T. Springett

Matted hair and dried skin still cling to the 2,000-year-old skull of a young boy. The remarkably well-preserved remains were discovered in one of 3,500 shaft tombs cut deep in the dry soil at Qazone, east of the Dead Sea.

Dating from the second to third century C.E., the Qazone graves are startlingly similar to the unusual shaft tombs found at Qumran—the Judean desert outpost associated with the Essenes, the Jewish sect thought by many scholars to have produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. When comparable shaft tombs were discovered in Beit Safafa, Jerusalem, they were identified as Essene based on their similarity to the Qumran graves (and on their shared differences from the standard Jewish cave-tomb burials from this period in Jerusalem).

Excavator Konstantinos Politis has identified the Qazone graves as Nabatean based on the grave goods and thus connects them with nearby Nabatean towns. But what kind of cultural influences linked the Jewish and Nabatean communities on the shores of the Dead Sea?