Part 4.How Did They Use Water at this Desert Site?

Water is a rare commodity in the Judean desert. Yet with summer temperatures averaging well-over the 100°-mark, it is an absolutely essential commodity, and one which must be conserved carefully.
If you agree that we can read the scrolls as evidence for the compound and vice versa, the elaborate water installations are a point the two bodies of evidence share in common. There is a heavy emphasis in the literature on purification and ritual ablutions or cleansings in water, and there are many features of the compound where this could be done, such as the ritual bath (mikveh) above.
Your task in this part of the project will be to review the evidence for water storage in the compound, and to compare it with certain passages in the scrolls. Then, rather than answering a particular question, you will write two paragraphs in which you (1) summarize the archaeological evidence and (2) explain the uses of water at Qumran


Evidence & Questions

The map below represents an expanded map of the Qumran water system. You will want to keep this map handy as you proceed on to work on your archaeological findings (see bottom of page)
Remember that the upper left corner, which is the NW corner of the compound, is the highest in elevation, so that gravity is being utilized to aid water flow.
There are three types of "water features" at the compound: cisterns, ritual baths or mikva'ot, and water channels. Cisterns hold water for drinking and cooking. They sometimes have stairs so that people can reach the water as the level drops. Mikva'ot hold water for ritual bathing. They have more elaborate staircases, sometimes with one or two vertical dividers to separate those who are ritually impure coming into the bath from those who are ritually pure coming out of the bath. See if you can distinguish the cisterns from the mikva'ot on the map. The final feature, water channels, are simply the channels cut to facilitate water flow between the receptacles. All of these features would have been covered by stone slabs or wood in antiquity to slow evaporation.
Some pictures of these water features follow. They are numbered to match the numbered arrows on the map. If you hold the cursor over one of the pictures, a brief description of it will appear that will help you to locate it on the map as well. The pictures are aligned on the right side of your screen so that you can see them while looking at the map. Adjust the size of both windows so that you can see both on your screen at the same time. The pictures will begin with the NW corner of the compound and move counter-clockwise around the site.

1. Mikveh at the NW corner of the site

2. Circular cistern (Locus 119) from the SouthQumran.Cistern.jpg

3. Aqueduct looking back toward the cistern

4. Cistern at SW corner of site (Locus 91)

5. Miqveh (ritual bath, left) next to the Dining Hall (right)

6. Earthquake-damaged miqveh on the eastern side of the site


Next, review the evidence (particularly the photographs and drawings) in Hirschfeld, Qumran in Context, pp. 111-128

Now that you have had a chance to review the site, please read the following passages in Vermes or García Martínez's translation:
· Rule of the Community col. II line 24 - col. III line 12 (p. 119 Wise, Abegg, Cook)
(Hereafter, a reference like the one above will be abbreviated to II.24-III.12)
· Rule of the Community V.1-20 (pp. 122-23 Wise, Abegg, Cook)
· Rule of the Community XI.9-15 (pp. 134-35 Wise, Abegg, Cook)
· 4QPurification Rules A (4QTohorot A) (4Q274; p. 360 Wise, Abegg, Cook; p. 235 Vermes)
· 4QBaptismal Liturgy (Purification Ritual B) (4Q414, p. 477 Wise, Abegg, Cook; p. 398 Vermes)
This one is fragmentary, so do your best to make sense of it.
· 4QRitual of Purification A (4Q512; p. 477 Wise, Abegg, Cook; p. 397 V)
This one is fragmentary too, so again do your best with it.
You have seen the archaeological evidence and read the texts that discuss purification and purity. In your write-up for this part of the paper, compose two paragraphs based on discussion with your group. In the first, summarize the archaeological evidence of water-related features in the compound and give your own interpretation of the evidence (specifically do you agree or disagree with Hirschfeld’s interpretation of the evidence?). In the second, evaluate the imagery and appearance of water in the textual evidence read above, and venture to analyze the possible theological significance of purification.

Grad students: Compare with ch. 7 in Magness. How can we understand the phenomenon of the mikveh in context? Also, can you find comparative textual examples on water and purity in the early Christian context?