Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Qumran in what was then British Mandate Palestine; and since 1947 known as the West Bank. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a series of eleven caves around the site known as Wadi Qumran near the Dead Sea; what is now the West Bank, between 1946 and 1956 by the Bedouin people and archeologists. They were found on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. The initial discovery was by Bedouin shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib, his cousin Jum’a Muhammed and Khalil Musa, it took place between November 1946 and February 1947.The shepherds discovered 7 scrolls housed in jars in a cave at what is now known as the Qumran site.

The Well-known texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been deciphered to be of ancient historical, religious and linguistic importance and most were in the form of documents and letter. They include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible, along with extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism. While some of the survived as scrolls, other archives were nothing more than thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments. The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataea, mostly on parchment but with some written on papyrus and bronze The manuscripts have been dated to various ranges between 408 BCE and 318 CE.

Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars and conservators have been concerned with their conservation, preservation and documentation. Situated 400 meters below sea level, the constant arid climate of the Judean Desert and the stable humidity and temperature within the caves were likely the major factors contributing to the preservation of the manuscripts for over two thousand years. Removing the scrolls from some-what a natural environment put them at an extreme risk of deterioration. Transporting these fragile ANCIENT documents also put them at risk to be damaged through human handlings. Knowing that in earlier findings of historical archives scholars mishandled scrolls unknowingly causing irreversible damage, a solution has been reached. Today, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has a strict protocol to ensure that the preservation of the scrolls is long-term. The technology of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library started as conservation effort to a “state-of-the-art” monitoring system, it now also enables scholars to study the fragments without physically touching them, safeguarding the texts for future generations.

The Unsinkable Ship

Almost 25 years to the day after the R.M.S. Titanic was discovered two  and a half miles below the surface of the Atlantic, an expedition to the ocean  floor has transmitted brand new images of history’s most famous shipwreck.  Legendary before it was found, the Titanic became even more so after the  world caught its first glance of the ghostly ship, which met its end in April  1912. After years of speculation and educated guesses that had turned up nothing  but empty ocean, researchers located the deteriorating bow and debris field on  Sept. 1, 1985 In the summer of 1985, Robert Ballard was aboard the French research ship Le Suroit, which was using the side scan sonar SAR to search for Titanic’s wreck. Explorer Ballard; an oceanographer and former Navy captain, had long  wanted to find the wreck, first attempting the feat in 1977 to no avail. It wasn’t until 1985 that he found a way to finance his research. Ballard  reached out to the United States. Navy to help fund his watery dreams, which he secured on the condition of  locating two sunken Navy submarines; the U.S.S. Thresher and U.S.S. Scorpion, both Cold War–era nuclear submarines lost some years before.  He was required to first find the submarines on the seafloor and to have them photographed (a secret mission that Ballard didn’t reveal until 2008) before using the  underwater robots to search for the Titanic. In the early hours of Sept.  1, Ballard, in conjunction with a French expedition, tracked a debris trail to  the wreckage. Video and photographs were taken and later broadcast to the world. One year later after the findings of the Titanic were discovered, more oceanographers went to explore the sections of bow and stern and the extensive  debris field that lay between the two. In 1993, the company RMS Titanic Inc.; formed by Premier Exhibitions, which designs museum exhibitions and maintains  artifacts, was named salvor-in-possession of the wreck, gaining the rights to collect found artifacts and launch expeditions to the ship. Seven times they found items between the years 1986 and 2004, collecting over 5,500 artifacts ranging from china dishes to leather trunks filled with preserved bank notes. A section of the  debris field even became known as “hell’s kitchen” for the overwhelming amount of cooking utensils found there. Through photographs taken on subsequent trips, the company was able to reconstruct images of the grand staircase, dining halls, bed rooms, ect. And if the new found attention wasn’t enough the discovery of the ship was even turn into an Academy Winning film by James Cameron.

Rosetta Stone

Archeologist spend countless hours a year digging, picking, shoveling and sorting various types of rocks and stones; many of which are no more than simply a piece of earth. Never would I have thought that a broken slab of black granite inscribed in two languages and three scripts would be an important document to the Egyptian’s history, but in so many words “an important document to the Egyptian’s history” is what we now call the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone was a discovery of French soldiers in 1799, it was originally displayed in a temple and later used by the soldiers as construction material for a fort at Rashid (Rosetta) located in the Nile Delta in Egypt. Two years after the discovery the French army was thrown out of Egypt by the British army and under the rules of the Capitulations of Alexandria, all antiquties collected by the French were now the property of the British; this included the Rosetta Stone.The Stone was then transported to London in 1802, and still to this day remains in the British Museum.

Next on the list was to translate the inscriptions on the Stone. The three inscriptions have the same meaning, a complete translation of the Greek text was published in 1803, but I find it crazy that it would take 20 years before the two Egyptian versions to be deciphered. The two Egyptian languages are hieroglyphics; used for monumental and sacred texts, and demotic; used for everyday text. In all, since the Greek version could already be translated the Rosetta Stone was the key to reading and understanding both Egyptian. During the process of deciphering the two unknown text it was clear to the many scholars that both hieroglyphics and demotic share one main similarity, this was the usage of phonetic characters to spell. Although ther were many people working to make sense of the texts, Jean-Fransois Champollion; a French schoool teacher, was the one to finally connect the Egyptian  phonetic characters for the two text to most of the Greek letters. This two decade process of deciphering was completed in 1822. Because of Champollion’s breakthough for the Rosetta Stone, it gave countless opportunities to international scholars to provide Egyptian history from what were impossible texts to comprehend, this made it possible to construct a chronology for the whole ancient East. The ancient choronicals from Egypt provided lists of pharoahs and their reigns and became the  basis for dating the entire Eastern Mediterranean archaeolgical record.