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Qumran, Steckoll and the NY Times some musings

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  • Joe Zias
    Dear Colleagues Some years ago, while leaving the Hadassah Medical School where I had been doing some research, I was approached by a rather frail individual
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2006
      Dear Colleagues
      Some years ago, while leaving the Hadassah Medical School where I had been doing some research, I was approached by a rather frail individual who asked in English if I was driving towards Jerusalem and if he could have a ride. During the short ride to Jrsm. the individual mentioned that he was a journalist and identified himself by name. Knowing fully well who he was I kept quiet and just mentioned that I was interested in arch. and he replied that he had dug at Qumran and would I like to see some of the objects in his apt. I agreed and was aghast at some of the things that I had seen in his collection. He proudly announced that some of these items came from Qumran and when I asked how could one be sure, he then showed me some articles with such saying that he himself had excavated them and was allowed by the Jordanians to keep them. Along with the pottery were other items which I felt should be in a museum and not in his personal collection so I contacted the authorities
      who were aware that he had this collection and as he was very sick he was selling off the material. They replied however that a- they did not have the budget to pick it up and b- it was overpriced. I found out later that the museum in Haifa picked up an item of two and some of the archaeological material went abroad.

      Knowing many of those involved in the arch. of Qumran and all the stories I also was well aware that while excavating there locals would show up from time to time with objects which were looted from the nearby caves saying that it came from Qumran, whereas all one could say was that it came from the region and in the Steckoll case it may have come from a Jrsm dealer as well which may be the story of the inkwell. I might add that inkwells are readily available from dealers here in Jerusalem.

      Without going into further detail, this was the first and last time that we had ever met however what transpired that afternoon, what I had seen and heard, what was for sale led me to believe that his Qumran cemetery experiences, (he was not an archaeologist) were not to trusted and it was best, for the sake of science and the profession, to ignore his findings. Some of us have, others haven't. Enough said....

      As far as Goransons remarks that much of excavation took place in the dumps, I would like to remind readers that in 2000 one university excavated in the dumps of De Vaux for an entire week before they realized that it was the back dirt from the 1950's !! Thus, everything was out of context, all one could say was that it came from Qumran, to save any further embarrassment, they then published it omitting the fact that they had mistakenly dug in De Vaux's back dirt.

      As for the 9 tombs in the cemetery, which Y. Magen glossed over as being a rather trivial issue in the Brown conf. report, the north-south ones (4 I believe) were all adult males. He promised however that a published report will eventually appear. Lastly, as Goranson seems to confirm, the cemetery and site evidence speaks for itself. For those of you with a mathematical bent and some spare time, compute the probability of how many times heads (males) would turn up in a coin toss where tails would represent women. Remember there are no children to confuse things but one undisputed female in the sample, it's either a or b. heads or tails and what is the probability of X number of males in such a population which is a random sample. I would venture a guess offhand that the probability of this occurring is one into the hundreds of thousands in terms or probability whereby each burial could be either male or female. If they were potters, perfumers, scholars, craftsmen, date
      eaters, bread eaters, pyramid gazers etc they appear to have been celibate. In fact, we have more females and children in those nearby 'celibate' monasteries of the Byzantines.
      Joe Zias



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