Sectarianism and the Archaeology of Qumran

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Regev at the entrance to Cave 11 with his students from the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology department, Bar-Ilan University

By: Eyal Regev

In a couple of articles published in BASOR and Revue de Qumran[1], I have analyzed the social aspects of the inhabitants of kh. Qumran using social-scientific theories, without direct consideration of the scrolls.

I have examined the spatial organization and architecture of kh. Qumran using Hillier and Hanson’s Space Syntax Theory, commonly called Access Analysis. The results show strong social boundaries and the division of the site into distinct clusters, in a specific hierarchal structure which entails ritualization. kh. Qumran is divided into different segments in a hierarchal distribution of spaces which marks separation between different spheres. I have compared the Access Analysis map of kh. Qumran to those of seven other contemporaneous manor houses or villas, in which all the spatial boundaries are substantially weaker. (more…)

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4 Comments for : Sectarianism and the Archaeology of Qumran
    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 11, 2012

    No scroll fragments have been found within the confines of the structure. This suggests that there was a difference between the people who lived in the building and the writers of the scrolls. Prior to being taken over by rebels (the priests), the occupants were Idumean soldiers in Agrippa's army who were converts to Judaism, and disinterested in the scrolls. Qumran was a fortress. After capturing Qumran from the Idumeans, the rebel priests brought their scrolls from Jerusalem and deposited them in the surrounding caves. The scrolls were not from the temple. They were scrolls from Agrippa's library. Professor Norman Golb believes that the scrolls had their origin in Jerusalem. The scrolls were taken from Agrippa's archives which the rebels had set on fire. With such a vast quantity of documents, the rebels had little alternative but to take them to Qumran and to other areas of the Judean desert.

    Masada and Machaerus were similarly captured by the rebel priests from Idumean soldiery whose morale had sunk to rock bottom. They never were captured from Romans. The priests had become fighters following their own War scroll.

  1. Reply

    One could compare the earlier study:

    Strange, James F., and James Riley Strange. "The Archaeology of Everyday Life at Qumran." In Judaism in Late Antiquity, Part V. The Judaism of Qumran: A Systemic Reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Alan J. Avery-Peck, Jacob Neusner and Bruce D. Chilton, 1:45-73. 2 vols. Handbook of Oriental Studies: Abt.1, The Near and Middle East 56. Boston: Brill, 2001.

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