The Dead Sea Scroll with the 10 Commandments is just one of 14 priceless objects being featured in The Israel Museum, Jerusalem’s exhibition called “A Brief History of Humankind” that began May 1, 2015 and will be running through January 2, 2016.
The 10 Commandments manuscript, being 2,000 years old, is very brittle, so will only be displayed for public viewing for a period of two weeks. It will then be returned to the safety of its pitch-black, climate-controlled facility.
It was written before the birth of Jesus Christ and is just 18 inches long and three inches wide. The only other copy of the 10 Commandments is called the Nash Papyrus, which was discovered a century ago in Egypt, and dates to about 150 B.C. The Nash Papyrus is even more fragile than the Dead Sea Scroll copy and is kept at Cambridge University Library in England.
“When you are thinking about universal law, the universal principle of ethics, … this is the first law that comes to your mind,” exhibit curator Tania Coen-Uzzielli said.
All the objects are framed rather dramatically in lit cases in a dark exhibition hall, making the significance of each artifact all the more compelling when looking at the history of humankind as a whole. What is particularly interesting is that each artifact was discovered in the Holy Land, a testament to the region’s central role in human history.
The museum is featuring the exhibit to mark its 50 th anniversary. Founded in 1965, it is the largest cultural institution in the state of Israel and is ranked among the world’s leading art and archeology museums. Taking inspiration from Yuval Noah Harari’s bestselling book, the exhibition strives to interweave historically significant objects with important archeological finds to tell the story of the unfolding of civilization.
Visitors will see evidence of the first use of fire, the first man-made tools, giving us the start of the agricultural revolution. Visitors can think about the first time writing became a way of expression, to the use of coins in trade and barter, right on up to the Theory of Relativity and its worldwide impact.
The exhibit includes some tools 1.5 million-years-old that were used in an elephant hunt and the remains of a communal bonfire dating to 800,000 years ago. Visitors can also see the skulls found in a family burial plot, as well as the world’s oldest complete sickle.
The sickle dates back 9,000 years, to the period of time when humans transitioned from being hunter-gatherers to becoming settled and working the land.
Also on display is a 5,000-year-old Mesopotamian tablet, on loan to the museum, and a number of 2,700-year-old coins from what is now Turkey. And physicists will love seeing the original handwritten manuscript of Albert Einstein’s groundbreaking Theory of Relativity.
Museum director James Snyder says, “After only 50 years, we may be one of only a very few museums worldwide that can tell such a broad story from its own holdings.” All in all, the exhibit will be sure to spark a conversation about our relationship between the past and the present.