He's a man in demand. As the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls--said to be the most important archaeological find of the 20th century--make a seven-month appearance at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Alex Jassen is serving as an academic adviser to the museum and speaking extensively around the community about the scrolls. An assistant professor of Classical and Near Eastern studies, his area of expertise is the literary heritage of Second-Temple Period Judaism (from the sixth to the first century B.C.E.), including the Scrolls.
"The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World" exhibit comprises fragments from familiar books like the Pentateuch, Psalms, and Isaiah, as well as extra-scriptural documents from the first century B.C.E. like the Community Rule and a Temple Scroll. Schismatic Jews, perhaps Essenes, who lived in the settlement of Qumran by the Dead Sea, hid the papyrus and animal skin documents in caves. They were discovered by a shepherd in 1947, and are now archived and conserved by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Jassen, who has been awarded a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, is currently researching the role of religious violence in the formation of the Qumran community.
The exhibition runs through October 24.
Visit Jassen's website to learn more about the scrolls, and for a list of his public lectures.