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This thesis uses geographical information systems (GIS) to map the findspots of the so-called ‘scroll’ jars and associated artifacts at Qumran. The goal of this project is to contextualize the jars in order to evaluate their function. Past scholarship on the ‘scroll’ jars has typically assumed their purpose for storing scrolls more based on the name they were given when the first cave containing Dead Sea Scrolls was found by a Bedouin man, rather than any strong archaeological or textual evidence. The man did describe finding scrolls in one of the jars inside the cave before he removed them. Since then, few scholars have looked for evidence to confirm this function or examined alternative explanations for their production and use.
While scrolls may have been stored in some of these jars, it is difficult to imagine that this was their only function. They have been found not only in the caves surrounding Qumran but also within the settlement. No scrolls have been found in the settlement, however, yet there are a number of ‘scroll’ jars present. By mapping out the jars and other artifacts found in the same loci, within the settlement, it is possible to identify different functions besides storing scrolls. The frequency of their occurrence among common domestic pottery demonstrates that they were used in the settlement for food-related activities, most likely storage.
Advisor: Philip Sapirstein