Why? Because there is money involved. And because the scrolls, discovered in 1947 in the caves of the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, accrue more value the older they are.
The story of the find dramatizes one of the greatest archeological events of the 20th century and drama has followed since then When a Bedouin goat herder threw a stone into a hidden cave along the shore of the Dead Sea, near the site of the ancient settlement Qumran, he heard the sound of pottery smashing. His curiosity was aroused, and he found scrolls concealed within the cave that were 2,000 years old. After extensive excavation, 972 remarkably preserved scrolls were reportedly uncovered. Reportedly is the key word here. Now the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions saved many fragments in a Swiss safe deposit box.
And they are selling them.
This angers Israel’s government antiquities authority, which holds the scrolls. It claims that every scrap of them belong to Israel as its cultural heritage. Museums from other countries are now legally trying to recover their own treasures; Iraq is a case in point.
Of course, Jordanian and Palestinian governments are claiming ownership of the scrolls as well. This makes the remaining fragments, some no larger than postage stamps and some blank, much more valuable. William Kando, who is the watchman for his family’s collection of scrolls, declares: “If anyone is interested, we are ready to sell.” He runs the other family business in Jerusalem, an antique shop that he inherited from his father. Evangelical Christian collectors and American institutions have paid millions for pieces of this archeological treasure. Amir Ganor, head of the Israel anti-looting squad, says that as far as he is concerned, Ganor “can die with those scrolls! . . . The scrolls’ only address is teh State of Israel.”
The manuscripts are mostly written on animal skin parchment and are the earliest records of the Hebrew Bible proving that the roots of Judaism and Christianity are grounded in the Holy Land. Presently, these scrolls, which have shaped the Western world, are currently available to Boston through the Museum of Science until October 19.Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times presents one of the most comprehensive collections of Israeli antiquities ever organized, including one of the largest collections of the priceless Dead Sea Scrolls. This exhibit offers rare insight into daily life long ago, with more than 600 objects, including a 3-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall, where Museum visitors may leave a note to be sent to Israel. The tradition of placing notes between the stones that comprise the Western Wall began centuries ago. In addition, visitors can view a live satellite video feed from the Western Wall.
A replica of a four-room house offers a glimpse of life at home, from meal preparation to sleeping quarters. Inscriptions and seals, known as “bulla,” such as the Archer Seal, provide invaluable information about the iconography and personal imagery of the period. Other artifacts add to the picture – including weapons, stone carvings, terracotta figurines, remains of religious symbols, coins, shoes, textiles, mosaics, ceramics, and jewelry.
The centerpiece of Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times encompasses 20 rare fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, some never before exhibited. Each set of 10 will be on display for about three months. The scrolls will be dramatically presented within a 25-foot-diameter Communal Scroll Table which features 10 individual chambers, one for each scroll, along with the full English translation, a large high-resolution image and a detailed explanation of each scroll’s significance.
For tickets go to:http://www.mos.org/dead-sea-scrolls?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=dead%20sea%20scroll&utm_campaign=deadseascrolls
For a full history of the find, see the Israel Antiquities Authority movie at: http://www.antiquities.org.il/dss_movie_eng.asp