For more than a decade a debate has been going on over whether the residents at Horbat Qumran should be identified with the members of the Qumran sect whose writings were found among the Dead Sea scrolls. Pottery and architectural finds were interpreted in contradictory ways by various archaeologists as indicating abstinence or a higher than average standard of living. Those that identify the site with the members of the Qumran sect rely on the extent to which the material finds match the ideology and the laws in the scrolls, and thereby minimize the importance of certain differences. Those that reject this identification emphasize the incongruity between the material finds and the data in the scrolls. I believe that using the scrolls as the main criterion in this argument is unjustified. Horbat Qumran was only settled at the end of the Hasmonean period, while ‘Serakh Hayahad’ and numerous other scrolls were apparently written some two generations prior to this. Also, the material culture is not meant to accurately reflect the ideology declared in the official writings. Therefore I suggest interpreting the finds and the site plan separate from the scrolls and according to models characteristic of social archaeology, and only afterwards compare the finds with the evidence from the scrolls.
I will try to examine the finds from the Qumran culture in light of the features of the material culture characteristic of the sects whatever they are – both according to sociological and anthropological theories and based on a comparison with the material cultures of other sects. And in Horbat Qumran there are indeed several characteristics of common social-religious activity at the site such as a dining room and cemetery – the characteristics of communal sects such as the Sicarites and the Hutterites. One of the criteria for locating sectarian ideology in the material cultural is resistance. The main question which I will discuss is whether resistance such as this must be manifested in the pottery selection and the absence of vessels imported from outside the sect. For this purpose examples of a variety of ceramics belonging to other, better known sects will be presented. Resistance is probably not actually manifested in the types of vessels but rather in how they are used. For example, I believe the pottery vessels that were buried at the site when they contain the bones of animals shows that the meat cooked in them was considered sacred and therefore the vessels could not be used for secular purposes and were buried on account of the holiness that was attributed to them. This phenomenon of creating a replacement for a sacrifice in the temple fits the definition of resistance.