The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh will be hosting an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls from June 28 to December 28, 2008. The Dead Sea Scrolls — objects of great mystery, intrigue and significance — are widely acknowledged to be among the greatest archaeological treasures ever discovered.
The Dead Sea Scrolls date from 250 BCE to 68 CE and are our bridge to a period that laid the foundation of western traditions, beliefs and practices throughout the past two millennia. Among the Scrolls are some 207 biblical manuscripts that represent nearly every book in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) and that predate any previously known copies by more than 1,000 years.
Thanks to the generosity of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) the Museum of Natural Sciences will display 12 authentic Dead Sea Scrolls during the six month exhibition (six different scrolls each three-month period) representing portions of the books of Genesis, Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Exodus and others. All Scrolls will be fully interpreted with translation of text and background information. Also included in the exhibition will be more than 100 authentic artifacts from Qumran, the ancient settlement on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea in Israel closest to the caves where the scrolls were discovered.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were initially discovered by Bedouin herders and then by archaeologists between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near Qumran. More than 100,000 fragments were discovered and pieced together into over 900 separate documents. In addition to biblical manuscripts, sectarian (non-biblical) manuscripts were recovered that reflect a wide variety of literary genres: biblical commentary, religious legal writings, liturgical (prayer) texts, and compositions that predict a coming apocalypse. These Scrolls, some of which will also be on exhibit, reveal the fascinating transition between the ancient religion of the Bible and Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.
Most scholars believe the Scrolls were copied and composed by a group that broke away from mainstream Judaism to live a communal life at Qumran . This group saw themselves as the “true Israel” and viewed those living in Jerusalem, including the priesthood at the Temple, as corrupt. It is also believed that when the Romans invaded Qumran around 68 CE, the community hid their manuscripts in nearby caves.
In addition to displaying scrolls and ancient artifacts, the Museum of Natural Sciences will explore the scientific interpretation, conservation and preservation of the Scrolls , as well as the natural history of the Dead Sea region.
This exhibition is made possible by the scholars of Israel, and curators and conservators of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The IAA oversees Israel’s antiquities and ancient sites, their excavation, preservation, conservation, study and publication, as well as the country’s national treasures. The National Treasures Department is in charge of registering and documentation of all the antiquities in the country, as well as advising museums and scholars, initiating exhibitions and lending objects for display. All the objects that will be exhibited belong to the IAA.
The Artifact Conservation Department of the IAA was established in 1988 as the professional arm specializing in conservation. The department is charged with preserving the archaeological and cultural heritage of the country for the education of future generations.
A Dead Sea Scrolls Catalogue and CD made by the IAA especially for this exhibition will be available in the Museum store.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, in downtown Raleigh, documents and interprets the natural history of the state of North Carolina through exhibits, research, collections, publications, and educational programming. Hours: Mon.-Sat., 9 am to 5 pm, and Sun., noon to 5 pm. Admission is free. Visit the Museum on the Web at naturalsciences.org . The Museum is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, William G. Ross Jr., Secretary.