The History of the Dead Sea

Joan E. Taylor

in The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199554485
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745911 | DOI:
The History of the Dead Sea

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1 Sources on the Dead Sea provide an account of the development and exploitation of the area from the Bronze Age to the Roman period, indicating a struggle for control over the rare commodities of asphalt, balsam, minerals and date palms, as well as healing resources. Sources reviewed are: Genesis, Aristotle, Hieronymous of Cardia, Theophrastus, Xenophilus, Eratosthenes, Posidonius, Diodorus Siculus, Pompeius Trogus, Strabo, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, Pliny, Dio Chrysostom, Tacitus, Pausanias, Claudius Ptolemy. These can be related to the archaeology of the Dead Sea area, and the development of sites such as Jericho, Alexandrium, Phasaelis, Cypros, Threx, Taurus, Doq, Livias, Heshbon, Machaerus, Callirhoe, Hyrcanus, Zoara, Masada and En Gedi, and unnamed sites such those found at Rujm el-Bahr, Qumran, Ein Feshkha, Kh. Mazin, Ein et-Turabeh, Ein el-Ghuweir, Kh. Qazone and En Boqeq. The conclusions reached are the balsam was developed as a lucrative crop in Gilead, and taken over by the Nabataeans, but with the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty - especially since developments under Alexander Jannaeus in the 1st part of the 1st century bce, the Dead Sea area and its resources became Judaean. While some territory returned to Nabataea, Herod consolidated his holdings with new establishments and palace-fortresses. In 135 CE, in quashing the Second Revolt, Roman forces annihilated a large part of the Jewish population of the Dead Sea, creating a huge watershed in Jewish history in this region.

Keywords: Essenes; Dead Sea; archaeology of Dead Sea; asphalt; balsam; date palms; healing resources; Alexander Jannaeus; Second Revolt

Chapter.  20651 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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