items, including earrings and a bracelet, which were
wrapped in two linen cloths. Other valuables were added
on top, including some 1,300 beads of silver and electrum — an alloy of gold and silver — that had probably been
threaded into an elaborate necklace. The jug also held
10 additional pieces of electrum jewelry.
A Canaanite city palace stood only about 30 meters from
the Iron Age building where the courtyard was, Arie said.
Given the lesser building’s strategic location, its inhabitants
must have held key government positions, he proposed.
“For the family that lived there, the hoard represented the
lion’s share of their wealth.” Those family members presumably fled about the time their residence was destroyed in a
catastrophic event, perhaps a battle.
The Megiddo hoard was hidden but not buried, giving
its owners quick access to their valuables. But no one ever
retrieved the treasure. “We will never know why no one
returned to claim this hoard,” Arie said. — Bruce Bower
HUMANS & SOCIE TY
Celibates linked to Dead Sea Scrolls site
Skeletons offer clues to who wrote or protected the documents
BY BRUCE BOWER
A decades-long debate over who once
occupied a settlement located near the
caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were
found has taken a chaste turn.
Analyses of 33 newly excavated skeletons of people buried at the West Bank
site known as Qumran support a view that
the community consisted of a religious
sect of celibate men. Anthropologist Yossi
Nagar of the Israel Antiquities Authority
in Jerusalem reported the findings
November 16. Preliminary radiocarbon
dating of one bone indicates the bodies
are about 2,200 years old — close to the
same age as the ancient texts, which are
estimated to have been written between
about 150 B.C. and A.D. 70.
Plus, reexamination of 53 previously
unearthed skeletons from Qumran’s
cemetery found that six of seven people
formerly tagged as women were actually
men, Nagar said. A small number of children have also been excavated at Qumran.
Nagar identified 30 of the newly exca-
vated individuals as definitely or prob-
ably males based on factors that include
pelvic shape and body size. The remain-
ing three skeletons lacked enough
evidence to assign a sex. At the time of
death, the men ranged in age from about
20 to 50 years or older, Nagar estimated.
“I don’t know if these were the people
who produced the Qumran region’s Dead
Sea Scrolls,” he said. “But the high concentration of adult males of various ages
buried at Qumran is similar to what has
been found at cemeteries connected to
Byzantine monasteries.” The Byzantine
Empire, founded in A.D. 330, was an
extension of the Roman Empire in the
Earlier investigations at Qumran suggested it was founded over 2,700 years
ago. Warfare led to its abandonment
before it was settled again for about
200 years, up to around A.D. 68.
Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls,
which include parts of the Hebrew Bible,
from 1947 to 1956 in 11 nearby caves
stimulated intense interest in who had
occupied Qumran. In February 2017,
researchers revealed they had found
another cave in the same area that possi-
bly held scrolls or pieces of papyrus and
leather intended to be written on.
An influential early theory held that
members of an ancient, celibate Jewish
sect, the Essenes, lived at Qumran and
either wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls or were
caretakers of the documents. But over
the last 30 years, other possible inhabitants of Qumran have been proposed,
including Bedouin herders, craftsmen
and Roman soldiers.
Qumran individuals show no signs
of war-related injuries and are not predominantly young adult men, as would
be expected of a cemetery for soldiers,
Nagar said. The Qumran skeletons can’t
be confirmed as Essenes, but their identity as part of a community of celibate
men appears probable, he added.
Extraction and analysis of DNA from
the Qumran skeletons would help confirm that they are all, or almost all, male,
said Jonathan Rosenbaum, a professor
of Jewish studies at Gratz College in
Melrose Park, Pa.
Researchers removed small samples of
bone from some of the newly excavated
Qumran skeletons before reburying
the finds in their original resting places.
Nagar wasn’t sure if any attempts to
retrieve DNA from bone samples would
be launched. s
Hidden hoard hints at how elites protected treasures
Long before anyone opened a bank account or rented a safe
deposit box, wealth protection demanded a bit of guile and a
broken beer jug. A 3,100-year-old jewelry stash was discov-
ered in just such a vessel, unearthed in 2010 from an ancient
fortress city in Israel called Megiddo. Now the find is provid-
ing clues to how affluent folk hoarded their valuables at a
time when fortunes rested on fancy metalwork, not money.
At Megiddo, a high-ranking Canaanite family stashed
jewelry in the beer jug and hid it in a courtyard’s corner
under a bowl, possibly under a veil of cloth, Eran Arie of the
Israel Museum in Jerusalem reported November 17.
The hoard’s owners removed the jug’s
neck and inserted a bundle of 35 silver
MEE TING NOTE
Members of an elite family removed this
Iron Age beer jug’s neck to stash jewelry
inside, a researcher suspects.