One of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century is on display in Salt Lake City, offering viewers the chance to connect with people whose lives are separated from ours by thousands of years and thousands of miles, but whose writings still influence the way we live today.
"The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times," billed as the largest collection of Holy Land artifacts outside Israel, is on display at The Leonardo until April 27th. The scrolls were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in a series of caves near the ancient village of Qumron. Qumron is located near the Dead Sea, in a hot desert landscape that is 1200 feet below sea level.
The scrolls date from about 300 BCE to about 70 CE. The scrolls contain copies of texts that are found in the Hebrew Bible, including every book of the current Bible except Esther. Other scrolls include poetry, hymns, rules of conduct, and non-Biblical religious writings. Because the scrolls were hidden in jars inside caves distant from Jerusalem, they are some of the few ancient Hebrew texts that survived the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
The exhibit tells several stories: the story of the scrolls' discovery and excavation in the late 1940s, the story of the scrolls' restoration from scattered fragments to readable texts, the story of the life of life in ancient Israel, the story of writing, and the story of the Hebrew people. There is also a section that explains the involvement of several Brigham Young University scholars in the Dead Sea Scrolls project. The display includes hundreds of artifacts besides the scrolls: jars, coins, household items, ceremonial items, and a three-ton chunk of Jerusalem's Western Wall, which survived Roman destruction. It's a tradition to write prayers on small slips of paper and leave them in the crevices of the Western Wall, so museum visitors are encouraged to do the same with the fragment on display.
My favorite artifacts were some of the ceremonial items from Qumran and other parts of ancient Israel, including ritual baths and mysterious female statuettes. It was amazing to get a glimpse at the lives of ancient people, and there aren't many places you can see texts that are more than 2,000 years old. I thought the exhibit was well worth visiting, even with a price tag of $23.95 for adults. Discounts are available for students, children, seniors, and low income residents of Salt Lake City.
209 E. 500 S.Salt Lake City, UT 84111