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Dead Sea Scrolls Brings Ancient Artifacts to Museum of Natural History

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Dead Sea Scrolls

Dead Sea Scroll fragment

Courtesy of SDMNH

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts that were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near Khirbet Qumran, on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea in Israel.

Why are they important?:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are widely acknowledged to be among the greatest archaeological treasures linking us to the ancient Middle East, and to the formative years of Judaism and Christianity. Over 200 biblical manuscripts are more than a thousand years older than any previously known copies of the Hebrew Bible.

How old are the Dead Sea Scrolls?:

The Dead Sea Scrolls date from the 3rd century before the common era (BCE) to the 1st century of the common era (CE). The scrolls contain some of the oldest-known copies of biblical books, as well as hymns, prayers, and other important writings.

How many were found?:

Over 100,000 fragments of text were discovered, and scholars have pieced these together into over 900 separate documents.

Will all of the Scrolls be on exhibit in San Diego?:

Not all. Thanks to the generosity of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), 24 Dead Sea Scrolls, 10 exhibited for the first time ever, will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

What are the Scrolls made of?:

The majority of the scrolls are written on leather parchment, but there are also some texts written on papyrus (reed paper). One scroll, known as the Copper Scroll is inscribed upon copper.

So, who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?:

Most scholars believe the scrolls were created by the Essene sect, a group of Jews who broke away from mainstream Judaism to live a communal life in the desert. When the Romans invaded their community around 68 CE, the Essenes hid the manuscripts in nearby caves. However, some scholars believe the Essenes were not the only authors of the scrolls; they assume that some of the manuscripts were written in Jerusalem and later deposited in the caves at Qumran when the Romans threatened Jerusalem.

What should I look for in this exhibition?:

Exhibition highlights include: scrolls of the biblical books of Leviticus, Isaiah, Job and others; scrolls such as the Damascus Document and the War Scroll highlighting the life and thoughts of the Qumran community; Psalms scrolls containing passages from liturgy still in use today; a section of the Copper Scroll from Jordan, the only Dead Sea Scroll inscribed on copper; the best preserved of all Deuteronomy manuscripts containing the text of the Ten Commandments; and scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

Anything else to know about the six-month Exhibition?:

There will be a set of scrolls exhibited for the first three months of the show. These scrolls will be exchanged for an additional set for the last three months of the exhibition. The first set of scrolls (June - Sept.) will include the books of Isaiah, Psalms, Job, and War. The second set (Oct. - Dec.) includes the Ten Commandments, Leviticus, and Samuel.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Natural History:

The San Diego Museum of Natural History presents the Dead Sea Scrolls, the largest, most comprehensive exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls ever assembled. It includes authentic scrolls, illuminated biblical manuscripts, ancient artifacts, landscape and aerial photography, and interactive displays about science, discovery, and exploration.

The Museum is the only California destination for the exhibition and the only venue slated for a six-month showing, from June 29 to Dec. 31, 2007. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter the most significant collection of ancient documents and artifacts ever assembled in San Diego. Objects of great mystery, intrigue and significance, the scrolls continue to captivate audiences around the world.

Dead Sea Scrolls Entrance Hours

Open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Monday 1–5 PM
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 10 AM–5 PM
Friday 10 AM–6 PM
Saturday, Sunday, Holidays 9 AM–7 PM

Admission Tickets

Tickets may be purchased in advance online, by phone, or in person.

Tickets for the exhibition are timed in 15-minute intervals to prevent the exhibition from becoming over crowded and to enhance the visitor experience. You must purchase tickets for a specific date AND time. Your tickets are only valid for the date and time printed on the ticket. Once inside, you may view the exhibition at your own pace.

Ticket Prices

Adults: $28 peak hours (Friday: 10 AM–6 PM; Saturday, Sunday, Holidays: 9 AM–7 PM). $24 off-peak hours (Monday: 1–5 PM; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 10 AM–5 PM)
Seniors 62+: $24 peak; $20 off-peak
Students, Military w/ID, Youth 13-17: $24 peak, $20 off-peak
Children 3-12: $10 peak, $10 off-peak

Click here to purchase Dead Sea Scrolls tickets online

Dead Sea Scrolls info and facts are courtesy of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

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