The Mystery of the Dead Sea Toilets

Archaeologists and biblical scholars have finally completely run out of ideas.

The Science Times reports that two men have examined some soil and found evidence that near the site of Qumran there was a latrine and from that they extrapolated proof that the monastic celibate Essenes must have lived there.

This means we are at the end of the line in Dead Sea scholarship. The final words have been written. Beyond this point no scholar will need to tread.

The article:
Latrines of the Essenes?

Archaeologists, it seems, will dig anything, even latrines. Sometimes this uncovers the stuff of scholarly evidence.

Over a hill, a discreet distance from and out of sight of the ruins of Qumran, near the Dead Sea, a broad patch of soil appeared to be discolored. Two archaeological sleuths had reasons to suspect this may have been Qumran’s toilet. Soil samples yielded the desiccated eggs of human intestinal parasites.

The researchers say this could well be evidence supporting the controversial view that Qumran was occupied by an ascetic Jewish sect, the Essenes, and that they probably wrote the Dead Sea scrolls and hid them in nearby caves. The discovery of the scrolls, beginning in 1947, was a sensation, with the promise of yielding insights into Judaism and early Christianity.

The new findings were announced yesterday by Dr. James D. Tabor, a biblical historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Joe E. Zias, a paleopathologist in Israel. In an interview, Dr. Tabor said the link between the latrine and the Essenes was intriguing, but not firm. Not enough organic material has been recovered for scientific dating tests. Qumran has been in ruins since A.D. 70.

Two of the scrolls refer to a requirement that latrines be “northwest of the city” and “not visible from the city.” The Qumran latrine, some 1,000 yards away, seemed to comply.

Dr. Tabor conceded that it was possible, as recently proposed, that the site was a pottery factory but said it would have been run by a strict religious Jewish community.

“All I am saying,” he concluded, “is that researchers should look at everything and try to come up with the best answer as to who lived at Qumran in the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In his view, that would be the Essenes.

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