Latrina encontrada em Qumran fortalece hipótese essênia

Uma equipe internacional de pesquisadores, incluindo James Tabor, Joe Zias e Stephainie Harter-Lailheugue, descobriu um sítio nos arredores de Qumran que servia como latrina (privada, banheiro, casinha) para os moradores da área.

A descoberta tem consequências interessantes: pelas características do achado, parece que a hipótese essênia mais uma vez se mostra como a mais viável para explicar quem morava em Qumran.


Evidence from Qumran Toilet Practices – Todd Bolen – BiblePlaces Blog: November 14, 2006

Scholars have long debated the identity of those who lived at Qumran. Most believe that the site was inhabited by Essenes, an ascetic group that separated themselves from the corruption of Jerusalem and the Temple. There at Qumran they eked out an existence and copied scrolls by night. Even in recent months the consensus theory has been challenged by those who believe that Qumran was a place of pottery manufacture.

Results from a recent study of the soil around Qumran strengthens the majority view. Israeli paleopathologist Joe Zias found remains of human excrement about 500 meters north of the site. The intestinal parasites in the remains prove that the remains were of human origin, and the burial of the feces indicates that they aren’t from Bedouins, as the latter do not bury their excrement. It seems unlikely at best to suggest that pottery makers or inhabitants of a Roman villa would travel such a distance to relieve themselves, and thus this discovery supports the Essene hypothesis.

The results of the article will be published in Revue de Qumran, but the Jerusalem Post has the best synopsis online. The story is quite fascinating and it would have been a perfect article for Biblical Archaeology Review, but the poor relationship between Shanks and Zias precludes such a possibility.

Zias goes further in the study to suggest that the short life expectancy of the Qumranites (as evidenced in a study of the cemeteries) was the result of their sanitary practices. The Qumranites would pick up parasites as they walked through the defecating field which would then be passed on to everyone through the daily immersions in the ritual baths.

The article in Nature ends with this non-sequitur from Zias:

If his theory is correct, it might therefore carry a lesson about religious fundamentalism, Zias adds. “It shows what happens when people take biblical things too fundamentally or literally, as they do in many parts of the world, and what the ultimate consequences are.”


Unearthed: ancient sect’s extreme latrine – Katharine Sanderson – Nature: 13 November 2006

Toilet excavation could link site to Dead Sea Scrolls

An ancient Jewish sect showed such devotion to their definition of purity that they pursued bizarre toilet habits that left them riddled with parasites, say researchers who have discovered and dug up their toilet.

The discovery, made at Qumran, near Jerusalem, could provide more proof linking the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Essene people who lived in the area, the researchers claim.

The scrolls — the oldest biblical documents ever found — were thought to have been made by the Essenes around 100 years BC. Joe Zias, a palaeopathologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem dug around Qumran where he thought their toilet should be, and took soil samples to try and prove the connection once and for all.

The scrolls describe strict rules for where the Essenes were allowed to defecate: far enough away from the camp not to be visible, sometimes as much as 3,000 cubits (1.4 kilometres) away in a northwesterly direction. They had to bury their faeces and perform a ritual all-over wash in the local waters afterwards.

At Qumran, following such instructions would take the Essene men to a nicely secluded spot behind a mound. And as Zias and his colleagues report in the current edition of Revue de Qumran1, the soil there bears the hallmarks of a latrine — and one not used by the healthiest of people.

Dirty bath water

Dead eggs from intestinal parasites, including roundworm (Ascaris), whipworm (Trichuris), tapeworm (Taenia) and pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis), were preserved in the soil. “If you look at a latrine from the past you will always find these parasites,” comments Piers Mitchell, a medical practitioner and archaeologist at Imperial College London, UK.

It seems a pretty ordinary picture of ancient ill health, says Mike Turner, a parasitologist at the University of Glasgow, UK. He describes the pinworm rather aptly as “common as muck”, adding that to use its presence to argue that the Essenes wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls is “an interesting bit of lateral thinking”, he says.

But Zias is certain that the toilet was used by the scrolls’ authors. He was already convinced that the Essenes lived at Qumran from previous studies of the local graveyard, which contains remains of almost exclusively men, which fits with the fact that the Essenes were a monastic sect.

What’s more, the men buried there had an average age at death of 34, making them a sickly bunch. But it wasn’t the toilet parasites that finished them off, Zias suggests, but their ritual of post-poo bathing in a stagnant pool.

Geography worked against the Essenes because the pool in which they cleansed themselves was filled with run-off collected during the winter months. “Had they been living in Jericho 14 kilometres to the north, where one finds fresh spring water, or in other sites whereby one has an oasis, they would have lived quite well,” Zias says.

The location of the latrine at Qumran conforms with the directions laid down in the Dead Sea Scrolls, proving that the Essene lived there, Zias claims. Sanitation around the time of the Essenes was good, and ordinary people were unlikely to go so far out of the city to defecate.

If his theory is correct, it might therefore carry a lesson about religious fundamentalism, Zias adds. “It shows what happens when people take biblical things too fundamentally or literally, as they do in many parts of the world, and what the ultimate consequences are.”

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