A New Wrinkle in the Qumran “Yahad” Theory

Norman Golb

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Apparently under the weight of rather heavy criticism, the famous mid-1990s “Yahad” claim created and championed by traditional Dead Sea Scrolls scholars has largely receded from current discourse. That claim was to the effect that the so-called “Yahad” ostracon discovered near the walls of Khirbet Qumran actually contained the selfsame Hebrew word yahad thus ostensibly proving that the Yahad (=unity) brotherhood, known from a number of the Scrolls, actually lived and had its headquarters at Khirbet Qumran. A salient symptom of the ostracon’s virtual disappearance has been that, although originally presented by its promoters as “the first archaeological evidence” (Israel Museum news release, 14.4.97, original in Hebrew) demonstrating a connection between the Scrolls and Khirbet Qumran, such an assertion, and any image of the ostracon itself, can no longer be found either in current exhibitions of the Scrolls or in the catalogues that accompany them. Since in addition traditional Qumranologists did not, generally speaking, come forward with a defense of the “Yahad Ostracon” claim, one might have thought that an artifact bearing the first archaeological evidence proving a connection between the Scrolls and Kh. Qumran had still not been discovered.