Press Contacts: John Sullivan, Public Affairs, (202) 707-9216, Lucy Suddreth, Public Affairs, (202) 707-9191, Michael Grunberger, Hebraic Section, (202) 707-5422, Irene Burnham, Interpretive Programs, (202) 707-5223
February 4, 1993
Scrolls from the Dead Sea Exhibit To Open April 29, 1993
A major exhibition, "Scrolls from the Dead Sea: The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship," will open on April 29 in the Library's Madison Gallery, first floor, Madison Building. The Madison Building is located at 101 Independence Ave., S.E. The exhibition features the oldest known copies of the Old Testament scriptures, including selections from the biblical books of Leviticus and Psalms. The exhibition will be open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, through August 1.
Considered one of the major manuscript finds of the 20th century, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been, since their discovery in 1947, the focus of great public and scholarly interest. The exhibition will feature 12 fragmentary scrolls and 88 related archaeological artifacts excavated at Qumran, the ancient site whose inhabitants may have produced the scrolls. All of these materials will be borrowed from the Israel Antiquities Authority. The Library of Congress will augment these materials with approximately 50 items from its own special collections, including rare books, maps, prints, and photographs.
"Scrolls from the Dead Sea" will retell the story of the discovery of the scrolls and provide their historical and archaeological context through an exploration of the translated texts and the various theories about the Qumran community. The exhibition will present the controversies and challenges that continue to face archaeologists, historians, linguists, and paleographers.
The first part of the exhibition, The World of the Scrolls," ca. 200 B.C.E.-70 C.E. (B.C.E.:Before the Common Era; C.E., for the Common Era, or A.D.), will provide a general introduction to biblical archaeology and help explain the various tools used by modern archaeologists in understanding ancient civilizations. It will also provide the historical context of the scrolls, enabling visitors to envision the political and spiritual turmoil from which modern Judaism and Christianity emerged.
Highlighting the sub-section "Ancient Israel" will be a scroll fragment, "Prayer for Jonathan," which contains a reference to Alexander Jannaeus, who ruled Judea from 103 B.C.E. to 76 B.C.E. Also on display in this area are archaeologically excavated coins with depictions of various rulers of Judea.
The second sub-section of "The World of the Scrolls" will concentrate on "The Qumran Community" and explore several theories about the identity of the inhabitants of the Judean desert. The "consensus" view is that the scrolls belonged to an Essene group associated with the nearby settlement. The exhibition will also present other differing interpretations. Was the settlement a winter villa owned and used by a wealthy Jerusalem family? Did it serve as a Roman fortress? Were its inhabitants a breakaway Sadducee group rather than Essene? Was there a connection between the community and the scrolls? Were scrolls hidden in the caves by Judeans who wished to protect them from advancing Roman forces? Visitors will enter the "Qumran Community" through a series of photographic images, contemporary as well as historical, designed to evoke the desert setting and the locale.
This section will also illustrate the daily life of the Qumran community through the artifacts found at the settlement, including measuring cups, plates, a jar, a vase, cooking pots, bowls, sandals, combs, a lamp, leather thongs, straw mats, and goblets, all dating to a period almost 2,000 years ago. Also on display, from the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections, will be early editions of Josephus and Pliny, which relate to the identity of the community.
The second major part of the exhibition, "The Qumran Library," presents the categories of compositions (biblical, apocryphal, pseudepigraphical, and sectarian) found at Qumran. "Biblical" texts are part of the canon of the Hebrew Bible; "apocryphal or pseudepigraphical" are Second Temple Jewish writings not included in the canon of the Hebrew scriptures; and "sectarian" texts relate specifically to the rules and beliefs of a Second Temple sectarian community. The exhibition area will include several transcribed and translated scrolls and explore the relationship of the documents to the identity and theology of the various sects during the inter-testamental period (ca. the last 200 years B.C.E.).
Also in this section will be artifacts associated with the scrolls themselves, such as a scroll jar, inkwells and linen wrappings, and leather fasteners. The large fragment of the Qumran "Leviticus" text, written in paleo-Hebrew, will also be on display, alongside a monumental 18th century Torah scroll on parchment opened to scriptural passages corresponding to those recorded on the fragment. Also on view will be the Community Rule scroll, outlining the rules of daily life for the members of the sectarian brotherhood.
The third major section, "The Scrolls and Modern Scholarship," speaks to the actual discovery of the scrolls and their subsequent history, the publication of scroll research, and the many problems facing modern researchers. The recent controversies connected with access to unpublished Dead Sea Scroll materials and the slow pace of publication will also be presented. Among the objects in this section will be a fragment of the Damascus Document found at Qumran, which placed in proper context two medieval versions of this manuscript uncovered in the late 19th century, and an early printed edition containing Eusebius's reference to Origen's (ca. 185 - ca. 254 C.E.) use of ancient Hebrew manuscripts, found in jars in caves near Jericho.
A final section in the third area is "The Library of Congress and the Dead Sea Scrolls." It reviews the first presentation of some of the scrolls including, the Book of Isaiah, 24 feet in length, at the Library in October 1949, and includes newsreel footage describing the event.
The Library and Baltimore Hebrew University will cosponsor a two- day symposium, April 21-22, in conjunction with the exhibition, with leading scholars.
The scrolls and artifacts will travel to the New York Public Library and from there to the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, where they will form the nucleus of two additional exhibitions. "Scrolls from the Dead Sea" is the product of a collaboration the Library of Congress and its partners, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the New York Public Library, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The exhibition at the Library of Congress is made possible by a generous grant from the Project Judaica Foundation of Washington, D.C.
Tickets are required to enter the exhibition. Same-day passes, free of charge, will be available at the Library, using a timed- entry system, allowing entry approximately every half hour. Advance tickets are available, for a fee, from TicketMaster. For ticket information call (202) 245-5284.
Editors and Art Directors Note: Color slides and black-and-white photographs of the fragments and artifacts are now available.
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