Wadi Qumran.xxxii Dalman explicitly identified the Qumran settlement as a burg, or fort. He made this claim based upon the elevated location of the settlement overlooking the northwest shore of the Dead Sea and the presence of a water catchment system at the site. For Dalman, the conditions were ideal for a fortified structure that could observe the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.
Archaeologist and historian Michael Avi-Yonah agreed with Dalman’s identification of Qumran as a fort. Avi-Yonah published a map that identified the remains at Qumran as part of a string of fortresses along the southeastern Judean border.xxxiii This string of fortresses was designed to guard against incursions by Transjordanian and southern foes. This identification of Qumran as a fort was accepted by Avi-Yonah until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After the discovery of the scrolls, de Vaux and Lankester Harding changed their interpretation of the site from that of a (Roman era) fortress to that of a sectarian settlement established by the Essenes. Avi-Yonah gradually became influenced by de Vaux’s interpretation as a sectarian settlement. Avi-Yonah later blended the two views of Qumran, referring to it as the mydsx dzm (Mezad Hasidim – “fort of the pious”) and the “monastery” of the Dead Sea Sect.xxxiv
In sum, prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of the published reports regarding Qumran focused upon the presence of a fortified structure. Several of these accounts recorded by early visitors to Qumran exhibit consistent similarities. First, nearly every visitor noted the strategic placement of the ruins, perched above the shore below. Second, several of the early accounts concerning Qumran specifically referred to the ruins as a fort, or some sort of squared defensive structure. Thus, prior to discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which introduced a new lens through which to interpret the ruins, Qumran was almost unanimously understood to be some manifestation of fortress or fortified structure.
QUMRAN AFTER THE SCROLLS
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls radically changed the interpretation of Qumran. In 1949, the Director of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Gerald Lankester Harding, and the Head of the Dominican École Biblique et Archéologique Française of Jerusalem, Father Roland de Vaux, began excavations near Qumran in Cave 1, where the initial seven scrolls were discovered.xxxv Beyond the initial scrolls, Cave 1 produced several artifacts including linens, pottery, and additional scroll fragments.xxxvi Regarding these additional fragments from Cave 1, Lankester Harding stated:
A number of the parchment fragments can be identified with some of the eight scrolls already made public, in particular the Habakkuk commentary, the books of Hymns, and the War of the Children of Light.xxxvii
The fact that these fragments matched portions of the original seven scrolls allowed de Vaux and Lankester Harding to confirm that the seven original scrolls had indeed come from Cave 1. Lankester Harding concluded:
Although no complete rolls or even very large fragments were recovered, the excavations are important in that they place beyond all possible doubt the authenticity of the hoard.xxxviii
Despite confirming their authenticity, de Vaux and Lankester Harding initially concluded in 1949 that there was not enough evidence to link the Dead Sea Scrolls to the ruins at Qumran. Lankester Harding stated:
Surface sherds suggested a second or third century a.d. date for the site, which seemed to preclude it having anything to do with the cave, which we dated to the first century b.c.xxxix
Based upon the visible ruins at Qumran, de Vaux and Lankester Harding concluded what those explorers and researchers who came before them had concluded: that the site was most likely a Roman fort dating to the second or third century CE.xl That is to say, since de Vaux and Lankester Harding allowed the Dead Sea Scrolls no influence upon the Qumran settlement as an interpretative lens, they understood the remains at Qumran to be that of a fortified structure.
Lankester Harding and de Vaux later changed their opinion. As the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls began to be interpreted and as excavations continued at Qumran, Lankester Harding and de Vaux altered their initial interpretation of Qumran. After the initial soundings at Qumran in 1951, Lankester Harding stated in 1952:
The quality of work is very poor, and in no way resembles that of a Roman fort which we first took it to be.xli
It must be emphasized that Lankester Harding’s objection to the previously held fortress theory was that the masonry and architecture precluded the structure from being a Roman fortress. This, however, should not have necessarily prohibited the structure from being interpreted as a fortress of the Hasmonean, Seleucid, or some other earlier period. Thus, the idea that Qumran was initially a fortress was apparently (and unfortunately) abandoned because it did not resemble a Roman fortress. After abandoning the fortress theory, Lankester Harding and de Vaux began to look for another explanation for the settlement. By the time de Vaux appropriately dated his Period Ia to the middle Hasmonean period (approximately 140–130 BCE), he had already abandoned his earlier interpretation of Qumran as a fortress and replaced it with his “sectarian settlement” theory. Ironically, de Vaux’s dating of the earliest stages of Second Temple period construction at Qumran to the early-to-middle Hasmonean period would have been consistent with his initial interpretation of the settlement as a fort if he had only understood the remains to be Hasmonean and not Roman.
After the first interpretations of the Dead Sea Scrolls began to be published, Lankester Harding and de Vaux favored an interpretation of Qumran as a site constructed and inhabited by Jewish sectarians. Lankester Harding later summarized the years of excavations and offers a brief “reminder” about their “working interpretation” regarding Qumran. He stated:
Let me remind you briefly of what these views are, first saying that there was originally an Iron Age fort on the site, of which some foundations still remain. According to the archaeological evidence, backed by a remarkably complete sequence of some 500 coins, the settlement was founded in the late 2nd century b.c., abandoned from about 30 to 4 or 5 b.c., then re-occupied, and finally burnt to the ground by the Xth Roman legion in a.d. 68-69, at which time their library of scrolls were hidden in a series of caves in the vicinity. On the ruins the Xth legion erected a small outpost, which they occupied to about the end of the century, while during the second Jewish revolt in the 2nd century some of the underground rooms of the tower were used as a hide-out. After this the place was completely abandoned and forgotten.xlii
Thus, the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the nearby caves appear to be the factor that ultimately caused de Vaux and Lankester Harding to reinterpret the site as a sectarian settlement. It was through this lens that de Vaux would go on to interpret the remainder of the site. Likewise, this lens of a sectarian settlement would continue to dominate Qumran archaeology for the next forty years, until later archaeologists began to reexamine the remains of the site on their own merits.
RESURRECTING THE FORTRESS THEORY
In addition to the official archaeological excavations, expeditions, and surveys conducted at Qumran, several scholars have weighed into the debate of the nature of the Qumran settlement. As research continued on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the settlement at Qumran, many of these scholars began to question de Vaux’s conclusions concerning the settlement. Some of these scholars broke from de Vaux’s interpretation and returned to the site’s initial interpretation of a fortified structure.
The Belgian team of Robert Donceel and Pauline Donceel-Voûte were invited by Jean-Baptiste Humbert to publish the final reports of the excavations of Qumran and ‘Ein Feshkha. Donceel and Donceel-Voûte focused their research on the wealth of small finds from Qumran, including, but not limited to, glassware, metal wares, pottery, and coins. Based upon the wealth of the assemblage of small finds, and contrary to the belief that the inhabitants of the site were poor monastic Essenes, Donceel and Donceel-Voûte suggested that the residents were actually wealthy traders and that Qumran was actually a villa rustica, or wealthy manor house that may have been a winter or year-round second home to a wealthy family from Jerusalem.xliii Given this interpretation, they were among the earliest archaeologists to argue that the Dead Sea Scrolls may not have originated with the residents of Qumran.xliv
French Dominican Jean-Baptiste Humbert assumed leadership of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française of Jerusalem after the death of Roland de Vaux. Along with Alain Chambon, Humbert was charged with the publication of de Vaux’s original field notes, which had yet to be made public. De Vaux’s notes, along with supplementary materials from Humbert and Chambon appeared in 2003 as The Excavations of Khirbet Qumran and Ain Feshkha.xlv Along with the earlier companion volume of plates of the original excavated materials,xlvi these volumes comprised the most complete offering of de Vaux’s actual field data to date.
Humbert was one of the first scholars to propose a reoccupation model as a solution to the debate surrounding Qumran.xlvii Humbert accepted that the site might have been originally established as a Hasmonean villa, but he argued that the site was abandoned and was reoccupied by Essenes in the late first century BCE. The acknowledgment that the site may have been abandoned and reoccupied was a great step towards explaining the differences between the highly defensive nature of the original structure and the lack of concern for similar defensive measures in the site’s expanded areas.
Some scholars have objected to the suggestion that Qumran was established as a fortress. Florentino García Martínez, argued, “Qumran is not a fortress, and the type of construction does not at all resemble the Hasmonean of Herodian fortresses of the region.”xlviii Likewise, Magen Broshi stated, “This seems an unlikely explanation, as the site is of inferior strategic value and the flimsy walls of the complex could not have had military value.”xlix Perhaps the strongest rejection of the fortress theory came from Jodi Magness, who defended de Vaux and the Qumran-Essene Hypothesis and rejected the idea that Qumran could have initially been a fort, stating:
Could Qumran originally have been an agricultural settlement (or a fortress or other kind of nonsectarian settlement) that was later occupied by sectarians? I do not believe that the archaeological evidence supports such a possibility. This is because the presence of miqva’ot (ritual baths), the pantry containing more than 1000 dishes (L86), and possible evidence for animal bone deposits, outside the buildings in pre-31 B.C.E. contexts, indicate that the settlement was sectarian from the beginning.l
Magness attempts to eliminate the possibility that Qumran could have been a Hasmonean fortress by eliminating de Vaux’s Period Ia in her chronology of Qumran. Magness offers that there is no distinguishing difference between pottery of de Vaux’s Period Ia and Ib. Magness also claims there is a lack of numismatic evidence corresponding to de Vaux’s Period Ia in order to support her elimination of the period. Magness argues that no coins were uncovered by de Vaux that were associated with Period Ia, and only one coin was discovered dating to the reign of John Hyrcanus I (135–104 BCE),li while coins of Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 BCE) were plentiful. Thus, Magness concludes, “It is reasonable to date the initial establishment of the sectarian settlement to the first half of the first century BCE (that is, some time between 100–50 BCE).”lii
After initially rejecting the notion that Qumran was initially a fortress,liii Yizhar Hirschfeld adopted and renewed interest in the idea.liv Citing his work at nearby ‘Ein Feshkha as a comparison, he suggested that the site at Qumran later changed hands and ultimately became an agricultural-based and fortified estate manor during the Herodian era. Hirschfeld rejected the notion that the Dead Sea Scrolls were a product of the residents of Qumran. He described the site in a consistently secular nature, referring to the Locus 30 “scriptorium” as an “office” and understanding de Vaux’s Locus 77 “refectory” as a common dining room. Hirschfeld was a strong proponent of the idea that Qumran sat upon a major north-south thoroughfare connecting Jericho and Jerusalem to ‘Ein Gedi and the border with the Nabatean Kingdom.
Most recently, Gen. Amir Drori, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Yizhak Magen, Archaeological Staff Officer of Judea and Samaria for the Israel Antiquities Authority, participated in renewed, small-scale excavations at Qumran. During the excavations dubbed “Operation Scroll,”lv a large number of date pits were discovered in Locus 76, next to the press previously discovered in Locus 75. Drori and Magen concluded that the Locus 75 press was a date press and that the residents of Qumran produced date honey on a large scale.
Magen later teamed with Yuval Peleg and conducted additional seasons of excavations at Qumran until 2004. Magen and Peleg recently published the preliminary results of their renewed excavations at Qumran.lvi Magen and Peleg also accept that the site was established as a “forward command post” during the Hasmonean period.lvii However, Magen and Peleg argue that the site was later repurposed as a pottery production facility, which retained the unemployed soldiers as laborers. Given the site’s industrial function as a pottery-manufacturing center, Magen and Peleg conclude that the Dead Sea Scrolls could not have been a product of Qumran, but were brought to the Qumran caves from elsewhere.
In addition to archaeologists who have excavated or have participated in archaeological research at Qumran, other scholars have made claims concerning the archaeology of Qumran. One scholar in particular, Norman Golb, offered a “more nuanced”lviii version of Karl Heinrich Rengstorf’s Jerusalem library theory.lix Following the suggestions of a fortress proposed by the early explorers Isaacs,lx Finn,lxi Masterman,lxii Dalman,lxiii and Avi-Yonah,lxiv Golb also suggested that Qumran was established as a fortress.lxv Golb followed de Vaux’s dating of the initial construction at Qumran to the middle of the Hasmonean period, between 140 and 130 BCE,lxvi thereby blending the earlier Qumran fortress theory with de Vaux’s timeline. However, Golb made the mistake of suggesting that Qumran served as a fortress throughout its existence, from the time of its establishment until its destruction in 72 CE.lxvii This view has been categorically rejected by all subsequent archaeologists, including those who disagree with the Qumran-Essene hypothesis in favor of a Jerusalem origin for the scrolls.lxviii Regarding Golb’s hypothesis, Philip Davies says, “it has received a good deal of publicity, but (predictably) little assent among other experts.”lxix
The most recent theory that understands Qumran to be initially founded as a fortress during the Second Temple period comes from the present author. I concluded that Second Temple period Qumran was established as a Hasmonean fortress around 140-130 BCE. The fortress was later abandoned after the expansion of the Hasmonean Kingdom to the south, and the military assets from Qumran were redeployed to newer forts on the expanding southern frontier.lxx The site of Qumran was later reoccupied and expanded in a communal, non-military fashion by other Jewish settlers, who possessed a keen concern for self-sufficiency and ritual purity. These sectarians were ultimately responsible for the collection of many of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the adjacent caves.
CONCLUSION: RESOLVING THE FORTRESS VS. SECTARIAN SETTLEMENT DEBATE
The present debate concerning the archaeology of Qumran appears to now be divided into two camps. One camp continues to accept de Vaux’s original Qumran-Essene hypothesis in one form or another. While changes to the chronology of Qumran and the percentage of scrolls produced there vary, this camp holds to the conclusion that sectarians constructed Qumran for their own purposes and that these sectarians produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. The dissenting camp argues that Qumran’s Second Temple phase was not of sectarian origin, but of a secular, military origin. This camp therefore concludes that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not the product of sectarians living at Qumran, but had some other origin and were only placed in the nearby caves coincidentally.
It appears, however, that much of the reasoning behind rejecting the identification of Qumran as a fortress is related to de Vaux’s earlier identification of Qumran as a sectarian center. Scholars may have been reluctant to embrace the fortress theory because until now, every scholar who has accepted the fortress theory has ultimately rejected Qumran’s association with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Hirschfeld, Magen and Peleg, and the few others who understood Qumran to have been initially established as a fortress all denied any sectarian presence at Qumran. Likewise, scholars who had accepted de Vaux’s final interpretation of the site as an Essene center, and thereby accepted that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the product of the inhabitants of Qumran, may have been cool to the suggestion that the site was originally a fortress due to the fact that all of the supporters of a fortress theory have denied any sectarian presence at Qumran. Thus, despite the fact that several early explorers initially understood the structure to be a fortress, many Dead Sea Scrolls scholars have been slow to accept recent evidence that shows Second Temple period Qumran was established as a Hasmonean fortress.
The conclusion to divorce a sectarian presence, and thereby the Dead Sea Scrolls, from Qumran due to the fact that it was initially established as a fort has been an unfortunate leap in reasoning and an unnecessary jump to conclusion. It is not necessary to divorce the scrolls from Qumran in order to accept the identification of its earliest phase as a fortress. It is possible that Qumran was established as a fortress, and that this fortress was later abandoned as the Hasmonean Kingdom pressed its frontier farther to the south and east. Different Jewish settlers could have later reoccupied the abandoned remains of the small fort. This is the very model employed by Hirschfeld, Magen, and Peleg, with the exception that they understand the reoccupation to be of a secular nature. There is no reason why those resettling the abandoned fortress could not have been independently minded Jewish sectarians, who were ultimately responsible for the collection and production of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the adjacent caves as Humbert has suggested. Since those proffering a secular resettlement of Qumran have all accepted some form of a reoccupation model at Qumran, there should also be no reason to deny that Jewish sectarians, engaged in several self-sufficient industrial endeavors including agriculture, pottery manufacture, animal husbandry, food processing, and writing, may have reoccupied the site. A reoccupied fort that was gradually converted into a sectarian residence not only fits well with the most recent research at Qumran, but also bridges the interpretations of Qumran’s early explorers including Isaacs, Finn, Masterman, Dalman, Avi-Yonah, and even initially de Vaux himself, with the strong evidence for the presence of a sectarian settlement responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls.
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Humbert, Jean-Baptiste and Alain Chambon. The Excavations of Khirbet Qumran and Ain Feshkha: Synthesis of Roland de Vaux's Field Notes. Translated by Stephen J. Pfann. Vol. 1B. Fribourg and Göttingen: University Press and Vandenhoeck & Ruprect, 2003.
Isaacs, Albert Augustus. The Dead Sea: or, Notes and Observations Made During a Journey to Palestine in 1856-7. London: Hatchard and Son, 1857.
Kapera, Zdzislaw Jan. "Archaeological Interpretations of the Qumran Settlement: A Rapid Review of Hypotheses Fifty Years After the Discoveries at the Dead Sea." Pages 15-33 in Mogilany 1995: Papers on the Dead Sea Scrolls offered in memory of Aleksy Klawek. Edited by Zdzislaw Jan Kapera. Vol. 15 of Qumranica Mogilanensia. Krakow: Enigma Press, 1998.
Lankester Harding, Gerald. "Khirbet Qumrân and Wady Murabba‘at: Fresh Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls and New Manuscript Discoveries in Jordan." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 84 (1952): 104-09.
Lankester Harding, Gerald. "Recent Discoveries in Jordan." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 90 (1958): 7-18.
Lankester Harding, Gerald. "The Dead Sea Scrolls." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 81 (1949): 112-16.
Magen, Yizhak and Yuval Peleg. The Qumran Excavations 1993-2004: Preliminary Report, Judea & Samaria Publications 6. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2007.
Magness, Jodi. "Qumran: The Site of the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Review Article." Revue de Qumran 23 (2007): 641-64.
Magness, Jodi. The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.
Masterman, Ernest William Gurney. "'Ain el-Feshkhah, el-Hajar, el-Asbah, and Khurbet Kumrân." Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 27 (1902): 160-67; 297-99.
Poole, Henry. "Report of a Journey in Palestine." Journal of the Royal Geographic Society 26 (1856): 55-70.
Rabinovich, A. "Operation Scroll: Recent revelations about Qumran promise to shake up Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship." Jerusalem Post Magazine, May 6 1994, 6-10.
Rengstorf, Karl Heinrich. Hirbet Qumrân and the Problem of the Library of the Dead Sea Caves. Translated by J. R. Wilkie. Leiden: Brill, 1963.
Rey, M. E. Guillaume. Voyage dans le Haouran et aux Bords de la Mer Morte executé pendant les années 1857 et 1858. Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1859.
Shanks, Hershel. "The Enigma of Qumran: Four Archaeologists Assess the Site." Biblical Archaeology Review 24, no. 1 (1998): 24-37, 78.
Sukenik, Eleazar L. Megillot Genuzot mittok Genizah Qedumah se-Nimse’ah be-Midbar Yehudah: Seqirah Rishonah. Jerusalem: Bialik Foundation, 1948.
Taylor, Joan E. "Khirbet Qumran in the Nineteenth Century and the Name of the Site." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 134 (2002): 144-64.
iRoland de Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Schweich Lectures of the British Academy, 1959) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973).
iide Vaux, Archaeology.
iiiEleazar L. Sukenik, Megillot Genuzot mittok Genizah Qedumah se-Nimse’ah be-Midbar Yehudah: Seqirah Rishonah (Jerusalem: Bialik Foundation, 1948).
ivJosephus War §2.119-161; Antiquities §18.22.
vPhilo Every Good Man is Free 72-91; Hypothetica 11.1-18.
viPliny Natural History 5.73.
viiSee Yizhar Hirschfeld, Qumran in Context: Reassessing the Archaeological Evidence (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004). See also Yizhak Magen and Yuval Peleg, The Qumran Excavations 1993-2004: Preliminary Report (JSP 6; Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2007).
viiiJodi Magness, "Qumran: The Site of the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Review Article," RQ 23 (2007), 649-59.
ixFor an excellent discussion of the history of exploration at Qumran, see Joan E. Taylor, "Khirbet Qumran in the Nineteenth Century and the Name of the Site," PEQ 134 (2002). While Taylor’s article focuses upon the origin of the name “Qumran,” her comprehensive summaries of the early explorers to Qumran are invaluable.
xLouis-Félicien Caignart de Saulcy, Narrative of a Journey Round the Dead Sea and in Bible Lands, in 1850 and 1851 (trans. E. Warren; vol. 2; London: Richard Bentley, 1853), 55-68.
xiJodi Magness, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 22.
xiide Saulcy, Narrative of a Journey, 55.
xiiiTaylor, "Khirbet Qumran in the Nineteenth Century and the Name of the Site," 152.
xivHenry Poole, "Report of a Journey in Palestine," JRGS 26 (1856), 69.
xvAlbert Augustus Isaacs, The Dead Sea: or, Notes and Observations Made During a Journey to Palestine in 1856-7 (London: Hatchard and Son, 1857), 66.
xviJames Finn, Byeways in Palestine (London: James Nisbet, 1868), 416.
xviiM. E. Guillaume Rey, Voyage dans le Haouran et aux Bords de la Mer Morte executé pendant les années 1857 et 1858 (Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1859), 222-23.
xviiiTaylor, "Khirbet Qumran in the Nineteenth Century and the Name of the Site," 153.
xixRey, Voyage dans le Haouran, 223.
xxRey, Voyage dans le Haouran, 221.
xxiSee report under the heading “Khurbet Kumrân” in Claude R. Conder and Herbert H. Kitchener, The Survey of Western Palestine (3; London: Palestine Exploration Society, 1883), 210.
xxiiConder and Kitchener, The Survey of Western Palestine, 210.
xxiiiCharles Clermont-Ganneau, "The Jerusalem Researches: Letters from M. Clermont-Ganneau. III," PEFQS 5 (1874), 83.
xxivCharles Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological Researches in Palestine During the Years 1873-1874 (vol. 2; London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1896), 14-16.
xxvInterestingly, Magness (who denies Qumran was ever a fortress) never once mentions Masterman in her 2002 book, Archaeology of Qumran.
xxviErnest William Gurney Masterman, "'Ain el-Feshkhah, el-Hajar, el-Asbah, and Khurbet Kumrân," PEFQS 27 (1902), 162.
xxviiIt is also worth noting that Masterman mentioned a connection between the Qumran plateau and the plateau immediately to the west, into which Caves 4 and 5 are carved.
xxviiiMasterman, "'Ain el-Feshkhah, el-Hajar, el-Asbah, and Khurbet Kumrân," 161.
xxixHirschfeld, Qumran in Context, 4.
xxxMasterman, "'Ain el-Feshkhah, el-Hajar, el-Asbah, and Khurbet Kumrân," 162.
xxxiMasterman, "'Ain el-Feshkhah, el-Hajar, el-Asbah, and Khurbet Kumrân," 162.
xxxiiGustaf Dalman, Palästinajahrbuch des Deutschen evangelischen Instituts für Altertumswissenschaft des heiligen Landes zu Jerusalem (10; Berlin: Ernst Siegfried Mittler, 1914), 9-11.
xxxiiiMichael Avi-Yonah, "Map of Roman Palestine," QDAP, no. 5 (1936), 164.
xxxivMichael Avi-Yonah, Gazetteer of Roman Palestine (vol. Qedem 5; 1976), 80, s.v. “Mezad Hasidim”.
xxxvGerald Lankester Harding, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," PEQ 81 (1949), 112-15. The original seven scrolls from Cave 1 are 1QIsaa (a copy of the book of “Isaiah”), 1QIsab (a second copy of the book of “Isaiah”), 1QS (the “Community Rule”), 1QpHab (the “Pesher on Habakkuk”), 1QM (the “War Scroll”), 1QH (the “Thanksgiving Hymns”), and 1QapGen (the “Genesis Apocryphon”).
xxxviThe linens from Cave 1 were studied extensively in Grace Mary Crowfoot, "Linen Textiles from the Cave of Ain Feshka in the Jordan Valley," PEQ 83 (1951).
xxxviiLankester Harding, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," 113.
xxxviiiLankester Harding, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," 114.
xxxixGerald Lankester Harding, "Khirbet Qumrân and Wady Murabba‘at: Fresh Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls and New Manuscript Discoveries in Jordan," PEQ 84 (1952), 104. See also Magness, Archaeology of Qumran, 27.
xlLankester Harding, "Khirbet Qumrân and Wady Murabba‘at," 104.
xliLankester Harding, "Khirbet Qumrân and Wady Murabba‘at," 104.
xliiGerald Lankester Harding, "Recent Discoveries in Jordan," PEQ 90 (1958), 15.
xliiiPauline H. E. Donceel-Voûte, "Les ruines de Qumran reinterprétées," Archeologia 298 (1994).
xlivOther scholars like Rengstorf suggested that the scrolls originated elsewhere, but were addressing the issue from the perspective of an analysis of the scrolls and not from the archaeological evidence.
xlvJean-Baptiste Humbert and Alain Chambon, The Excavations of Khirbet Qumran and Ain Feshkha: Synthesis of Roland de Vaux's Field Notes (trans. Stephen J. Pfann; vol. 1B; Fribourg and Göttingen: University Press and Vandenhoeck & Ruprect, 2003).
xlviJean-Baptiste Humbert and Alain Chambon, Fouilles de Khirbet Qumrân et de Aïn Feshkha (vol. 1; Göttingen and Fribourg: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht and Éditions universitaires, 1994).
xlviiJean-Baptiste Humbert, "L'espace sacré à Qumrân. Propositions pour l'archéologie (Planches I-III)," RB 101 (1994).
xlviiiFlorentino García Martínez, "The Great Battles over Qumran," NEA 63, no. 3 (2000), 127.
xlixMagen Broshi, "Qumran, Khirbet and ‘Ein Feshkha," 1241 in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (ed. Ephriam Stern; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society & Carta, 1993), 1241.
lMagness, Archaeology of Qumran, 66.
liMagness, Archaeology of Qumran, 49-50.
lii143 coins of Alexander Jannaeus were found at Qumran. See Magness, Archaeology of Qumran, 65.
liiiHershel Shanks, "The Enigma of Qumran: Four Archaeologists Assess the Site," 24, no. 1 (1998), 24-37.
livHirschfeld, Qumran in Context, 83, 87, 162.
lvUntil recently, very little has been published regarding “Operation Scroll.” See A. Rabinovich, "Operation Scroll: Recent revelations about Qumran promise to shake up Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship," Jerusalem Post Magazine, May 6 1994. Cf. Zdzislaw Jan Kapera, "Archaeological Interpretations of the Qumran Settlement: A Rapid Review of Hypotheses Fifty Years After the Discoveries at the Dead Sea," 15-33 in Mogilany 1995: Papers on the Dead Sea Scrolls offered in memory of Aleksy Klawek (ed. Zdzislaw Jan Kapera; vol. 15 of Qumranica Mogilanensia; Krakow: Enigma Press, 1998), 26, fn. 40.
lviMagen and Peleg, Preliminary Report.
lviiMagen and Peleg, Preliminary Report, 62.
lviiiNorman Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?: The Search for the Secret of Qumran (New York: Scribner, 1995), 158.
lixKarl Heinrich Rengstorf, Hirbet Qumrân and the Problem of the Library of the Dead Sea Caves (trans. J. R. Wilkie; Leiden: Brill, 1963).
lxIsaacs, The Dead Sea: or, Notes and Observations Made During a Journey to Palestine in 1856-7, 66.
lxiFinn, Byeways in Palestine, 416.
lxiiMasterman, "'Ain el-Feshkhah, el-Hajar, el-Asbah, and Khurbet Kumrân," 161.
lxiiiDalman, Palästinajahrbuch, 9-11.
lxivAvi-Yonah, "Map of Roman Palestine," 164.
lxvGolb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, 3.
lxviGolb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, 36.
lxviiGolb argues that the site remained a fortress until its destruction. Golb states, “The Hasmonaean fortress was built at the earliest, circa 140-130 B.C. As for subsequent occupation, I cited the bona fide archaeological evidence uncovered by Pere de Vaux indicating that a battle at the site between Roman attackers and Jewish defenders took place during the First Revolt, the difference being that de Vaux theorizes that it took place in 68 A.D, whereas I place it at approximately 72 A.D. — i.e., during the period (as described by Josephus) of the gradual Roman conquest of Judaea after the subjugation of Jerusalem. As for the attribution to me of the view that Kh. Qumran was “always” a fortress, while I did not use that term, I did in my book treat it in the first edition of my book [sic] and its paperback version as a fortress during the period in question…it is quite obvious from de Vaux’s own description of the archaeological findings made by him that (as stated in my book) once the First Revolt had broken out, Jewish fighters occupying Kh. Qumran engaged there in a pitched battle with Roman forces who thereupon conquered the site, using it afterwards (as de Vaux also has shown) as a military base of their own.” See Appendix (p. 12) to Norman Golb, "The So-Called “Virtual Reality Tour” at the 2007 San Diego Scrolls Exhibit," The Oriental Institute Research Website (2007) [cited December 12, 2007]); available from http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/san_diego_virtual_reality_2007.pdf
lxviiiIt is noteworthy that even Magen and Peleg, who accept that Qumran was initially a fortress and that the scrolls originated in Jerusalem, reject the idea that the site was always a fortress. For details, see Magen and Peleg, Preliminary Report.
lxixPhilip R. Davies, "Re-asking Some Hard Questions about Qumran," 37-49 in Mogilany 1989: Papers on the Dead Sea Scrolls offered in memory of Jean Carmignac (ed. Zdzislaw Jan Kapera; vol. 2 of Qumranica Mogilanensia, ed. Zdzislaw Jan Kapera; Krakow: Enigma Press, 1993), 37.
lxxRobert R. Cargill, Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009).