RALEIGH --Experience the most remarkable archaeological discovery of the 20th century from June 28 to December 28 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The Dead Sea Scrolls — objects of great mystery, intrigue and significance — are our bridge to a period that laid the foundation of western traditions, beliefs and practices throughout the past two millennia. Among the Scrolls, some of which are more than 2,000 years old, are 207 biblical manuscripts that represent every book in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament), and predate any previously known copies of the Bible by more than 1,000 years. Thanks to the generosity of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the Museum will display 12 authentic Dead Sea Scrolls during the six-month exhibition — six different scrolls for each three-month period — including fragments from the books of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Jubilees (an ancient Jewish book, sometime called the Lesser Genesis), as well as the sectarian Damascus Document and Community Rule. Four of the fragments are being conserved especially for the Museum and have never before been on public display. Due to the fragile nature of the Dead Sea Scrolls many of these fragments may never go on display again. Duke University's Special Collections Library is loaning a number of ancient and medieval manuscripts to this exhibition. Historically, Duke played an important role in bringing the scrolls into the public eye. Duke PhD William Brownlee was one of two Americans to first see the scrolls in 1948 in Jerusalem, and helped verify their authenticity. In 1950, the first scrolls were put on exhibition in a few U.S. locations, including Duke University Chapel, where 30,000 people came to see the scrolls in only six days. All Scrolls will be fully interpreted with translations 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. Those artifacts include pottery, coins, sandals, oil lamps and ossuaries (bone boxes used for burial). Additionally, 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. The Dead Sea Scrolls were initially discovered by Bedouin sheep 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 are a testament to human creativity and provide a rare glimpse back at a culture that played a critical role in the transition from the ancient religion of the Bible to 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, the Essenes, 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. Conservation and Education Lab As with all of the Museum's exhibits, Museum educators have created a complementary component to help further educate visitors about certain aspects of the exhibit. This Conservation and Education Lab will highlight the science behind the scrolls with topics like the conservation of the scrolls, properties of papyrus, archaeology and preservation in an interactive demonstration area. Lecture Series Throughout the run of the exhibit, the Museum will also host a Distinguished Lecture Series in the Museum's auditorium. Eight lectures from July 17 through December 10 will feature lecturers from across North Carolina, the nation and Israel and touch on the history of the scrolls and early religions, the science and conservation of the scrolls, and the archaeology of Qumran. Titles include, "Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and why were they written?," "The Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity," "Israel at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls" and "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls and at Qumran." Tickets to individual lectures can be purchased as well as the series. Dead Sea Marketplace An extension of our Museum Store will be added to the exhibit in the form of a Dead Sea Marketplace. Shoppers will find a wide array of books and DVDs on the Dead Sea, imported merchandise from Israel like Olive Wood decorative items and candles, and special one-of-a-kind etchings from Israeli artist Lika Tov. A Dead Sea Scrolls Catalogue and CD made especially for this exhibition will also be available. As a special treat, there will also be skincare products like Ahava body lotions and salts from the Dead Sea, which contain minerals that promote healthy skin. Admission prices: Adults - $22; Students / Seniors (60+) / Military w. ID - $16; Children (5 to 11) - $12; Children under 5 - $3 (strollers not allowed). For tickets to the exhibition or lectures, call the Museum Box Office at 919-733-7450, ext. 212 .