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Past Exhibitions
 - The City of David
 - The Story of Masada
 - House of the Bronzes
 - The Hasmonean Winter Palaces in the Jericho Valley
 - From Scythopolis to Beisan
 - From Abraham to Jesus
- The Masada Museum in Memory of Yigael Yadin
 - The Birth of Christianity
 - The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible


The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures
Curator: Gila Hurvitz

The Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, January 2009

The exhibition represented a selection of artifacts from the Land of Israel dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, also known as the Second Temple period, which is also about the time the Dead Sea Scrolls were written.

These artifacts tell the story of the Land of Israel, which begins with Alexander the Great's conquest and is followed by Hasmonean rule. They bear witness to the glory of Jerusalem during the reign of King Herod and the Roman procurators, attest to the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome and the fall of Masada in the 1st century, and, finally, trace the continued existence of Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple.

The material finds on display included:

  • Coins of the Hasmoneans, which form the largest group of Jewish coinage minted in the Land of Israel in antiquity. Whereas Hellenistic coins depicted their rulers' portraits, the sheqalim, minted in Tyre and bearing pagan images, were nevertheless used to pay tithes to the Jerusalem Temple.

  • Blown-glass vessels: beakers, plates, unguentaria, an amphoriskos, and a modiolus. 1st century CE
    (photo by Gabi Laron)

    Ossuary decorated in high relief. Hard limestone. 1st century BCE-1st century CE
    (photo by Gabi Laron)

  • Glass vessels, made in a special technique, became popular throughout the ancient Near East as cosmetics and perfume containers.

  • Mold-made decorated oil lamps found throughout the Roman Empire.

  • Ossuaries - limestone burial boxes containing dessicated bones of the deceased - found in rock-cut burial caves in and around Jerusalem. Inscriptions mentioning the names of the deceased, and sometimes their titles, professions, or family origins, appear in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the languages used by the Jews in the Second Temple period. One unique ossuary found in a family burial cave not far from today's Old City of Jerusalem bore the name "Alexander (son of) Simon" who came from Cyrene in North Africa. The inscription most likely refers to Simon of Cyrene, who is mentioned in the New Testament as carrying the cross on the way to Jesus' crucifixion.

  • The rich and abundant archaeological remains from the Hebrew University's Masada excavations touch on almost every aspect of research in the Second Temple period. The large storage jars on display are but a few examples of the 1500 jars discovered in the storehouses and rebels' living quarters. Moreover, many remains of the Roman army were found on Masada itself, proving that Roman soldiers reached the mountaintop. One interesting find is a pay slip belonging to a soldier in the cavalry of the Tenth Legion, "Gaius Messius, son of Gaius, from the tribe of Fabia of Beirut."

  • Jewish symbols, such as the menorah, appearing in synagogues represent rituals once performed in the holy Temple, and make a direct connection between these two institutions.

  • Plaque in the form of a Torah shrine. Limestone. 5th-6th centuries CE
    (photo by Gabi Laron)

    Incense shovel. Copper alloy. 1st-2nd centuries CE
    (photo by Gabi Laron)