Qumran Month Comes to a Close

It has been a successful month here on the ASOR blog, with posts by many leading scholars on all aspects of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls! We have had seven posts covering everything from the archaeological evidence for a sect inhabiting the site of Qumran, to translations and interpretations of portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to evidence for changes in scripture over time. In case you missed any of them, the posts in order are: Continue reading

An Old Problem Gets More Interesting: Resurrection in the Dead Sea Scrolls

By: C.D. Elledge

Jewish hope in resurrection of the dead plays an important role in the history of Western religions.  It was principally during the Second Temple Period that Jews developed increasing innovation in the varied forms in which they envisioned a blessed afterlife – including hope in resurrection of the dead, the belief that God would actively raise humans from the realm of the dead and restore them to a renewed form of life.  While beliefs about resurrection remained diverse, Jews of the Second Temple Period left behind to the rabbinic age, the early church, and even later to Islam, the predominant idiom in which they would express their eschatological hopes. Continue reading

Itamar Singer, obituary

Yoram Cohen, Amir Gilan and Jared Miller have contributed this appreciation of Itamar Singer (posted via the Agade list) Itamar Singer (26th of November 1946 – 19th of September 2012)

“Life is bound up with death and death is bound up with life. A human does not live forever. The days of his life are counted.” (‘Prayer of Kantuzili’; translation by Itamar Singer.) Continue reading

Heritage Fellow’s Array of Experiences at Tel Kedesh

By: Caitlin C. Clerkin, 2012 Heritage FellowC Clerkin

Thanks to ASOR’s generosity via the Heritage Fellowship, I was able to participate this summer in my second season of fieldwork at Tel Kedesh, in Israel’s beautiful Upper Galilee.  This final season of excavation at Kedesh’s Persian-Hellenistic Administrative Building saw my first season ever as a trench supervisor—an unexpected “battlefield promotion” and an amazing experience. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup!

The damaged outer gate of Aleppo’s Citadel (Nelofer Pazira)

The ongoing civil war in Syria, a land brimming with history, has led to a dangerous, tragic surge in the looting and smuggling of Syrian antiquities, and the trade of antiquities for guns.

A Harvard professor has identified what appears to be a scrap of fourth century Egyptian papyrus that contains the first known explicit reference to Jesus as married, a discovery that could fuel the millennia-old debate about priestly celibacy in the Catholic church. But the papyrus has no context and many scholars are already arguing it is fake. Continue reading


By Daniel A. Machiela

When most people think of the Dead Sea Scrolls, they likely (and understandably) envision either a devoted band of Jewish sectarians sequestered away in the harsh Judean wilderness, or a stunning cache of biblical manuscripts centuries older than we possessed before the late 1940’s. These two groups of texts – the Sectarian and the Biblical Scrolls – remain, for good reason, at the center of current museum exhibits and our popular imagination, though many important complexities have been introduced into discussions surrounding each group in recent decades. Yet there are a good many manuscripts from among the Scrolls that do not fit neatly into these two categories, Continue reading

Heritage Fellow experiences first dig in picturesque Cappadocia

I am helping clean what seemed a possible differentiation in the color of a plastered mud-brick wall.

By: Mehrnoush Soroush, 2012 Heritage Fellow

I received the Heritage Fellowship to participate in my first fieldwork at the site of Kınık Höyük, in Cappadocia. Kınık Höyük is close to the small city of Altunhisar, and Niğde is the closest real town where we spent several free Saturday afternoons. I cannot think of a better way to have spent this scholarship. To begin with, our höyük (mound) is located in such a picturesque landscape. My early morning trips to the site and my afternoon trips back to the dig house were like short dreams in a wonderland: endless combinations of horizontal lines of golden grain fields and orchards and vertical lines of poplars which constantly sway in the cool mountain breeze. All of these are embroidered on a blend of clear blue sky and pinkish gray mountains that infinitely reflect one another. Our höyük is the most prominent feature, at least in my eyes, in this landscape: a miraculously intact golden cup, set up-side down amidst orchards and fields and visible from almost everywhere, including our dig house in the village of Yeşil Yurt. Continue reading

Get Fuzzy: The Elusive Rewriters of Scripture

By: Molly Zahn

When Geza Vermes first coined the term “Rewritten Bible” a half-century ago, I suspect he did not have any idea of the impact that term would make in Qumran studies. I also suspect that the phenomenon to which he applied the term seemed to him clearly defined and easily recognizable. It certainly has to me for much of the time since I first encountered the book of Jubilees and the Temple Scroll, nearly fifteen years ago in Bernard Levinson’s seminar on Scripture and Interpretation at the University of Minnesota. Rewritten Bible, for me, was simply a biblical text that had been revised according to a later interpreter’s own agenda; as Vermes put it, “In order to anticipate questions, and to solve problems in advance, the midrashist inserts haggadic development into the biblical narrative—an exegetical process which is probably as ancient as scriptural interpretation itself.”[1] Comparing the book of Jubilees to Genesis or Chronicles to Samuel-Kings allows one to grasp immediately what Vermes describes. Granted, my work with the Temple Scroll made clear to me early on that Vermes’ definition, focused as it is on “haggadic development,” must be extended to include law as well as narrative.[2] But the basic image of a Second Temple scribe interpretively reconfiguring the text to reflect a new set of perspectives and priorities remained. Continue reading

Heritage Fellow on Excavating Ramses II Gateway

By Amy Karoll, 2012 Heritage Fellow

This is the second year that I have excavated with the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project in Tel Aviv-Yafo.  With the help of the Heritage scholarship, I was able to help fund this second year here.  I am a staff member, and oversaw excavations in the LBA Egyptian gateways in Area A. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup!

 Israeli archaeologists digging on the route of a planned highway have found new ruins from a 1,500-year-old Jewish town, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

A Byzantine period baptistery structure has been unearthed at one of the most important ancient sites in Kosovo by Turkish archaeologists. It is the first international excavation to be carried out by Turkish archaeologists in Europe. Continue reading

Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project receives 3-year NEH Funding

Aaron A. Burke and Martin Peilstöcker, the directors of The Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project, are pleased to announce the receipt of a 3-year National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Grant for excavations in Jaffa from 2013 to 2015.

Aerial photo showing the destruction of the Amarna period Egyptian gate complex in Jaffa

Aerial photo showing the destruction of the Amarna period Egyptian gate complex in Jaffa. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Burke)

The project is titled “Insurgency, Resistance, and Interaction: Archaeological Inquiry into New Kingdom Egyptian Rule in Jaffa.”

Since 2007 the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project has brought to light the results of earlier excavations from 1955 to 1974 in Jaffa (Tel Yafo) by Jacob Kaplan, the municipal archaeologist of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. One of the primary objectives of this project was to provide a baseline for renewed archaeological exploration of Jaffa in which modern data collection methods and analytical techniques are employed to improve our understanding of the site and its population.

Continue reading

“The Dynamics of Holiness in the Temple Scroll: Exclusion or Expansion?”

By: Hannah K Harrington

Studies have focused both on the exclusionary and expansionist character of holiness in the Temple Scroll.  On the one hand, it has been argued that the stringent purity restrictions in this text are due to the protection of the holiness of the sanctuary and exclusion from evil (Regev).  On the other hand, holiness is described as so powerful that it unleashes itself beyond the borders of the Temple city to permeate the entire land (Schiffman).  Thus, there is a paradox between the elitist tendency of the Scroll to protect the sanctuary by making extra-biblical exclusions from its precincts and, at the same time, bringing greater holiness to all Israel.  Is the author’s vision to protect the sanctuary by keeping people at a maximum distance or to invade the secular realm with the divine presence? Continue reading

Heritage Fellow Reports Discoveries at Marj Rabba

By: Brittany Jackson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

Season Four at Marj Rabba, Israel, has been one of our most successful, thanks to funding from ASOR. The Marj Rabba excavations, led by Dr. Yorke Rowan (University of Chicago) and Dr. Morag Kersel (DePaul University), are very important for exploring the virtually unexplored lifeways and material culture of the Galilee during the Chalcolithic (c. 4500-3500 BC). As a recipient of the Heritage Fellowship, my participation has been vital to training new excavators (of whom we had almost 20 this year!). As part of my work, I have led excavations in one of our areas, where we have had many very exciting and promising finds this season.

During the 2011 season at Marj Rabba, the area I supervise was started by opening two five meter by five meter excavation units. We were hoping to better understand and explain the relationship between two previously excavated areas of the site, which appeared to have at least two different building phases. The season proved very rewarding, as excavators uncovered at least five stone wall remnants, three of which were seemingly large, well preserved, and apparently contemporaneous, and appeared to form the majority of a possible storage room.

This season, we decided to expand excavations by adding an additional five meter by five meter excavation square to the area, and, lo, we found the final, closing wall to the well preserved room, as well as a series of other very exciting finds. Excavators and students have uncovered multiple beads of various materials, as well as bone tools and jewelry, and obsidian, which was imported from Turkey.

We still have about two weeks until the end of our 2012 excavation season, and staff, interns, and students are all working hard to make sure this is the best season yet! The storage room in my area is still being excavated, and it appears that our stone-built walls are better preserved and larger than any of us could have hoped. Thanks again to ASOR, for supporting my participation in Marj Rabba’s search for the prehistory of the Galilee!



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Sectarianism and the Archaeology of Qumran

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. Continue reading

Platt Fellow’s Close Encounter with a Camel

By: Patrick Clark, 2012 Platt Fellow

This summer I had the privilege of receiving the Platt Fellowship.  This generous grant enabled me to join Dr. Andrew M. Smith II for a second incredible field season at Bir Madhkur.  In my photo I am sitting on a boulder in a wadi, recording a Bedouin camp built on a Roman-era wadi terrace.  My friend, and our guide, Musa yells “Shoof, Ghadeer (my Bedouin name)!”  I look up. A camel is walking up to me.  Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup!

Archaeologists have discovered a large public cistern from the time of the First Temple in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Thursday, offering new insight into the city’s water supply more than 2,500 years ago.

Mexican anthropologists and archaeologists have occupied Mexico’s prestigious National Museum of Anthropology to protest what they see as the misuse and destruction of sites throughout the country.

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The Eternal Planting, the Eden of Glory

1QHa 16.5-17.37

By: James H. Charlesworth


Charlesworth lecturing in Qumran within the ruins, pointing to how the Qumranites built without skill and with plaster pushed in with a stick (Photo by GAM)

 The Thanksgiving Hymns are the creation of poets who became the Community of priests who left the Temple (or were cast out, as indicated by this collection); they eventually settled at Qumran. The poetry rivals, sometimes, the heights obtained by the stellar poets who bequeathed us the Psalter (the Davidic Psalms). In my judgment, the Thanksgiving Hymns are the mystical ruby in the breastplate of the Qumranic priests. Continue reading

A Roman Fort Amidst the Dunes: The ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project

By Erin Darby and Robert Darby

Figure 1: Map of southern Jordan with ‘Ayn Gharandal

Located in southern Jordan, the archaeological site of ‘Ayn Gharandal lies covered by the desolate sands of the Wadi Araba (Fig. 1). Even though the site is located near an ancient spring, Lawrence (of Arabia) described the Araba Valley as follows: “Every few hours’ journey a greener patch marks a stagnant hole of water, which is always nasty to drink, in part from its own sedgy taste, and in part from the mixed flavors added to it by… camels (Woolley and Lawrence 1915: 13).” Noting that the Wadi Araba contained minimal archaeological remains, Lawrence ended his survey of the valley at ‘Ayn Gharandal and headed toward Petra.

Figure 2: Picture of ‘Ayn Gharandal fort prior to excavation

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Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

 By: Jodi Magness

Qumran - the site associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls - is located eight and a half miles south of Jericho, by the northwest shore of the Dead Sea.  The site was excavated from 1951-1956 by Roland de Vaux of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jerusalem.  More recently, other expeditions have explored different parts of the site, including the settlement and cemetery (Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg), residential caves to the north (Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel), and the cemetery (Broshi, Eshel, and Richard Freund).  From ca. 100 B.C.E. to 68 C.E. Qumran was occupied by members of a Jewish sect.  There are also remains of a late Iron Age (pre-586 B.C.E.) settlement and evidence of a brief phase of Roman occupation after 68 C.E. Continue reading