On display at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art from March to September 1997 are artifacts recovered from the ancient site of Masada in Israel as well as replicas and actual samples of some Dead Sea Scrolls.
“The siege of Masada in A.D. 73 could be considered the last major event in the war against the Jews that brought about the Roman destruction of Jerusalem,” says John W. Welch, professor of law at BYU and editor of BYU Studies, a multidisciplinary Latter-day Saint scholarly journal. Masada was the name of a mountain-plateau fortress in Judea where more than 900 Jewish warriors resisted Roman forces and ultimately committed suicide.
“One of the richest parts of studying the Masada artifacts is the way they transport the viewer back into the world of the first century, the New Testament world of Peter, Paul, James, and John not many years after the time of the Savior himself,” says Brother Welch, who helped arrange for the exhibit to make its North American debut at BYU. The exhibition is under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority and is sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism, the Schussheim Foundation, and the Israel Exploration Society.
“Masada artifacts make up the bulk of the exhibit, but also on display is a full-size replica of several of the major Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Holy Land near Qumran,” says Brother Welch. Discovered by archaeologists and Bedouin nomads in caves 50 years ago, the Dead Sea Scrolls are leather and papyrus Jewish manuscripts dating from as early as 200 B.C. Many of the scrolls contain books of the Old Testament and other religious writings.
“The Dead Sea Scroll part of the exhibit includes an original document that is of special interest to Latter-day Saint scholars because it contains the Hebrew word Alma,” says Brother Welch. Visitors will also have the opportunity to browse the BYU—FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) Dead Sea Scrolls database on interactive computer monitors.
“This exhibit is largely made up of bits and pieces,” says Brother Welch. “The story and setting are compelling, but visitors shouldn’t expect to be overwhelmed by gold mummies or beautiful jewelry. This is a different kind of exhibit, in which the content and meaning of these remnants of the lives and experiences of some of history’s most fascinating people echo out of the fragments.”
A special issue about Masada and the world of the New Testament will be published by BYU Studies. More details about the exhibit are available by calling the museum information desk at (801) 378-2787.