Rope from the christmas cave: In search of the Talmudic hemp

Nahum Ben-Yehuda, Terence Murphy

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

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Nahum Ben-Yehuda and Terence Murphy report on the discovery of wool and linen textiles from various periods at the 'Christmas Cave' situated in the Judean Desert on the west bank of the Dead Sea, in the Qidron Valley, 1 km south of Qumran. This research project focuses on the genetic identification of vegetable fibers constituting Roman period ropes and fabrics found in the CC. The indication is that the two fibers blended together are quite similar. Hemp as an inferior, and therefore invalid, substitute for linen is mentioned in Toseftah Tractate Menahot 9, 17. Although the template DNAs from modern rope samples showed a flax band, those from the ancient samples did not, suggesting that the trnL gene of flax was more unstable to cleavage than that of hemp. Remaining Open DNA sequences of the 184-base-pair bands confirmed their identities as flax rbcL and in the case of sample 955 confirmed the presence of hemp rbcL also.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Specialist publicationArchaeological Textiles Newsletter
StatePublished - Mar 2010


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