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Highlights from the Israel Antiquities Authority: The Dead Sea Scrolls and 5,000 Years of Treasures

Exhibition Dates: February 9–August 10, 2008

San Francisco, November 2007–Highlights from the Israel Antiquities Authority: The Dead Sea Scrolls and 5,000 Years of Treasures, at the Legion of Honor from February 9 to August 10, 2008, will include rotating examples of the rare and precious Dead Sea Scroll fragments in addition to artifacts spanning over 5000 years, from the Chalcolithic Age (4,000 BC) to the Fatimid Period (11th century AD).  The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in history. They were uncovered by Bedouin herders and excavated by archaeologists in caves along the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.  Fragments of the scrolls were pieced together to form more than 800 documents, many of them Biblical and Apocryphal manuscripts. All of the treasures on view are on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and most have never been seen outside of Israel.  “Highlights from the Israel Antiquities Authority and our partnership with the IAA call attention to Israel’s rich archaeological heritage and the importance of these splendid objects, many of which are national treasures, emanating from the Holy Land,” says curator of ancient art and interpretation Renée Dreyfus.  

Located in Gallery 1, this small-scale exhibition is the first in a series, and provides an introduction to future joint exhibitions with the IAA.  Highlights among the nearly 50 objects include funerary ossuaries, cultic altars from the Canaanite period, Roman glass vessels, a mosaic from a Byzantine monastery in Jerusalem, and gold coins and jewelry from Tiberias dating to the Fatimid Period.  On display for the first time anywhere is a newly excavated and restored glass table with gold foil from a Byzantine villa.  The first Dead Sea Scroll on view is from the Book of Psalms, one of the best-preserved biblical examples and dates to the 1st century AD.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have a collaboration agreement with the Israel Antiquities Authority designed to enhance international cultural cooperation.  The exclusive accord is the first-ever such agreement between the IAA and another cultural institution.  The formalized relationship was created in the spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation and will allow the two institutions to work together on a series of worthy and ambitious projects and exhibitions that would not otherwise be possible. The collaboration is based on the principle of equal participation from both institutions in joint activities and reciprocal exchanges.  

In conjunction with Highlights  from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Helen Diller Family Foundation’s Annual Lecture Series focusing on recent archaeological discoveries in Israel continues with “City of David: Present Discoveries,” organized by IAA and scheduled for April 9, 2008, at 7:00 pm at the de Young Museum’s Koret Auditorium.  Professor Ronny Reich, Senior Archaeologist of the City of David Excavations is the guest lecturer.

Highlights  from the Israel Antiquities Authority is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Israel Antiquities Authority from the collections of the National Treasures and is supported by Bernard and Barbro Osher and American Express.

Ancient art at the Legion of Honor
The Fine Arts Museums' collection of ancient art includes antiquities from the ancient Mediterranean world and the Near East, including Greece, Rome, Egypt, Assyria, and other Near Eastern sites, dating back to 2500 BC. Objects on display in the Legion of Honor include pottery, sculpture, glass, and metalwork.

Fine examples from the ancient art collection are the Winged Genius and a group of delicately carved ivories from Nimrud (in present-day northern Iraq).  These pieces offer a unique opportunity to see great treasures from the ancient Near East.