1990 William Dever thought that the rise of so-called contextual archaeology
or post-processual archaeology in the 1980s with its interest in historical
and ideological questions opened new possibilities for Syro-Palestinian archaeology
for writing history and starting the new centennial. However, at the dawn of
the new millennium Syro-Palestinian archaeology is only gradually finding the
benefits of the contextual approach.
Contextual archaeology means archaeology con-texts which integrates both archaeological and textual material from an archaeological site. The Dead Sea Scrolls form only part of the discoveries at Qumran, and those who have been interpreting them have substantially influenced our whole picture of Essene origins and the world of Qumran. In our view a balanced picture of the Qumran community can not reached by internal textual criticism, but from a wider context of the Jews living in the cosmopolitan era of the Hellenistic East.
Ian Hodder has provided us with valuable guidelines to understand the meaning of contexts. According to Hodder, we have to decide whether there exist similarities between the written and non-written contexts. In the case of Qumran the present writers have studied the contexts of the Scroll finds, the layout of the settlement and its connection with the burial and non-burial rituals. In our view the origin and religion of the Essenes can be traced in the archaeological evidence at Qumran and in the texts of the ancient authors.