Dead Sea Jar Lid Found to Hold Decomposed Papyrus

See below for a press release following Dennis Mizzi’s presentation of our research paper at ASOR and SBL this week. In this paper we present the results we obtained on analysing the residue found in a jar lid now in the collection of Judith Brown. We are very grateful to her for permitting DQCAAS to take a sample for study.


PRESS RELEASE

A study of ancient residue in a clay jar lid, originally coming from the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, has shown that it contained decomposed papyrus. Numerous cylindrical jars and lids were found in caves close to the ancient site of Qumran, west of the Dead Sea, but these were largely broken and empty, and their association with scrolls has been doubted. The discovery of decomposed papyrus in one of the lids adds to the evidence that scrolls were once placed in them, even when no scroll fragments have survived.

Dr. Dennis Mizzi, of the University of Malta, announced the findings this week on behalf of an international team of researchers, at the American Schools of Oriental Research and Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meetings in San Diego.

The jar lid is now in a private collection. It was bought in 1963 by Scrolls scholar John Allegro, who was told reliably that the object came from the Qumran area. The researchers state in their paper that while the precise find spot cannot be determined exactly, ‘the jar and lid have a condition that would match what we would expect in a cave environment’, and their forms are the same as other Qumran jars and lids, which are of a class not found anywhere else.

John Allegro, the original purchaser, believed that the hardened residue was ‘bat dung’, but – fortunately – he never cleaned it out. A sample was sent for testing at Quest laboratories, at the University of Reading, UK, and the tests have concluded that the unknown material derives from a member of the sedge (Cyperaceae) family, such as the papyrus sedge, which is not local to the Dead Sea area, and therefore ‘probably comes from one or more degraded papyrus scrolls’.

The substance was analysed as an initiative of the Leverhulme-funded ‘Network for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Cave Artefacts and Archival Sources’ (DQCAAS), a collaboration between Prof. Joan Taylor (King’s College London), Dr. Dennis Mizzi (University of Malta), and Prof. Marcello Fidanzio (Università della Svizzera italiana). The scientific analysis was led by Dr. Kamal Badreshany (University of Durham).

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts written in Hebrew, though some are also in Aramaic and Greek. They contain biblical and other religious writings copied over 2000 years ago, and mystery still surrounds them. The manuscripts were discovered in 11 caves close to Qumran from 1947 to 1956. Usually surviving in fragments, a few well-preserved scrolls were found in cylindrical jars, but there are many other nearby caves in which similar distinctive jars and lids were retrieved, without scrolls.

The new results probably indicate that a jar in a Qumran cave fell over and its papyrus contents spilled into the detached lid, then decomposed over the centuries. The researchers state: ‘Some scholars have long suspected that many other Qumran caves contained scrolls—that the caves with empty cylindrical jars were once scroll caves too … Our results provide further support to this hypothesis.’

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For further enquiries about the jar lid and the results, please contact  Prof. Joan Taylor, joan.taylor@kcl.ac.uk

 

Newly Discovered Qumran Holding: World Museum Liverpool

The network team are delighted to report that following on from enquiries made by  Joan Taylor, of the Museums of Liverpool, the curator Ashley Cooke found in their collections a Dead Sea Scroll jar and lid, and also linen. These had been purchased on 8 May, 1951 by the Liverpool Public Museums from the Palestine Archaeological Museum (represented by Gerald Lankaster Harding) for the sum of £50.00. At that time the curator in Liverpool was British archaeologist, John Henry ‘Harry’ Iliffe (1903-1960), whose museum career included posts as head of Classical collections at the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto (1927-1931); the first keeper of the Palestine Archaeological Museum, now the Rockefeller Museum, in Jerusalem (1931-1948); and Director of Museums in Liverpool (1948-1959).

Kindly note that the above preliminary images, taken by Sandra Jacobs, include the  exterior profile of the jar, and are copyrighted by the Network for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Cave Artefacts and Archives. These photographs may not be used by others for publication purposes. We are currently trying to identify the precise textile, but clearly it is from Qumran Cave 1Q:

textiles_twoWe extremely grateful to Dr Ashley Cooke (featured in the main post photograph) for making the archival correspondence available to the network team to verify the authenticity of this acquisition, as well as his hospitality at the Museum’s off-site warehouse when Isabella Bossolino and Sandra Jacobs arrived from London to photograph and draw the jar and lid.

British Museum Jar and Lid – Documented 5 March 2019

The Network has had the opportunity to visit the British Museum holdings of Qumran Cave 1Q materials on two previous occasions, and we are grateful to curator Jonathan Tubb for his assistance when Joan Taylor took photographs and examined the objects. These consist of a jar and lid, and also fragments of textile. On Tuesday 5 March Isabella Bossolino, accompanied by Dr Sandra Jacobs, examined and made drawings of the Qumran Cave 1Q jar and lid purchased by the British Museum from the Jordanian government. On this occasion the team would particularly like to thank Dr Christos Gerontinis for taking time out to lift, position, and assist us throughout our study. Kindly note that preliminary images shown below  are copyrighted by the Network for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Cave Artefacts and Archives, and that they may not be used by others for publication purposes.

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Professor Marcello Fidanzio in Jerusalem and Bethlehem

During November 2018, Professor Marcello Fidanzio gained access to view and examine the Dead Sea Scroll Jars and materials held at the Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem together with Isabella Bossolino (shown below). The network is particularly grateful to curator, Dr Hagit Maoz, for her valuable assistance in preparing drawings and photographs of the pottery at this time.

Further meetings with Dr Na’ama Sukenik (Textile Technologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority) at Mount Scopus took place, with Dr Sukenik shown below with Isabella:

 

With further assistance of Dr Emile Puech, the team were also given access to the jar and lid (assumed to have been found in Cave 11Q), which is currently held in the Kando Souvenir Shop in Bethlehem. This has facilitated the production of improved drawings and  photographic documentation. Both Adolfo Roitman and Hagit Maoz were extremely helpful  and were able to provide further details relating to the restoration of this jar to Professor Fidanzio.

Additional visits to the holdings at the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, and also the Bible Museum, were carried out. The Bible Museum jar is labelled Q29-5, from Qumran Cave 29 (in the 1952 survey) and the  lid (Q23), is from Cave 1. Examined below:

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Bible Society – Nov 2018

Seated below (with laptop) is Dr Benedetta Torrini, from the archaeological Museum in Florence, who has assisted Professor Fidanzio previously on his 11Q excavations.

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USA Data Collection Trip 11-21 November 2018

In November 2018, DQCAAS organised the visit of Dennis Mizzi to the Oriental Institute (Chicago), the Metropolitan Museum (New York), the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore), the Harvard Semitic Museum (Boston), and the Endowment for Biblical Research (Boston), in order to carry out renewed analysis of Qumran jars and lids held in these collections. It was arranged that he would be accompanied with Ms. Isabella Bossolino who undertook technical drawings and created a photographic dossier.

The purpose of this trip was to examine the jars afresh and prepare these new drawings that would rectify some inaccuracies identified in the earlier ones. For instance, the jar at the Oriental Institute (Q45) – illustrated in the feature image – is slightly lop-sided, which is at odds with the symmetrical jar illustrated in the ÉBAF card index – published in M. Fidanzio and J.-B., “Finds from the Qumran Caves: Roland de Vaux’s Inventory of the Excavations (1949–1956),” in The Caves of Qumran: Proceedings of the International Conference, Lugano 2014 (STDJ 118; ed. M. Fidanzio; Leiden: Brill, 2016) 263–332 [293].

Notably also the jar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was reconstructed after it broke in transit. The reconstruction is better than the original one undertaken by the Palestine Archaeological Museum, but this also means that the drawing in DJD 1, Fig. 2:10 (jar Q40) is, therefore, inaccurate.

As part of our study for the Network, therefore, we sought to identify the objects in the museums and match them with the material excavated by de Vaux, in order to obtain a complete record of which jars are in which collection. This was made possible by correlating first-hand observations with the ÉBAF archival material and documents made available by the museums. Here, we would like to thank the respective curators for their warm welcome and for being forthcoming with all their records.

We are very grateful to Ms. Isabella Bossolino, who is a PhD candidate candidate at the University of Pavia and Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, whose interests include Etruscan and Greek art and archaeology, together with Early Iron Age Mediterranean iconography.  Having received her B.A. in Classics from the Università degli Studi di Pavia, Italy, Isabella earned her M.Phil. in Archaeology and Art History for her work on “Malak Vanth: iconography and functions,” which won the 2014 Claudia Maccabruni prize for the best archaeology thesis. Her diploma thesis on “Neck, Shoulder, Body, Foot. Thoughts on the Anatomy of Vessels,” undertaken at the Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori, IUSS (Institute for Advanced Study of Pavia), is particularly useful for her work on our project, by providing technical drawings and digital images of the Qumran jars.

isabellaAt present Isabella is writing her thesis on the late Iron Age and Archaic cemeteries of Kamiros, Rhodes, and is also in charge of the publication of the early Iron Age cemeteries of Kamiros, in addition to ceramic materials from excavations conducted by the University of Pavia in Verucchio, 2011 – 2017.

 

 

 

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Qumran at Seventy

Team members are delighted to share Dr Dennis Mizzi’s recent publication, “Qumran at Seventy,” which appeared in Strata: The Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Association (2017): 9-45. Many thanks to Dr David Milson, and the society’s editorial committee, for allowing the network to reproduce this article here: Mizzi_Qumran@70

 

 

Joan Taylor, ‘Finding Qumran Cave 1Q Artefacts’: Palestine Exploration Fund and Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society joint lecture, at the British Museum, 8 March 2018

wp_PEF March 8th 2018

On 8 March, 2018, Joan Taylor gave a lecture in London on the quest to find Qumran Cave 1Q artefacts that have been dispersed around the world, and also considered some of the mysterious unprovenanced jars in various collections. Held in the Clore Education Centre of the British Museum, the lecture attracted over 200 people and led to some interesting discussions afterwards. The Network thanks the Palestine Exploration Fund and the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society for their interest in our work, now published in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly.

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