Biblical Archaeology Review 33:3, May/June 2007

Strata: The Bible in the News

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

Ah, for the good old days! Hardly a week passed without a tabloid headline heralding the latest in Dead Sea Scroll “discoveries.” Not anything so mundane as the Temple Scroll, or as prosaic as copies of Scripture. No, these were the ipsissima verba (or perhaps the mother lode) of popular culture: references in the scrolls to Elvis; prophecies of the end of the world (in December 1999!) at the hands of a woman, in the aftermath of a flood; vegetarian diets for long, even eternal, life.

For all intents and purposes, the tabloids seem a thing of the past—as, thankfully, are the long lines at the grocery store where I could pursue my scholarly research without having to actually purchase these publications and risk the derisive looks of checkout clerks. The good old days: gone and never to return—or so I thought.

Fortunately (for me at least), happy days are here again. Just think about these headlines: “How Toilet Habits Killed Off the Dead Sea Scrolls Sect”; “Toilets May Be Clues to Texts”; “Toilet Tied to Dead Sea Scrolls”; “Ancient Latrine Fuels Debate at Qumran”; “Latrine Practices Posed Health Risks to Sect”; “Discovery of Latrine Sheds New Light on the Mystery of Dead Sea Scrolls”; “Extreme Latrine”; “At Qumran, Ancient Excrement Fuels Modern Debate.” From eschatological speculation to scatological excavation—it doesn’t get much better than this!

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