A Dead Sea Scrolls Photo Shoot from the 1950s

Among the PAM negatives of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a short sequence of photos that puzzled me when I encountered them last year. The photos occur in a sequence taken in June 1956, PAM 42.139-141. They are described in the following way Stephen Pfann’s chronological list of PAM negatives:

Descriptions of PAM negatives from Emanuel Tov and Stephen J. Pfann, Companion Volume to the Dead Sea Scrolls Microfiche Edition (2nd rev. ed.; Leiden: Brill, 1995), p. 86

PAM 42.139 and 42.140 are said to show a “scroll jar” and several artifacts in a “natural setting.” These two photographs are not, as far as I know available in the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library (as they don’t contain any images of actual scrolls). But it was really PAM 42.141 that had most confused me earlier. This photograph is in the Leon Levy online collection. It appears to have been taken outdoors, and it contains a mix of excavated and purchased scrolls from Cave 1 sitting together on the ground! Specifically, 1Q28a (the largest fragment in the image) was part of a purchase from Khalil Iskander Shahin (“Kando”) and not excavated. So, what was it doing sitting outside on the ground together scrolls excavated by archaeologists?

While doing some research this afternoon looking into Najib Anton Albina (1901-1983), the main photographer who worked on the scrolls on the 1950s, I stumbled across an online image of PAM 42.140 on the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library Facebook page that may shed some light on the question:

Here we see not just any “scroll jar,” but one that is fully reconstructed from fragments, along with other items set out for a nicely staged photo shoot, complete with a tipped over vessel containing a coin hoard. It seems reasonable to conjecture that this photograph was taken on the same occasion as the next one in the sequence, PAM 42.141–our mixed group of Cave 1 scroll fragments in a “natural setting.” But what exactly is this “natural setting”?

The Facebook post describes PAM 42.140 as “excavations of Qumran in the 1950’s,” but the reconstructed jar suggests that this material had already spent a good bit of time in the lab. So, a question arises: Where exactly were these photos taken? Surely the reconstructed jar and scrolls were not brought back out to Qumran! It would be good to learn more about the occasion for which these photographs were made, apparently in June of 1956.

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12 Responses to A Dead Sea Scrolls Photo Shoot from the 1950s

  1. Schick.Sylt@gmx.de says:

    John Allegro took some of the items with him to Qumran and he did his photos there. He also did photos with a jar inside 4Q and sitting in the pottery or bringing to the kiln. This was typical for him as I am told by the late Prof. Hunzinger, who was the only friend of Allegro in the team.
    Best Alexander
    Here is a link to a eulogy in the Jerusalem Post
    https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/last-member-of-original-dead-sea-scrolls-research-team-dies-from-covid-19-654922

  2. Thanks–interesting! I wonder if Allegro also would have had access to the coins. There are a few images in his collections of coins in a vessel similar to the one pictured above, both in a museum setting (https://dqcaas.com/aq-27-1-138-2/#jp-carousel-5687) and, apparently, out in “nature” (https://dqcaas.com/aq-27-1-138-2/#jp-carousel-5684).

  3. The photo shows in “natural setting” an, in some sense, unnatural collection. The “scroll jar,” if from a cave (and not Locus 2) was found some distance from the coins (in Locus 120). The pandemic makes checking some publications difficult. Now, I’ll merely raise the question whether the jar was one of the three (one broken because the neck was too narrow to allow coins in, not all “intact” as some descriptions have it) in which coins (withheld from the Temple it was until “purified”?) were found; it may well be. In some DSS exhibits, though, inkwells were displayed that were not the same as the three found by de Vaux in Kh. Qumran (L30, L31, 2 ceramic, 1 bronze) and 1 ceramic from ‘Ain Feshkha (the latter shown in Grand Rapids and/or Chicago in 2003?) Maybe because some are in Jordan? Solomon Steckoll claimed he found 1 ceramic inkwell (now in Haifa, Hecht Museum). The Schoyen bronze inkwell, I now think, likely was from elsewhere, though possibly period III (Nabatean?; there are parallels). Y. Magen and Y. Peleg found a ceramic inkwell, which they tried to dissociate from scroll writing saying it was used to mark pottery for their imagined export business (and didn’t show a photo in preliminary report; only in final, iirc). De Vaux also excavated a ceramic base (broken) of what may be another inkwell (L127?).
    The two sold claimed Qumran pen/stylus examples are quite iffy. Even though palm fiber pens are elsewhere attested.

  4. Ralph Cox says:

    Regarding PAM #42.141, this has been mentioned elsewhere in this forum. The picture is printed in reverse (a mirror image) and shows col. 1 on 1Q28-a, with fragments on top of 1Q3 of Leviticus and Numbers in the Phoenician (Paleo-Hebrew) script, all published in DJD I, 1955.
    1Q28-a (The Rule of the Congregation) and 1Q28-b (The Rule of Blessings) are described by Harding in that volume as “fragments which make up two columns and other parts of the Manual of Discipline” (1Q28, aka 1QS, The Rule of the Community), which he says were acquired, with other fragments, through “long and tortuous negotiations”, and that they “must have broken off the scrolls when they were first being examined in the Bethlehem shop,” AKA, the shop of Kando.
    The 1Q3 fragments, he says, were partly found at the rock cave now called Cave 1; “The dump of the illegal excavations was first examined and produced large quantities of sherds and cloth and a few pieces of inscribed leather, including the first piece we had seen in the Phoenician script.”; Harding, Introduction, DJD 1.
    The picture was obviously taken before the “tortuous negotiations”, and logically before cave 1 was explored by Harding and the official excavators. It betrays the manner by which the manuscripts were handled by the original discoverers, of which more details can be found in Harding’s early remarks in the journals, and the books of Millar Burrows (1955) and John Allegro (1956), both titled The Dead Sea Scrolls. As for where the picture was taken, someone knowledgeable of the flowers shown might at least be able to exclude the cave site.
    As for the jug of coins, DeVaux excavated three clay pots full of coins, which he found hidden under a door sill at Qumran, none of which dated later than Herod the Great’s final victories against the Hasmonean’s – a discovery that also dramatically shows that whoever hid them, was never able to return for them. J.T. Milik’s Ten Years of Discovery in the Judean Desert has a good picture of the three pots, displayed in a museum, and the pot’s shown there can be compared with the picture in question above.
    Ralph

    • Thanks for these observations. I’m not so sure about the following: “The picture was obviously taken before the ‘tortuous negotiations’, and logically before cave 1 was explored by Harding and the official excavators.” According to the photo log, the picture was taken in June of 1956. That the image occurs in a series which also includes the reconstructed jar would seem to confirm a date for the photos at some point well after the excavations had taken place.

  5. Ralph Cox says:

    Good question, Brent. 1956 must be the date of the print, or, if it’s not too convoluted, the date that the negative was finally processed (many of us had moments when an old roll of film is finally process, and we see ourselves five or ten year in the past). 1Q28-a was already in the Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem under the control of DeVaux by 1951, and he had given ASOR photos which W.F.Brownlee references in his critical translation of 1QS (he calls DSD), published in BASOR Supplementary Studies 10-12, dated October 1951 (see footnote 3 of col. 1 for the reference, available from JASTOR). The old archival photos are extreamly important sources giving us clues about the provenance of these finds. – Thanks, Ralph

    • Ralph Cox says:

      As a postscript, notice the lower right corner of the archive photo shows the use of cellophane tape (might have been remarked on elsewhere in this forum). This had already become the practice in holding the mss together; see John Trever’s remarks in BASOR 111 page 11 (Oct 1948), when 1QS is first being examined, that it “took yards of tape to repair the many cracks which appeared when unrolled.” This might have been part of making the 1Q28-a manuscript ready for the sale, being sure to get their price per square centimeter.

  6. Ralph Cox says:

    Good question, Brent. 1956 must be the date of the print, or, if it’s not too convoluted, the date that the negative was finally processed (many of us had moments when an old roll of film is finally process, and we see ourselves five or ten year in the past). 1Q28-a was already in the Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem under the control of DeVaux by 1951, and he had given ASOR photos which W.H.Brownlee references in his critical translation of 1QS (he calls DSD), published in BASOR Supplementary Studies 10-12, dated October 1951 (see footnote 3 of col. 1 for the reference, available from JASTOR). The old archival photos are extreamly important sources giving us clues about the provenance of these finds. – Thanks, Ralph

  7. The three-jar Qumran coin hoard was found in March, 1955. The latest of them were dated by Henri Seyrig, Augustus Spijkerman, and de Vaux to 9/8 BCE. Unfortunately, many of these coins were sent to Amman where they were mixed with other coins from elsewhere, resulting in some unreliable later dating proposals.

  8. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival #181 (March 2021) – The Amateur Exegete

  9. Ralph Cox says:

    The Qumran coin evidence is difficult because there is so much of it, aside from the hoard, but the three jars of silver were hidden together, so, per de Vaux (Schweich Lectures page 34,35), the three stand as one horde, with the latest coins dating to 9/8 BCE, and that the hoard was burred no later than the first year CE. While there is a high likelihood that contamination of the coin evidence worsens as the decades go by, especially when they are displayed in a museum for the esthetics, it could be that De Vaux’s works, after nearly 70 years, are now the hard evidence. But even if we imagine that those who buried the hoard had forbid themselves to add coins struck by Herod or his sons (and that would say something in itself), the drama still remains that the treasure was never retrieved, and it’s secret burial died with the last who knew of it. Ralph.

  10. Alexander Schick says:

    Allegro did many photos, where the guards of the PAM opend the glassboxes and he could take the items out of the PAM / Rockefeller and did photographs with sunlight in the courtyard. There are several pictures of this kind in his photoarchive as I have seen by the colour slides (many not published till today). The same did Hunzinger at these days. Hunzinger had only two films for one year in his pocket. Allegro many, cause he understood, the pictures will sell very well. The curator Joseph Saad became so upset about Allegros photowork in the exhibition as well as in the scrollery, that he forbid then everybody to make only one photo! That’s the reason why there is no picture from Prof. James Sanders opening the Psalmscroll (11QPsA). Saad forbid Sanders strictly to take a camera with him, as Sanders told me. Best Alexander

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