Qumran Period i Reconsidered: An Evaluation of Several Competing Theories1

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
Dennis Mizzi University of Malta

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The study of Qumran is riddled with many problems, one of which is the absence of clear, unambiguous evidence for the architectural development of the site. As a result, there are several competing hypotheses regarding the architectural layout of Qumran in its earliest Second Temple phase and regarding its development during the course of the 1st century b.c.e. The recent publication of two new models of development attests to the continued significance of this question. At the same time, the existence of multiple models raises a methodological red flag, which forces us to reconsider this whole issue. Accordingly, this paper, without delving into the contentious question of the site’s interpretation, offers an objective assessment and critique of the major models of development that have been proposed, and it highlights the shortcomings and assumptions underlying these theories. From this evaluation, it emerges that while some hypotheses can be ruled out via a thorough analysis of the archaeological evidence, others can neither be proven nor disproven. Consequently, this paper concludes that Qumran Period i remains, to an extent, unknowable.

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