Criswell College on the Qumran Plateau
The grating sound of the Kibbutz Kalia telephone buzzer at 4:00 a.m. each morning was a portent of the ominous work day that lay ahead of the excavation team. Three Criswell College students, Marc Alcorn, Courtney Hughes, and Stephen Johnston, joined four students from Liberty University and a collection of other volunteers in this final excavation of a ten-year project on the Qumran plateau headed by Dr. Randall Price, Director; Oren Gutfeld, Assistant Director; Lamar Cooper, Area Supervisor; and Diana Cooper, Recording Assistant.
Our first day of the 22-day dig was rewarded with the rare discovery of a jar handle with a stamped impression of a palm tree. The handle will be registered by the staff at Hebrew University and will provide a fixed date for the locus layer in which it was found. Six squares were opened day one and a total of eleven by day 15. Other finds of note include a broken cup with all pieces to be reassembled, a complete Qumran bowl, two coins from the Hasmonean period, a small ritual dish used in offerings to Yahweh, ritual bone deposits used in a messianic banquet, a floor that was part of a structure outside the walled community, and numerous index pottery jar rims, handles, and bases.
Five of the squares excavated were outside of the wall of the community. It was a real surprise to discover the ritual bone burials outside the wall. This may push back the date of occupation at Qumran to at least 164 BC to AD 70. Our Criswell team, Courtney, Marc, and Stephen, demonstrated leadership and commitment to the work that set a high bar for other students and volunteers. Having been a part of ten major digs, I can say without reservation our Criswell students were the most diligent workers I have ever seen. The excavations were filmed by crews from BBC in London, by CBN 700 Club, a News crew from Israel and by a crew from New Zealand.