From the Judaean Desert to the Great Sea: Qumran in a Mediterranean Context

in Dead Sea Discoveries
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The time when Qumran was studied in splendid isolation is long gone, but much work remains to be done when it comes to situating the site in its wider context. In this paper, Qumran is contextualized, on the one hand, within the larger ecological history of the Mediterranean and, on the other, within the Mediterranean world of classical antiquity. Questions regarding the functions of the Qumran settlement are addressed from the perspective of “marginal zones” in the Mediterranean, which provides an ideal backdrop through which to illumine aspects of daily life at Qumran. Furthermore, it is shown how comparative case studies from the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean help us to nuance the discussion concerning “Hellenization” or “Romanization” with regard to Qumran. Finally, a new understanding of L4, which is here interpreted primarily as a dining room, is proposed on the basis of archaeological parallels from the Graeco-Roman world. A pan-Mediterranean perspective, therefore, allows us to generate new insights on old questions and novel interpretations.

Dead Sea Discoveries

A Journal of Current Research on the Scrolls and Related Literature



  • The settlement at Qumran during the first century bce–ce, with a frame highlighting the location of L4.
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  • Qumran: L4, looking south to southwest. Note the low plaster bench along the south wall, the plaster along the wall, and the cupboard in the southeast corner of the room.
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  • Qumran: L4, looking northeast. Note the low plaster bench along the east and north walls, the plaster along the walls, and the “basin” to the east of the north door.
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  • “Basin” to the immediate east of the north door of L4.
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  • Private house at Dura Europos: low plaster bench around room C3-D9.
    View in gallery


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