Qumran through Textiles

This is likely a mystery that will hang in the balance, but it is good to have another perspective to view the evidence. Live Science (Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls Possibly Solved) is reporting that there is new evidence in the form of textiles discovered at Qumran which can be applied to understanding the communal makeup of the community. In any event, an important article publishedabout these textiles, and the basis for the Live Science article, appeared in the latest Dead Sea Discoveries 18/2 (Orit Shamir and Naama Sukenik, “Qumran Textiles and the Garments of Qumran’s Inhabitants”).

The Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written, at least in part, by a sectarian group called the Essenes, according to nearly 200 textiles discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank, where the religious texts had been stored.

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrollsand how the texts got to Qumran, and so the new finding could help clear up this long-standing mystery.

The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration,  some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, “penned” some of the scrolls.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. An archaeologist who has excavated at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves…[See rest here]

Just a note: It appears that Dead Sea Scrolls in Live Science is being used here as the scrolls found in the caves of Qumran and not those discovered throughout the Judaean Desert.

HT: J. Lauer


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