Part 2. Are the Caves and the Compound Connected?


The first question that must be asked is whether the caves and the ruins of the compound are connected. Did the same people who occupied the compound store or hide the scrolls in the caves?

This is a fundamental question because there are passages in the scrolls that some people use to interpret the ruins, and vice versa. These scholars have decided that the scrolls are connected to the site. Other scholars disagree and will not use the scrolls to shed light on the archaeology.
After reviewing the evidence, you will need to come to your own conclusion, and decide which group of scholars you support.



The first cave discovered, Cave 1, was a ½-mile north of the Qumran site. You will recall from the introductory reading in VanderKam and/or Magness that the Bedouin found several jars in this cave, and one of them had three intact scrolls in it. Four other scrolls were later removed from this cave. In general, at least six of these seven scrolls were beautifully preserved. In fact, a few had been wrapped in linen sleeves for further protection.

One scholar, E. L. Sukenik, suggested that the Cave was a genizah or storeroom for old, worn-out scrolls (it is Jewish tradition not to destroy such unusable sacred scrolls, but to store them before burying them).

Question #1. Based on what you know of the Cave 1 scrolls ­their state and manner of preservation ­ do you agree or disagree with Sukenik? Is there any other evidence you would need in order to decide? (Grads: do you know anything else about how manuscripts or scrolls were “stored” in antiquity? Are there any other parallels which might be instructive?)

Some of the scrolls that were the best-preserved and which scholars usually assume were most important for the group who hid them were found in caves farthest from the compound (how do we know?). This cliff is the one in which Caves 1-2 are located. It lies about ½-mile north of the compound, while Caves 3 and 11 are farther north still.

Some scholars believe that the finds in these caves were deposited by different groups at different times, rather than by a single group living at the Khirbet Qumran site to the south. The finds in these caves are somewhat different from what one finds nearer Qumran; for example, the single copy of the Copper Scroll (a list of buried temple donations and implements inscribed on a thin sheet of copper) was found in the northernmost Cave 3.

Question #2. Using García Martínez's Table of Contents (in hard copy or online as an E-book at Penrose library, Penrose catalog ), determine whether any given manuscripts have been found in multiple caves. Note particularly those times when a manuscript was found in a far-off cave (1-3, 11) and in a cave nearer to Qumran (4-10). In your write-up, choose one of the two positions: (1) that the scrolls were written and deposited by different groups, or (2) that they were written and deposited by the same group. Then make a case for your position, including evidence from the Table of Contents and your "take" on whether the distance of ½-1 mile would be significant.

Finally, we turn to the seven caves closest to the Qumran site (caves 4-10). In this photograph, taken from the NW corner of the compound, the cliff along the right edge of the picture is the cliff in which Caves 4-5 were located. Glance at the list of Qumran manuscripts in García Martínez's appendix. Get an ballpark sense for how many of the 900 manuscripts found at Qumran were found in Caves 4-5, and 4-10, compared to the farther caves.
The proximity of these caves to the Qumran compound has not deterred some scholars from arguing that the scrolls have nothing to do with the archaeological evidence of the compound. Norman Golb (for further detail, see his faculty website or here, post article
where his son "posts" about him as a fictitious character Raphael Golb) is perhaps the most well-known proponent of the view that refugees from the Jerusalem Temple fled Jerusalem in the First Jewish Revolt when Jerusalem came under attack and its Temple was destroyed (70 C.E.). He contends that they took the scrolls from the Temple library and deposited them here, in the Judean wilderness. He notes that no scroll fragments were found in the Qumran compound, which would be strange for a group that had over 900 manuscripts in the nearby caves.

There is, however, evidence from the archaeological compound that matches evidence from the caves.

First, while scrolls were indeed not present in the compound, quite a lot of pottery was, and it matches pottery found in the caves, such as the scroll jars themselves. The match is pretty comprehensive; pottery in the caves and the compound is similar in composition, style and dating, and lack of decoration. (Pottery styles, like handwriting by professional scribes, changes slowly over time in noticeable ways that have been tracked by archaeologists. You can therefore date a pot to a rough time-frame by its style, just as you can date handwriting to a rough time-frame by its features.)

Second, the scroll dates range, on the basis of writing analysis (paleography) and Carbon-14 tests, from 250 B.C.E. to 68/70 C.E. Parts of the compound date before this period, and we have evidence of Roman occupation after the period, but the evidence of pottery, coins, and some documents inscribed on pottery in the compound suggest that the heaviest period of occupation at the site was c.140 B.C.E. to 68 C.E.
Question #3. Based on the evidence adduced so far, would you argue with or against Golb? State your position, and then discuss the evidence. Is there other information you would need in order to make your case more convincingly?