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Dead Sea Scrolls
Undoubtedly the Dead Sea Scrolls are the most controversial archaeological discovery of the 20th Century. The Art Gallery of New South Wales together with the Israel Antiquities Authority will present an exhibition of these enigmatic manuscripts for the first time in Australia. The exhibition will subsequently travel to Melbourne to be on view at the National Gallery of Victoria (Russell Street), opening in March 2001.

The initial discovery in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds in a cave on the shores of the Dead Sea revealed seven nearly complete scrolls encased in clay jars. This find initiated archaeological work in the caves above the ruins of Khirbet Qumran, some eight miles south of Jericho, that lasted nearly a decade and revealed a wealth of material dating from the 4th century BCE through to the 1st century CE.

Scholars have debated issues raised by the Scrolls since their discovery, however most scholars believe the Scrolls were created by the Essenes, a group of sectarians who broke away from mainstream Judaism and set out to live a communal life in the desert. When the Romans invaded their community around 68CE, the sectarians hid their manuscripts in the nearby caves.

The Scrolls are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and contain Biblical texts in the Hebrew Bible - except for the book of Esther, some apocryphal literature, prayer texts and sectarian documents.

For more than forty years, only seven scholars had access to the scrolls - to work on translating and piecing together the hundreds of thousands of fragments. When scholars and researchers around the world were granted access to the photographic records of the Scrolls in 1991, the pace of research and publication was greatly enhanced. Now the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project is finally nearing completion under the direction of Israeli editor-in-chief Emanuel Tov, who will give a public lecture as part of the International Dialogue series to be held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Sunday 16 July.

The exhibition will present a selection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments together with archaeological objects including textile, stone, numismatic and leather artifacts from the Khirbet Qumran site. The presentation of this material will illuminate significant issues about the study of these ancient texts and about their relevance for Judaism and Christianity. The Scrolls can provide us with a much deeper understanding of the various approaches to Judaism current at that time, and of their relevance to the history of religious traditions in the Western World.

Westfield is the principal sponsor of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition in Australia. "Westfield is delighted to have helped bring these fascinating manuscripts to Australia for the first time," said Westfield Chairman Frank Lowy, AC. "We hope that many Australians, and visitors from overseas, enjoy this rare opportunity to see for themselves the Dead Sea Scrolls and other relics from the Qumran site."

The exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a major part of the Olympic Arts Festival, and is a wonderful opportunity to see these most fascinating relics of our civilisation.
On view:Friday 14 July to Sunday 15 October 2000
Art Gallery of New South Wales Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
Telephone:(02) 9225 1744
Recorded Information (02) 9225 1790
Hours:7 days a week 10am to 5pm
Admission:$10 adults $7 concessions/members
Media Information and Interviews:Jan Batten:
Press Office
Telephone: (02) 9233 1213 or (0418) 279 348
Facsimile: 61 2 9221 3185