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On Exhibit: Ancient Qumran Comes Alive


By Jack Feuer

Published Jul 1, 2007 8:00 AM

Copyright © Photo by Robert R. Cargill

It is two thousand years ago, shortly after the time of Jesus Christ. On the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in what will one day be called Israel, the members of a secretive sect who called themselves the "Yahad" lived and worked, reverentially and painstakingly, on scrolls that contain all of their beliefs — biblical commentary, prayer texts and prophecies of a coming apocalypse.

Then the Romans came and the scroll-makers hid their manuscripts in nearby caves. The sect did not survive. But the Dead Sea Scrolls did, and in 1947, Bedouin herders first stumbled upon them in 11 caves near Khirbet Qumran.

How did the Yahad live? What did their home look like? What was existence like in the dim past of the Middle East, in a world that influenced the birth of modern Judaism and Christianity?

You don't have to wonder — the archaeological marvel that is Qumran awaits you. In person. In San Diego.

Debuting at the San Diego Natural History Museum on June 29 as part of the museum's Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit and on display through Dec. 31 is the Qumran Visualization Project, an extraordinary virtual tour of Khirbet Qumran. Ancient Qumran: A Virtual Reality Tour, shown on the museum's giant-screen theater, was designed by UCLA doctoral candidate Robert R. Cargill, studying under William Schniedewind, Qumran Visualization Project director and chair of the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. The project is supported by the UCLA Experiential Technologies Center.

Using the most sophisticated technology available, the project virtually re-creates the ancient site, reconstructing every room at Khirbet Qumran and its artifacts. In three dimensions, you'll see how the original structure was a fortress, defended on the west and south by a sharp precipice and defended on the northwest by a massive tower.

You'll learn, by "being" there, what life was like at the site, including pottery making and, of course, scroll manufacturing.

Ancient Qumran: A Virtual Reality Tour is included in museum admission. The theater is seated on a first-come, first-served basis. Showings begin on the hour and half-hour.

Ancient Qumran: A Virtual Reality Tour. June 29-December 31. San Diego Natural History Museum. 1788 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets $28, $24 (students/military with ID, kids 13-17), $15 (children 3-12). For tickets and more information, log on to or call (619) 232-3821.



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