Visitors to the Museum of Science, Boston will witness one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century-ancient handwritten texts that have shaped the Western world, including the earliest Biblical texts ever found-when Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Timesmakes its New England premiere on Sunday, May 19, 2013.
Museum-goers will discover an amazing story: In 1947 CE, a Bedouin goat herder stumbled upon a hidden cave along the shore of the Dead Sea, near the site of the ancient settlement Qumran. Concealed within the cave were scrolls that had not been seen for 2,000 years. After extensive excavation, 972 remarkably preserved scrolls were uncovered.
On exhibit May 19 - October 14, Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times presents one of the most comprehensive collections of Israeli antiquities ever organized, including one of the largest collections of the priceless Dead Sea Scrolls. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibit offers rare insight into daily life long ago, with more than 600 objects, including a 3-ton stone from Jerusalem's Western Wall, where Museum visitors may leave a note to be sent to Israel. The tradition of placing notes between the stones that comprise the Western Wall began centuries ago. In addition, visitors can view a live satellite video feed from the Western Wall.
A replica of a four-room house offers a glimpse of life at home, from meal preparation to sleeping quarters. Inscriptions and seals, known as "bulla," such as the Archer Seal, provide invaluable information about the iconography and personal imagery of the period. Other artifacts add to the picture - including weapons, stone carvings, terracotta figurines, remains of religious symbols, coins, shoes, textiles, mosaics, ceramics, and jewelry.
The centerpiece of Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times encompasses 20 rare fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, some never before exhibited. Each set of 10 will be on display for about three months. The scrolls will be dramatically presented within a 25-foot-diameter Communal Scroll Table which features 10 individual chambers, one for each scroll, along with the full English translation, a large high-resolution image and a detailed explanation of each scroll's significance.
Tickets go on sale on Tuesday, March 19, 2012. They will be available by visiting mos.org or calling 617/723-2500, 617/723-0417 (TTY).
"We are thrilled to bring this world treasure to Boston for the first time," said Paul Fontaine, Museum of Science vice president of education. "The artifacts and rare texts in Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times offer a tantalizing glimpse of daily life in ancient Israel, a vital cultural crossroad. This exhibit will enable our visitors to experience these scroll fragments up close. The scrolls offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand the attitudes and aspirations of a people who lived two thousand years ago and help us all appreciate a culture that continues to influence our own."
In addition to the scrolls and other artifacts, the exhibit features a timeline and multimedia presentations that enliven the story and provide context. Topics include the discovery of the scrolls, a look at the arid environment where the scrolls survived undisturbed for nearly two millennia, and the painstaking process through which the scroll fragments - some no larger than a postage stamp - were pieced together over decades and preserved. The scrolls also provide a rich source of scientific research material for the fields of paleography, radio carbon analyses, DNA studies, and cultural anthropology.
In addition to the exhibit, the Museum will offer a number of hands-on activities, live presentations, and special programs complementary to Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times. The Museum is partnering with Brandeis University to create related educational programs. For additional information about complementary programs, visit mos.org.
Special thanks to David McCord and Stephen Hendrickson; Dawn and the late Rodger P. Nordblom; OneWorld Boston, a Cummings Foundation affiliate; and Gwill York and Paul Maeder for providing lead support to bring Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times to the Museum of Science.