Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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New Texts from Qumran Volume 49 Number 3, May/June 1996
by Susan Stanley

Three ostraca, one inscribed with 16 lines of Hebrew text from the first century A.D., have been found in Qumran, Israel. This is the first textual material discovered at the site since the Dead Sea Scrolls were found there in 1947. The sherds were spotted on the east side of the Qumran plateau by volunteer excavators led by James F. Strange of the University of South Florida.

One ostracon, broken into two pieces, mentions several commodities and is believed to be a list of food and supplies. The text opens, "In the second year," probably referring to the second year of the First Jewish Revolt, or A.D. 68. The next line reads, "In Jericho," most likely indicating where the ostracon was made. The text, which has not yet been deciphered completely, is significant because it refers to the life of the whole community, not the life-style of the elite class, well known from the Dead Sea Scrolls. A Jewish refugee settlement on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea eight and one-half miles south of Jericho, Qumran was destroyed by the Romans during the First Revolt. According to Strange, the pottery pieces were probably thrown out in haste or were part of the debris left after the Roman looting of the site.

One of the other ostraca found nearby has parts of four lines of text. The last ostracon shows traces of ink. The ostraca are being examined by Esther Eshel of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who has studied and published several of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

* Scrolls from the Dead Sea: The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship - an exhibition at the Library of Congress

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America