The Qumran Community
---A Collective Economy
“Riches they despise, and their community of goods is truly admirable” (Josephus, Jewish War II, viii, 3)
The pottery workshop, pieces of fabric and spindles, and the remains of baskets, mats, and rope found in the archeological excavations of the site indicate that the sectarians also produced pottery, textiles, and woven goods. We may assume that they used these products themselves, but they also may have sold some of them in markets.
Both the scrolls and classical sources report that the members of the Community were not permitted to retain personal property, but rather shared all their possessions, as indicated, for example, by the passage: “When he has completed one year within the Community . . . his property and earnings shall be handed over to the Bursar of the Congregation” (Community Rule VI, 18–19). Some of the finds unearthed at the site have therefore been interpreted in this light: a hoard of silver, possibly containing the coins deposited by new members with the collective at the end of their first year of candidacy; and an ostracon (inscribed pottery shard) discovered a few years ago near the central building, whose inscription – according to one reading – may attest to the practice of handing over the candidate’s possessions to the Community.