The Case of Masada’s scrolls.

The Case of Masada

Masada (map ref. 1837.0805) (Photos: SHR 5067-5097; 5251-5252a; 5254-5255; 5260-5287; 5289-96; 5298-5304; 5500-5621; 6201-6204; 6206; IAA 302358-373)

During 1955 and 1956 two seasons of an archaeological survey were carried out at Masada by M. Avi-Yonah, N. Avigad, Y. Aharoni, I. Dunayevsky, and S. Gutman on behalf of the Hebrew University, the Israel Exploration Society and the Israel Department of Antiquities jointly. During this survey and excavation the entire mound, its visible structures and its water system were mapped and drawn. Special attention was paid to the northern palace which was partially excavated. One ostracon, one papyrus fragment, one graffito on plaster, and 3 coins were found in this survey (IEJ 7 [1957] 1-65, pls. 1-16).

Yigael Yadin directed the first of two seasons of excavation at Masada on behalf of the Hebrew University, the Israel Exploration Society, and the Israel Department of Antiquities jointly. The intention of this excavation was to expose the remains at this site in their entirety. The extensive architectural and material remains at the site were primarily from the time of Herod the Great until the destruction of the site in 73 CE (including Roman army camps and siege works built around the site). There seems to have been a limited occupation by a Roman garrison during the years following the destruction. Some evidence of occupation during the Chalcolithic period, the Iron Age and especially the Byzantine Period (including the remains of a church) was also found. From the Roman Period several biblical and other texts on parchment were found as well as many coins, more than 700 ostraca, and more than 200 Roman secular documents on papyrus (IEJ 15 [1965]). For details see chapter II.

Surveys and limited excavations: Mar. 18-29, 1955 and Mar. 7-17, 1956 (IEJ 7 [1957] 1-65, pls. 1-16.

Excavations: Oct. 1963 – Apr. 1964 (IEJ 15 [1965]) and Dec. 1964 – Mar. 1965 (“Masada,” EAEHL [1976] 793-816).

Final reports: Y. Yadin, J. Naveh and Y. Meshorer, Masada I: Hebrew and Aramaic Documents and Ostraca; H. Cotton and J. Geiger, Masada II: Greek and Latin Documents and Ostraca; E. Netzer, Masada III: Architecture.

From: S. Pfann, ‘Sites in the Judean Desert Where Texts Have Been Found, Chapter 5 in The Dead Sea Scrolls on Microfiche: A Comprehensive Facsimile Edition of the Texts from the Judean Desert (edited by S. Pfann in collaboration with Emanuel Tov). Brill/IDC, 1993.

The cache of manuscripts at Masada were found scattered among the perimeter of Masada, mainly in the casemates. These manuscripts may represent four periods and groups.

1) Early to Late Herodian (26 BCE to 66 CE) Pre-Revolt/pre-Sicarii.

It is generally understood that certain Greek manuscripts (MAS 740) and ostraca come from this period. It is also quite possible that certain, especially early, Hebrew manuscripts (e.g., Ben Sirah) came from this period as well as certain ostraca. Also the various various Latin tituli picti from wine vessels come from the time of Herod the Great from 31-23, 19 and 14 BCE.

2) Sicarii (66-73 CE)

Early during the revolt Masada became the sole stronghold and residence of the Sicarii. The founder, Judah the Galilean, and his successors were called “teachers” by Josephus (JW 2.118). There is no reason to believe that this group would not keep an institutional library. The cache of scrolls found at Masada that once were thought to connect with the Qumran scrolls are no longer considered to be either Yahad or Essene in character. The corpus of manuscripts from Masada should be viewed as the remnants of a Sicarii library, written mainly on parchment, with certain lay and priestly components.

From F.F. Bruce and S. Pfann, “Qumran”, Encyclopedia Judaica (2006 edition)

Five papyri (1 literary ?, 1 list of names, and 3 letters)Also the various Greek tituli picti from wine vessels come from the time of th Sicarii 73 or 74 CE.

3) Roman military occupation

The various extraneous papyrus documents and texts derived from the Roman occupation of the site must be treated separately. These were found mixed with texts from the Sicarii occupation in the cache of texts found near the synagogue.

4) Byzantine monastery

At least one Byzantine document in Greek (MAS 742) and two ostraca (MAS 793, MAS 794) were found.

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