Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dead Sea Scroll Objects On Display

A three-ton stone from Jerusalem's Western Wall, hundreds of biblical era artifacts, and a collection of 20 Dead Sea Scrolls will make their debut tomorrow in New York's Discovery Times Square Exposition.

The largest collection of biblical artifacts ever displayed outside Israel, the exhibition "Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times," aims to take visitors on a "fascinating archaeological journey through the Holy Land."

The show's centerpiece is 20 Dead Sea Scrolls, containing sections from the biblical books of Genesis, Psalms, Exodus, Isaiah, and others. The scrolls include four pieces which have never been available for public viewing.

Considered one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 20th century, the parchment and papyrus scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves around the ruins of the ancient settlement of Qumran on the Dead Sea.

A highly fragmented collection of documents in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic writing, the scrolls, which date between the third century BCE and the first century CE, include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, apocryphal manuscripts, prayers, biblical commentary, and religious laws.

"In order to truly understand the profound effect this material has had on our understanding of the development of Judaism and Christianity, it is necessary to journey back in time, not just to the period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and copied, but also back to the time when the texts of the Bible were first composed," Risa Levitt Kohn, professor of Hebrew Bible and Judaism at San Diego State University and one of the exhibition's curators, told Discovery News.

"We try to accomplish this by immersing the visitor in the past with a huge array of objects from the biblical through the Byzantine period in Israel," Levitt Kohn said.

More than 500 artifacts are on display, along with a scale recreation of a section of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, complete with an authentic three-ton stone from the Wall in Israel.

The artifacts include include remains of religious articles, weapons of war, stone carvings, textiles and beautiful mosaics along with everyday household items such as jewelry and ceramics.

Also on display, numerous objects from both the biblical and second Temple periods that have only been recently excavated and are yet to be published.

Among these artifacts, are a unique gold and pearl earring from the City of David in Jerusalem, an ivory dove sitting atop a pomegranate that dates back 3,000 years, and one of the oldest depictions of the menorah, the seven-branched candelabra that has come to symbolize Judaism.

"These ancient objects are not just distant relics, but artifacts that can speak to us, almost like voices from the past. They can inform us about a tremendously important period in history and one that has had a huge impact of the development of western culture," Levitt Kohn said.

Following its New York premiere, the exhibition will travel to Philadelphia's Franklin Institute for a 5-month run beginning in May 2012.

Lorenzi, Rossella. 2011. "Dead Sea Scroll Objects On Display". Discovery News. Posted: October 27, 2011. Available online:

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