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.
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.
This article adds an archaeological voice to the current debate surrounding the authenticity of recently acquired “Dead Sea Scrolls-like” fragments. In our opinion, since these fragments are above all archaeological artifacts, considerations of provenance should take priority over authenticity. We begin with a survey that contextualizes this debate in relation to other types of archaeological artifacts, and consider the importance of context as well as ethical, legal, moral, and economic issues relating to the acquisition and publication of unprovenanced artifacts. We conclude that any artifact that lacks verifiable documentation of its provenance—whether or not it is authentic—should not be studied or published by scholars. Finally, we urge professional organizations and publishers to establish or strengthen policies preventing the publication of such artifacts, even after primary publication or presentation elsewhere.