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August 12: Eleazar Sukenik and the Dead Sea Scrolls

August 12, 2013

archeologist-dr-eliezer-l-sukenik-at-site-of-early-christian-tombIsraeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik, who helped establish the Department of Archaeology at Hebrew University and identified the antiquity of the Dead Sea Scrolls while convincing the Israeli government to acquire them, was born in Bialystok on this date in 1889. Sukenik was director of the Museum of Jewish Antiquities and made several important discoveries in his field work: He found remnants of a Hyksos fortification at Tell Jerishe, and directed the unearthing of the Third Wall in Jerusalem, and made famous the mosaic pavement that he unearthed at Beth Alpha. It was Sukenik who first recognized that the scrolls found in the first Qumran cave between 1946 and 1956 dated from the Second Temple period. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabatean, on parchment, papyrus, and bronze. The texts include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible. Sukenik was the father of the influential Israeli politician and archaeologist Yigal Yadin.

“When he began reading the Hebrew, Sukenik noted that the language was in a style similar to the Psalms, but the text was unknown to him. He brought the scrolls home to Jerusalem to study and several days later bought them. One was a collection of psalm-styled poems, later named the Thanksgiving Scroll, and the other was an apocalyptic description of a war in the end of days between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. The price of the scrolls was $324. Later Sukenik raised additional funds and bought a partial text of Isaiah (called Isaiah Manuscript 2) as well as two jars.” —Gila Yudkin

JEWDAYO ROCKS! Mark Knopfler, founder of Dire Straits and a terrific guitarist and singer/songwriter (whose father was a Hungarian Jewish Marxist refugee from the Holocaust), was born in Glasgow, Scotland on this date in 1948. To see him playing solo and acoustic, look below.