Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Dead Sea Scrolls

...have come to San Francisco's Legion of Honor, and today I got to see a fragment of one. It is in fact one of the larger pieces and is part of a psalm written in beautiful Hebrew letters. Written on parchment, the scrolls were found in clay jars in a desert cave. Also on display are some of the jars that contained the scrolls, as well as a linen cloth that was wrapped around one of the parchment. The cloth incidentally has blue thread on it that may be part of a plan to a temple. Truly amazing stuff.

The Legion of Honor was also able to obtain from Israel (in fact this is all from Israel) an amazing table found in a Roman villa that contains gold foil, colored stones and has a pattern of crosses and rosettes on it. It had never been shown to anyone before; San Francisco is the first to put it on display.

Other treasures include two ossury pieces, which act as vessels to store bones in. Scholars aren't sure what ancient religion they're associated with, but they do know that a year after a person died and their flesh had gone, the bones would be interned in these vessels. Each one is distinct; the woman's vessel (at least the one on display) is shaped like a vase and has breasts to indicate her sex. The other (male) has what looks like eyes, a nose and a mouth (somebody toyed with the idea of naming this vessel "The Scream" after the famous painting!) but the "nose" may be phallic in nature. They also have on display a lid of a separate Ossury that is crimped on the sides like a pie (very interesting).

The exhibit is quite small (they will rotate pieces every few months) but they do have other things on display like two clay sensors, cult stands (Egyptian) and exquisite glassware and jewelry from the Byzantine era, as well as some sort of circular tile motif that has the names of church donors on it (in Greek).

Of course after my mom and I gawked at all of these things I dragged her back to a small display of ancient Greek, Assyrian and Persian artifacts. I saw beautiful amphoras in AMAZING condition, gorgeous jewelry and pieces from ancient Egypt, and the best surprise of all, a small piece of a Persopolis motif from Persia.

I took furious notes, bought two books, and am excited that I got to see real history. Now more than ever I have to finish my novel(s). History is just too cool not to.

If you're in the Bay Area, I suggest going to see these rare treasures. They're around until August and do rotate, so see them while you can!