Conserving the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Antiquities Authority laboratories in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: SHAI HALEVI / ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
Twenty of the Dead Sea Scrolls went on public display on Thursday for the first time ever outside of Israel, at a six-month exhibition being held at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature in Colorado.
Some 620 additional artifacts, including a three-ton stone from the Western Wall, dating to the end of the Bar-Kochba Revolt, will also be on display.
The rest of the objects – curated by the Antiquities Authority – include inscriptions, seals, weapons, stone carvings, terracotta figurines, remains of religious symbols, coins, shoes, textiles, mosaics and written documentation from the Jewish revolt against Rome that took place between 132 and 135 CE.
Ten of the delicate scrolls will be displayed under strictly monitored conditions in two three-month rotations, after which they will be returned to Israel.
Once returned to Israel, the scrolls will be kept under the supervision of the Antiquities Authority in a climate-controlled vault for at least five years, in conditions simulating those of the Judean desert caves in which they were found.
The first round of display will feature scrolls that deal with ritual purity and impurity. The second round will feature part of the scroll called Musar lemevin, “Instructions to those who understand,” which contains apocalyptic prophecies.
The scrolls have been hailed as one of the most important archeological discoveries in history. The writings, in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, were discovered by Beduin goat herders in a cave in Qumran near the Dead Sea in 1947.
Over the next nine years, archeologists and Beduin searched the surrounding caves and found more than 900 preserved scrolls, which are now collectively known as the Dead Sea Scroll.
The scrolls were preserved for 2,000 years due to the dark, dry conditions of the caves. The delicate fragments of parchment and papyrus include the oldest known copies of the Bible.
“The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered the most important archeological find of the 20th century, and this year marks the 70th anniversary of their discovery,” the Antiquities Authority said in a statement. “They present a unique picture of the spectrum of religious beliefs in Judah in ancient times as well as daily life in the stormy Second Temple period.”