Outside the Residence

The VR movie opens toward the northwest, overlooking a large and relatively well-preserved courtyard house, some 18 by 24 meters in size. The exterior walls, averaging about 1 m thick, are built with large and medium-sized fieldstones, while sandstone ashlars line the doorways. The fairly spacious courtyard area at the center of the house was made of packed clay, while most of the rooms surrounding it were paved with a thick layer of small stones covered over by a thin layer of earth. The remains of a staircase, preserved to six stairs, indicate that the house had an upper story. Excavation reports suggest that this upper story stood above the western rooms where the walls of this courtyard house are thicker and more solidly constructed. The presence here of some opus sectile tiling, made of limestone and often associated with a certain degree of wealth and luxury, probably overlaid the floor of the upper story. According to the reports, the building's roofs were probably constructed of beams fashioned from palm trees that grew in abundance all around the area.

The architectural and artifactual remains seem to support Hirschfeld's assertion that activity in the structure "was related not only to domestic concerns, but also to aesthetic values and the 'good life,' recreation and leisure. . . [hence] 'Ein Feshka should be viewed as a kind of villa rustica, a combination of a domestic building and industrial installations with elements of luxury." This interpretation stands in marked contrast to that of 'Ein Feshka's original excavator, Fr. Roland de Vaux, the initial excavator of nearby Khirbet Qumran. According to de Vaux, "This building was clearly not a private residence, and was suited to the needs of a religious community." It is perhaps clearest here that de Vaux's background as a Dominican priest / monk, which influenced his interpretation of Qumran and led him most likely to overstate its association with the ascetical sectarian group known as the Essenes, led him to overlook some very important evidence to the contrary here at the courtyard house at 'Ein Feshka.

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