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Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit to open at California Science Center

EXPOSITION PARK — An exhibition of truly biblical proportions will open at the California Science Center March 10 as the museum and the Israel Antiquities Authority present “Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition.”

More than 600 ancient artifacts will be featured in the display, which will explore the science and significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts composed, copied and hidden in caves by scribes 2,000 years ago. Over half of the scrolls on display have never before been seen in the United States, and some have never been exhibited since their discovery, curators said.

Sections from 10 of the Dead Sea Scrolls, will be displayed, including parts of the oldest discovered copies of the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament, exhibitors said. Passages from Genesis, Isaiah and Psalms, and an ancient marriage contract dated to the 1st century A.D., will be shown.

“This exhibition demonstrates a remarkable blend of science and history,” said Jeffrey Rudolph, the president of the California Science Center. “Cutting-edge conservation technology will allow our guests to see the most significant archeological find of the last century.”

The documents date back to from 250 B.C. to 68 A.D. and were discovered in a group of caves near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. They are mostly written in Hebrew, though some are in Aramaic and Greek.

The first cache of scrolls was discovered in 1947, when a Bedouin shepherd casually tossed a rock into a cave and heard a pot shatter, museum officials said. Over the following eight years, archaeologists and Bedouins found thousands of parchment fragments in 11 caves, including the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible.

The exhibition is curated by Risa Levitt Kohn, a professor of Hebrew Bible and Judaism at San Diego State University, and Debora Ben Ami of the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

“We can only piece together the past by examining and interpreting objects from daily life or ancient written documents,” Kohn said. “This exhibition reveals in ancient pots, coins, weapons, jewelry, and handwritten texts, a record of extraordinary human achievement constituting a significant contribution to our own cultural legacy.”

A 3-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall, limestone capitals from the First Temple period (1000-586 B.C.), ancient bone boxes from the early Roman period, and a signature preserved for millennia on the unique Archer Seal will be on display at the museum. Examples of delicate jewelry, pottery shards bearing royal seals, weapons such as sling-stones and arrowheads, and many objects excavated from active archaeological sites in Israel will also be shown.

At the museum’s IMAX theater, a 3-D movie will take guests “soaring high above the Holy Land and plunging deep into the vibrant Old City to experience iconic sites cherished by billions, and explore on a grand scale the intersection of science, history and religion in this ancient, enigmatic place,” according to a press release announcing the exhibit. The 43-minute film is narrated by actor Benedict Cumberbatch and will premiere at the center March 10.

The museum is also home to the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Crowds are expected, and the museum encouraged those planning to view the exhibit to buy tickets online at www.californiasciencecenter.org to reserve an entry date and time. The general information number is (323) 724-3823.

The Exhibition admission price is $19.75, with discounts for students and senior citizens. The museum encouraged patrons to take the Expo Line train or numerous bus lines to the show, although parking is available at Exposition Park.

The Los Angeles presentation is being funded by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Jewish Life Television and the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. Additional support came from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation, the Herta Amir and Paul Amir Foundation, the Stanley and Joyce Black Family Foundation, the county Board of Supervisors, the Teichman Family Charitable Foundation, Irwin S. Field, the Max Webb Foundation and Barry and Mireille Wolfe.