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Release: Immediate

UI scholar celebrates 50th anniversary of Dead Sea Scrolls discovery

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Fifty years ago, a young shepherd threw a rock into a cave in the high limestone cliffs a mile away from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Instead of the quiet plunk of the stone hitting the earthen floor of the cave, there was a shattering sound and the history of Judaism was suddenly burst wide open.

The rock shattered pots which contained the ancient documents we now call the Dead Sea Scrolls. This discovery led scholars to fragments of more than 700 other manuscripts in other caves in the area. Since then, scholars have worked tirelessly to piece the documents back together.

George Nickelsburg, a UI professor of religion, has been studying the scrolls since the 1960s, and has now used his wealth of information to create a year-long exhibit on the scrolls in the School of Religion.

"Discoveries by the Dead Sea: The scrolls 50 years later," is a photographic exhibit on display through May 1998 on the third floor of Gilmore Hall at the UI. In the collection of nearly 50 photos, visitors can view the site of the discovery, learn about the people who discovered the scrolls, and begin to understand the beliefs, practices, frustrations, and hopes of the scrolls' authors.

Nickelsburg has written a catalog that explains the photos in context and also provides translations of the scrolls which are on display. The catalog includes a 12-page interpretive essay written by Nickelsburg. He will also lead a series of discussions during October about the scrolls and their historical significance. Following is a schedule of his discussions which run from 2-4 p.m. and are free and open to the public:

Sunday, Oct. 5: "Placing the Scrolls in their Context"

Sunday, Oct. 12: "What was Going On at Qumran?"

Sunday, Oct. 19: "Reimagining the Shape of Early Judaism"

Sunday, Oct. 26: "Rethinking the Origins of Christianity"

The exhibit is sponsored by the UI School of Religion and is supported by Aliber Hillel House and Agudas Achim Synagogue, both in Iowa City. Reporters interested in receiving a copy of the exhibit catalog should contact Mary Geraghty, UI News Services, (319) 384-0011. For further information, contact the UI School of Religion at (319) 335-2164.