Two thousand years after unknown scribes penned the Dead Sea Scrolls, they are discovered by a tall man in his mid-30s in a conspicuously dark area deep underground. No, we’re not talking about the caves where a Bedouin originally found the Scrolls in 1947, but right in the heart of New York City’s Times Square.
Opening tomorrow is “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times” at the Discovery Times Square Exposition, with arguably one of the most important archaeological finds in history making its way across the Atlantic.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are, of course, the oldest surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible (Christianity’s Old Testament), as well as other non-religious texts which shed light on what life was like two millennia ago, around 100 BCE. In addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves, the exhibition also features a three-ton stone from the Western Wall and over 500 never-before-seen artifacts.
What was the world like when the Bible was composed, when the Scrolls were written and hidden? What religious beliefs do they represent? How did
the traditions we know as Judaism and Christianity emerge from ancient Israel, and how do the Scrolls illuminate this process? These are just some of the questions the exhibition seeks to answer, and visitors will go on a whirlwind tour of the history’s first text-based religion.
“The exhibition brings to life a fascinating period in history and vividly highlights how archaeologists and researchers piece together the past by examining and interpreting objects from daily life and ancient written documents. Israel’s archaeological sites and the artifacts they have yielded provide a record of extraordinary human achievement. The pots, coins, weapons, jewelry, and of course, the scrolls on display in this exhibition constitute a momentous contribution to our cultural legacy. They teach us about the past and also about ourselves,” said Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn, exhibition curator.
While much of the mystery surrounds the origin of the Scrolls themselves, its journey from Israel to New York is equally remarkable. To say the Scrolls are delicate would be a severe understatement. Had they not been sealed inside of dark caves in a dry climate, they would never have survived to be found in 1947. To get to New York, the Israel Antiquities Authority, who is partnering with Discovery for the exhibit, employed the most state-of-the-art preservation technology to get them here in one piece.
Last month, some of the Scrolls were put online, in a landmark partnership with Google. But nothing quite beats seeing it for yourself, so if you’re in the New York area, be sure to see “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times.”
Discovery Times Square is located at 226 West 44th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. You can purchase tickets online and avoid the line by clicking here.