Unearthing the Dead Sea Scrolls: Religion, Politics and Science of its Excavation

Scholars examining the Dead Sea Scroll fragments

The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, written between 408 BCE and 318 CE and discovered between 1946 and 1956.  The collection of 972 documents contain fragments of the earliest known Biblical texts, as well as windows into the social and political world surrounding Jerusalem in antiquity. Through work with scholars and a large-scale exhibit at Boston's Museum of Science, this multi-part program provides secondary school educators with an opportunity to explore the significance of these artifacts, as well as intersections with contemporary technology and politics.  

This workshop is free for secondary school educators and includes lunch, transportation to the Boston Museum of Science and admission to the exhibit Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times.
Educators who successfully attend the full program schedule and complete an approved lesson plan resource for the classroom are eligible for a $100 stipend.  See more information below.

The program is open to secondary school educators of social studies and physics.  Register online now. Registration is confirmed upon reciept of an email from the CMES Outreach Program.  


Program Schedule  

Part 1:  Introductory Session and Museum Field Trip (Thursday, October 17th, 8:30 - 3:30pm)  
Participating educators will meet on Harvard’s campus to hear an introductory lecture before heading to the Museum of Science to meet with museum staff and explore Dead Sea Scrolls: Life in Ancient Times.  Educators will meet at the museum to explore resources for the classroom and pedagogy discussion.  Transportation, exhibit admission, as well as a museum pass which may be used for the remainder of the day, will be provided.   
Introductory Lecture: What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? with Professor Shaye J. D. Cohen.  This introductory lecture will provide an overview of both the content of the Scrolls and the historical context from which they emerged.     

Download a full schedule for the day.  


Part 2: Live, Online Sessions with Scholars 
Following their visit to the museum, educators will have the opportunity to participate in live, online sessions with scholars to expand and deepen understanding of the Scrolls' contemporary significance.  Each 1.5 hour session will include a lecture as well as time for question and answer.  These sessions will be conducted in an AdobeConnect virtual classroom space.  This platform runs through Flash and does not require purchase or download of any further software.  See more information about participating in webinars with the CMES Outreach Program.     

Monday, October 21st from 7:00 - 8:30pm: The Science Behind Revealing the Scrolls with Dr. Gregory Bearman.  How do you unroll a 2,000 year old scroll?  During this session educators will learn more about the electronic and multi-spectral imaging processes used to preserve and digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Monday, October 28th from 7:00 - 8:30pm:
 The Politics of Excavation and Claims of Antiquity with Shay Rabineau.  Whose Scrolls are they?  During this session educators will learn more about the complexities of modern political claims to the Scrolls in light of the geographically and historically sensitive moment in which they were discovered.      


Part 3: Lesson Plan Development (Optional)  
Following the one-day workshop and two online sessions, participants will have the opportunity to submit a lesson plan to the Outreach Program based on Dead Sea Scrolls program content. Participants who opt to submit a lesson will be provided with an evaluation rubric and initial feedback on a draft.  Finished lessons will be vetted be a committee made up of members from the Outreach Program and Schusterman Center.  Those who attend the on-campus lecture, museum field trip and both webinars as well as successfully complete an approved resource by November 15th, 2013 will receive a $100 stipend and their lesson plan maybe posted on the Outreach Program and Schusterman Center's websites at the discretion of both Centers.  

Learning Goals and Standards 

This workshop is designed to address content and learning goals associated with humanities, physics, and earth sciences curricula in secondary grades.  No prior knowledge about the Dead Sea Scrolls or their historical context will be assumed.  Throughout the program educators will explore the following questions:

What do the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal about both the daily life and larger political and religious context of classical civilizations of the Mediterranean? 

How do modern technologies change the way scholars access and engage with primary sources? 

How is ownership of ancient artifacts determined?  How do modern political realities and geographic boundaries complexify this question?  

Workshop content supports learning standards articulated in the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  Through exploration of primary source material as well as secondary source analysis of these resources, students will engage with the following Anchor Standards in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects: 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis 
(e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Speaker Bios 

Shaye J.D. Cohen
Shaye J. D. Cohen is the Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of Harvard University. This is one of the oldest and most distinguished professorships of Jewish studies in the United States. Before arriving at Harvard in July 2001, Prof. Cohen was for ten years the Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. Prof. Cohen began his career at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he was ordained and for many years was the Dean of the Graduate School and Shenkman Professor of Jewish History. He received his Ph.D. in Ancient History, with distinction, from Columbia University in 1975.  The focus of Prof. Cohen's research is the boundary between Jews and gentiles and between Judaism and its surrounding cultures. What makes a Jew a Jew, and what makes a non-Jew a non-Jew? Can a non-Jew become a Jew, and can a Jew become a non-Jew? How does the Jewish boundary between Jew and non-Jew compare with the Jewish boundary between male Jew and female Jew? On these and other subjects Prof. Cohen has written or edited ten books and over sixty articles.

Gregory Bearman
Dr. Bearman is an imaging scientist with a background in spectral imaging and other analytical instrumentation and methods. Until 2008, he was a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research group at JPL concentrated on the development of new instruments and technologies for planetary spacecraft. He is a pioneer in the application of modern digital imaging and spectroscopy to ancient texts, archeology and biomedicine. His background in instrument development and calibration lends itself to the development of quantitative methods. Since 2008 he has been the imaging consultant to the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scroll Digital Library. Dr. Bearman has published widely on the development and application of spectral imaging to biomedicine, microscopy and cultural heritage. In addition, he has won two R&D 100 Innovation Awards (the Oscars of Technology) for imaging instrumentation.  

Shay Rabineau
Shay Rabineau is the Israel Institute Post-Doctoral fellow at the Schusterman Center, having recently earned his doctorate in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis. His dissertation, “Marking and Mapping the Nation: The History of Israel’s Hiking Trail Network,” traces the development of the Labor Zionist culture of scouting and exploring Palestine during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods, and examines the project of transforming the country’s unmarked paths into a modern system of hiking trails after the establishment of the State of Israel. His work is the first to examine Israel’s ten-thousand-kilometer network of trails – one of the most highly-developed trail systems in the world, and the only network of its kind in the Middle East – as a space upon which Israelis articulate their relationship with the Land of Israel.  Prior to attending Brandeis, Shay was a National Merit Scholar at the University of Oklahoma. 


Note: Registration will be limited to 25 educators and subsequent registrants will be placed on a waitlist. 

Please note: This event will be videotaped and photographed for use on the CMES website and in other CMES publications. The use of personal recording devices is strictly prohibited.

October 17, 2013 - 8:30am - October 28, 2013 - 8:30pm
Sarah Meyrick,
Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies Outreach Program, Brandeis University's Schusterman Center for Israeli Studies

As a Title VI National Resource Center, CMES is partially funding this program with U.S. Department of Education grant funds. The content of this program does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education.