Date Presented:22-26 Jul.
The association of the Essenes with the site of Qumran, and the specific instructions regarding latrine placement and etiquette in the Temple and War Scrolls, combine to make the toilet practices of the Qumran community an issue with a direct relation to the study of the site and of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The texts most often associated with toilet practices at Qumran present accounts and instructions which are incompatible with each other, while the presence of a cesspit toilet in Locus 51 of Qumran contradicts each of these texts. Further, the difficulties presented by this toilet’s presence are increased by its being taken out of use at the end of Period Ib of the site (31 BC), after which it appears not to have been replaced – a development which suggests either a significant change in Qumranites’ beliefs after 31 BC, or a change in the makeup of the community’s inhabitants themselves. Finally, the combination of the material evidence regarding toilet practices at Khirbet Qumran, the contradictions in the literary sources thought to address them, and scholarly attempts to rationalize or circumvent these contradictions should serve to reinforce the importance of proper methodology and evidence-based analysis to the current and future study of Qumran, its inhabitants, and their connection to the Scrolls.