New Dead Sea Scrolls research on TV

Scholar recaps new research on Dead Sea Scrolls for TV

After 12 years of researching the Dead Sea Scrolls, UCLA archaeologist Robert Cargill couldn’t believe his luck last January when he finally got to penetrate archaeology’s Holy of Holies – the underground vault beneath the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. There he read from the Isaiah Scroll, the oldest-known copy of any book of the Bible.

“Nobody I know has ever been down there,” recalled Cargill, the instructional technology coordinator for UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities and an adjunct assistant professor of Near Eastern Languages and Culture. “As a scholar, it’s as close as you can get to a religious experience.”

The moving moment is captured in an hour-long exploration of new research on the Dead Sea Scrolls that will air next week on the National Geographic Channel. Religious texts dated between 150 BC and 70 AD and written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek on parchment or papyrus, the scrolls include the oldest known surviving copies of the Bible as well as religious commentary from the flowering of Jewish culture that followed the return from the exile in Babylon.

As the narrator for “Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Cargill talked to nine archaeologists and other scholars who are conducting research that is challenging old assumptions about the authorship of the texts. 

Cargill also takes viewers to the Western Wall, one of the last remnants of Jerusalem’s Second Temple, where scrolls may have been kept and used prior to the first-century Jewish Revolt, as well as to an ancient sewer system beneath Jerusalem.

The documentary is scheduled to air Tuesday, July 27, at 9 p.m. It will be rebroadcast on Tuesday, Aug. 3, at 2 p.m. For more information, go here.