Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bible in Technology Series at Gorgias Press

Keith Reeves has let me know about the new "Bible in Technology" series that he is editing at Gorgias Press. Here is the description:
The Bible in Technology (BIT) is a series that explores the intersection between biblical studies and computer technology. It also includes studies that address the application of computer technology to cognate fields of ancient history. The series provides a forum for presenting and discussing advancements in this area, such as new software or techniques for analyzing biblical materials, online projects, and teaching resources. The series also seeks to reflect on the contribution and impact of computer technology on biblical research and teaching methods.
There are also some details of a forthcoming volume by Bob Cargill:
Tentative Title: Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

About the Book:The nature of the settlement of Khirbet Qumran has been at the center of archaeological debate since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in nearby caves. Recent research and publications have renewed questions regarding Roland de Vaux’s initial conclusions about Qumran: that the site was built and occupied by the Essenes, who composed the Dead Sea Scrolls there. This book examines the history of interpretation of the settlement at Qumran and introduces a new digital methodology for examining archaeological sites using virtual reconstruction. The process catalogues archaeological data as geometry and allows for the juxtaposition of competing architectural interpretations using “dataswitches” in addition to showing diachronic developments using “dateswitches.” A fully interactive, three-dimensional, real-time, virtual reconstruction of Qumran serves as the test case for the use of this technology.

It is concluded that after an initial Iron Age occupation, the site of Qumran was established as a fortress during the Hasmonean period. This fortress was then abandoned and reoccupied by a small religious community that expanded the site in a communal, non-military manner. The research concludes that the archaeological data do not eliminate the possibility that a sectarian group, with a keen concern for ritual purity, and participating in agricultural, industrial, and scribal endeavors took up residence in the former fortress. The book concludes that this group was ultimately responsible for much of the library of documents found in the nearby caves, commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

About the Author: Dr. Robert Cargill (B.S., CSU Fresno; M.S., M.Div., Pepperdine; M.A., Ph.D., UCLA) is an archaeologist and biblical scholar specializing in Northwest Semitic languages and Near Eastern archaeology of the Second Temple period, and is a leading proponent of the use of digital modeling and virtual reality to reconstruct archaeological remains. Dr. Cargill serves as the Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project, a 3D, real-time, virtual reconstruction of the site of Qumran. He has participated in numerous archaeological field excavations, including Banias (ancient Caesarea Philippi), Omrit, and Hazor, and has produced digital reconstructions of sites including Qumran, Ugarit, and Jaffa.


M. Leary said...

Thanks for sharing this news. It correlates well with other movements in biblical studies, and I spent some time tracking that here:

Geoff Hudson said...

"About the book" already sounds a little biased.

Presumably, those who occupied the site after a previous abandonment, didn't totally obliterate the original fortress features. More likely the new occupants were glad to have the security provided, for example, by the defensive tower. And the water storage facilities would have been useful during a possible seige. The site was very easily changed back to its former use as a fortress.

The development of the property into a going commercial concern would have taken a considerable amount of capital. For example, , page 145 of Hirschfeld's Qumran in Context has: "the presence of a large collection of glassware at the site (never mentioned by the excavators) is an indication of industrial and commercial, rather than, religious activity." The same page has: "In addition to the simple stone vessels found at Qumran, there are also large and splendid urns of the type known as kallal. The vesel has a high pedestal and was carved from a single block of limestone. Vessels of this type have been found in patrician houses in Jerusalem."
It would seem that the new occupants were wealthy.

That "a small religious community" that living at Qumran was responsible for the vast quantity of documents found near there seems most unlikely (other documents were probably destroyed with time, stolen or lost). Thus more likely, the wealthy residents were members of a much wider religious community. Hirschfeld sees them as "Sadducees" having an "upper-class lifestyle" (pages 242,243 of Qumran in Context). You could therefore think of them as having high priests among them.

Geoff Hudson said...

It also seems that the site was used for defence against attack by the Roman army. This would indicate that it was capable of being defended, and that it merited attack as a part of the Roman strategy in winning the first century war. The place was still a fortess even though developed industrially. Page 163 of Hirschfeld's Qumran in Context has: "Qumran Sratum III suffered a violent destruction by fire, which de Vaux attributed to the Roman army at the time of the first revolt. The damage was evident throuhout the site. The area to the south of the tower (Loci 12,13,and 17) and other rooms in the main building were filled with the collapse of the walls and roofs to a height of 2.1 to 1.5 m. Iron arrowheads found in the debris indicate that there was resistance and that the destruction was caused by armed conflict. The arrowheads, which have three barbed wingtips, are the characteristic Roman type of the first century C.E."

So according to Hirschfeld, we have aristocratic priestly Sadducees defending themselves against the attacking Roman army. If the priestly defenders were sympathetic to the views expressed in the scrolls, then they were fighting a messianic type of war of independence.