Part 5. What Was Done in the Rooms?

Qumran.Domestic_doorway.jpgArchaeologists try to determine what the buildings and rooms they excavate were used for, and then can make a better proposal about what purpose the entire site served. They do this by excavating each room carefully and recording exactly what they find in each room. Evidence of architectural features, as well as material finds, such as pottery, coins, leather, mosaic tiles, and other artifacts, may suggest to the archaeologist's trained eye what the room might have been used for.

This page will introduce you to eight rooms at the site, along with some of the evidence found in these rooms. Your task will be to make educated argument(s) for what the room was used for on the basis of the evidence reported.

Evidence & Questions
The map below contains a detailed view of the plan of the sectarian settlement at Qumran. Keep this map handy as you work through the following exercises (see also the end of exercise).


Eight rooms in the Qumran complex are pictured below. The numbers correspond to those on the map, and arrows on the map will indicate from which direction the photograph was taken. If you hold the cursor over one of the pictures, the map number will appear (written also next to it), followed by the archaeologists' locus number (all rooms were given one; they range from 1 to 144, "loci" is the plural of "locus"). The pictures will begin with the NW corner of the site and move clockwise around the site.

1. Loci 8-11 (From NW corner)

The installation to focus on is the tall building in the center of the photograph with the (modern) wooden staircase on it. Notice that the walls are quite thick; in the days before reinforced concrete and steel-frame construction, walls could go up higher the more they were reinforced at the base. The walls of this roughly square structure are thicker at the base than any other walls in the compound. There are 4 rooms within the structure. Many Roman arrowheads were discovered in a destruction layer around and within this structure. What do you think the structure was?

2. Locus 13, Northern Wall
This roughly rectangular room just south of the previous image has this depression built into the wall. Since the niche still retains its original plastering, it appears to have been designed to hold water. The niche is roughly at waist height, and is next to one of two entrances into the room. What possible functions might the niche have had, and based on your answer what might the room have been used for?


3. Locus 4, NW Corner
The square-shaped room immediately south of the last image has a ledge raised off the floor on three sides of the room. The ledge is only about a foot deep, and a couple of inches high. No other room in the compound has this kind of reinforcement. Can you suggest what purpose the ledge might have served, and thus what function the room had?


4. Locus 30, NE Corner
The first three rooms focused on architectural features peculiar to the room under scrutiny. This long, rectangular room is interesting for what was found in it. There was a destruction layer beneath some artifacts, suggesting that the artifacts might have originally been on a second floor of the room. The artifacts included two inkwells and fragments of what appear to be tables or benches. What was done in the room (or better, in the second story room)?


5. Locus 64, from NW
Notice that there are several circular depressions in the ground. The first is in the foreground, at the tip of the shadow. The others are across the path, behind and to the right of the blue sign. A lot of raw clay was found in the pits, and fragments of pots were found nearby. What was done in these installations in Locus 64?


6. Loci 77 (left), 86 + 89 (right), from NW
You are looking at two rooms connected at right angles (see map above, below). On the left is a long rectangular room, the largest open space in the compound, added later in the compound's architectural history (perhaps early- to mid-first century B.C.E.). The smaller room to the right, with two square column bases in it, presented a lot of evidence to the archaeologists. They found over 1000 bowls of the same size and plain style, as well as numerous cups, jugs and a few lamps. This room opens onto only one other room, the long rectangular one on the left. For what could
these rooms have been used?


7. Locus 100, from East
This area is right across a path from the previous image. It contains a series of brick conical structures with openings facing the last room. There were lots of small animal bones found in this area. What is the most likely explanation of this room?


8. Loci 120, 122-123, from South
These rooms, and the longer one to their right, are near the entrance to the compound. These small ones are plastered, but their lack of connection to the water system precludes the possibility that they held water. They must have been plastered for some other reason. In the room to the right, a hoard of 561 Tyrian silver tetradrachmas (a special kind of coin used only for certain purposes, such as the payment of the Temple tax), were found buried in a few pots under a floorboard, with a destruction layer above. Do you have any idea what purpose these rooms might have served?