If you decide to check out the new Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston, make sure you don't touch anything -- some of the artifacts are 3,000 years old.
The Museum of Science welcomed Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times to its Red Wing on May 19. It will be the first time this exhibition, created by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has made its way to New England. The exhibit took the second floor space previously occupied by Design Zone and will run until Oct. 20.
Dead Sea Scrolls is a huge exhibit containing thousands of years of Israeli history. The collection features more than 600 objects, many of which are thousands of years old. You can find rudimentary toys, pottery jars that are 3 feet tall and bathtubs that would never pass inspection nowadays.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the set of the eponymous scrolls, which are the earliest Biblical texts that have ever been discovered. When you walk into the final room of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, you'll feel like you're entering a shining version of the National Archives. A circular table 25 feet in diameter sits in the middle of the room holding 10 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, which was discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin goat herder who happened to find a hidden cave along the northwest Dead Sea shore (now the cheery place known as the West Bank).
When the Indiana Jones-like excavation was finished, 972 scrolls that hadn't been seen in 2,000 years were discovered in 11 caves. Some, like a piece of text from the Book of Leviticus and a long chunk from the Book of Psalms, are handwritten copies of the Bible, while others, like the War Scroll, were more commentary-driven.
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The exhibit starts with a quick presentation by a staff member, who explains the history of the scrolls and the culture of ancient Jerusalem in a room bordered by six massive screens. You'll see the 3-ton stone believed to have fallen from Jerusalem's Western Wall, where you can write down a prayer to leave with the Wall, which will eventually get sent back to Israel. Then, armed with your trusty audio tour device (if you're willing to shell out the extra $6), you can explore the spacious hall of artifacts and scrolls, which have a translation and explanation accompanying them.
"This exhibit will enable our visitors to experience these scroll fragments up close," said Museum of Science VP of Education Paul Fontaine in a statement. "The scrolls offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand the attitudes and aspirations of a people who lived two thousand years ago and help us all appreciate a culture that continues to influence our own."
Admission to Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times will be by timed ticket only and include a ticket for the general Exhibit Halls that can be used the same day or up to six months later. Tickets are $32 for adults, $29 for ages 60 and up and $27 for children 3 to 11. For information, visit www.mos.org or call 617-723-2500.
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