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Exciting discoveries at Renewed digs at Qumran (2014)

Khirbet Qumran (“Ruins of Qumran”) is an ancient site on a small plateau above the North Western shores of the Dead Sea.

Most of Qumran was excavated in the 1950’s because of the discovery in its vicinity of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.

While not even one of scrolls was found in Qumran itself, the site bears several anomalies, most striking is the large number of stepped plastered pools, despite the limited availability of fresh water in that area.

Most scholars identify these stepped pools as Jewish ritual baths, but in the 1990’s a two Israeli archaeologist, Y. Magen and Y. Peleg developed an alternative interpretation that the pools in Qumran are actually for production of pottery vessels.

Indeed Qumran bears two kilns, and some of its pottery was locally made, but did it indeed need such big clay soil containers?

Visiting Qumran a few weeks ago I was excited to see Peleg excavating one of the last unexcavated plastered stepped pools at the site! (Locus 91).

The team was uncovering the steps leading to the bottom of the pool in front of tour groups, and just two hours before my arrival they found fragments of a big stone purity vessel in the fill!.

Such big stone vessels are known to be used by Jews in antiquity for purity purposes, and are even mentioned in the New Testament (John 2:6).

The find of a purity vessel in the stepped pool strengthens my understanding that the pools were indeed related to purification, but Peleg is still not convinced.

I do hope to follow and report on more new finds coming from the site!. Perhaps fragments of scrolls will finally be discovered in this new dig?.

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A view of locus 91. Peleg’s team is beginning to expose the steps leading into the plastered pool.

 

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Peleg observing the workers as they expose the steps leading into the pool in Locus 91. On the steps are big fragments of a large purity stone vessel that has just been discovered. Such purity stone vessels were commonly used by Jews in the time of the Temple.  Shortly after taking this photo a small clay juglet was uncovered as well.