Hershel Shanks

Too elegant for a monastery? These column bases, found at Qumran, are cited by Pauline Donceel-Voûte, one of the scholars assigned to publish a final excavation report on Qumran, as evidence that the site was a villa rustica, or aristocratic winter retreat. She also notes the discovery at Qumran of other luxury items, such as glassware, which seem to contradict the idea of an ascetic religious community. Interview participant Jodi Magness disputes Donceel-Voûte’s interpretation, however, noting that Qumran, when compared with contemporaneous villas, has very few lavish architectural features or artifacts.