Dennis Mizzi is a senior lecturer in Hebrew and Ancient Judaism at the University of Malta. His research interests centre on Judaism in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods, with a special focus on the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient synagogues, and material culture in general. He is the assistant director of the Huqoq Excavation Project and the Einot Amitai Archaeological Project, and co-founder and project manager of the Tayar Foundation for Jewish Heritage in Malta. Between 2016 and 2019, Mizzi also served as a network partner in the Leverhulme International Network Project for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Caves Artefacts and Archival Sources. Currently, he is completing a comprehensive, multi-volume monograph on the archaeology of Qumran.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI, November 17 – 19, 2023
The Burial of Sealed Jars in the Qumran Cemetery: Disposal of Consecrated Property?
During their renewed excavations at Qumran, Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg opened nine graves from the cemetery adjacent to the built settlement. Instead of human bones, however, two of these contained sealed ceramic jars containing date honey. This phenomenon has puzzled scholars, and the few explanations that have been proffered remain unconvincing. Magen and Peleg suggest that the jars were buried because they had contracted corpse impurity, rendering the vessels and their contents unusable. Jodi Magness follows the same line of reasoning but sees a reflection of sectarian halakha in this practice. Alternatively, Magen and Peleg offer a more mundane interpretation, positing that the jars were buried to keep away pests. In this presentation, I will discuss the difficulties with these interpretations and then, using both archaeological and textual evidence, I will propose a new explanation—namely, that the burial of sealed jars in the Qumran cemetery can be connected with the disposal of consecrated property. If correct, this evidence would shed important light not only on the ritual practices of the Qumran inhabitants but also on their attitudes towards the Jerusalem temple and its priesthood.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXV, October 8 & 9, 2022
Dead Sea Scrolls Panelist