In the last two centuries, archaeological discoveries have piqued public interest in the history of humanity and the validity of the Scriptures.
Archeological digs in the Holy Land region increased in the early 19th century with European funding and the establishment of advanced study and research centers in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Palestine, and Jordan were the first areas to be researched, between 1865 and 1898. It was only after 1922, with British rule in Palestine, that archeologists specifically sought artifacts to corroborate biblical accounts.
It is precisely in this context that one of the main findings referring to the biblical era, the Dead Sea Scrolls, was found in the Qumran caves. The archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran, located 35 kilometers east of Jerusalem, housed about 930 fragments of the manuscripts dating from 250 BC to 100 AD.
The manuscripts are currently maintained by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The curator of this collection is Adolfo Roitman. During the First International Congress of Archeology hosted at the Adventist University Center of São Paulo (UNASP)- Engenheiro Coelho campus, October 12-15, Roitman presented details and curiosities of the scrolls found in clay jars by a Bedouin while tending sheep.
"These manuscripts are Jewish, found by Bedouins, archaeologists and researchers in a very inhospitable area. They represent the most important archaeological finding of the Christian Era. To the general public, biblical manuscripts gain much meaning. In Qumran, we found 230 copies and fragments of the Hebrew Bible, with the exception of the book of Esther," says Roitman. "Thirty copies of the book of Isaiah were found in the caves of Qumran. All copies were complete and in good state of preservation,"he points out.
Roitman also asserts that there is consistent evidence to state that the region of the Khirbet Qumran archaeological site can be considered a pole of literary production in the period before the Christian Era, a conclusion that would justify the presence of fragments of manuscripts.
UNASP Museum of Biblical Archeology possesses the only collection of the area in South America, with almost 2,500 artifacts from Israel and Canaan, plus Sumerian, Persian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations. Seventy units showcasing the culture of the ancient Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Europe (before the Middle Ages) were exhibited during the congress.
One of the most interesting pieces on display was the replica of the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, 1324 BC. He died as a young man after he married a half-sister at the age of eight. His grave was found in 1922, and still contained gold pieces, fabric, furnishings, weapons and sacred texts. The sarcophagus is decorated with gold and the symbols of Egyptian royalty.
UNASP-Engenheiro Coelho campus, collaborating with Moriá Center Institute, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, hosted the four-day unpublished congress. Over 900 hundred people attended. Dori Goren, the Israeli Consul in Brazil, praised the initiative, claiming it to be a milestone for Brazil and Israel. "We are privileged to host this landmark congress for these two nations in future research, academic, and cultural exchanges," he emphasizes.
Archeologists Eli Shukron (Israel), Katia Cytryn-Silverman (Israel), David Sedaca (United States), Rodrigo Silva (Brazil) and Jorge Fabro (Brazil) also attended the event.
For Ana Emilia and Ricardo Almeida, a couple from Guaratinguetá, in the interior of São Paulo, the meeting was memorable. "We came because of archaeologist Rodrigo Silva. He is an authority for Brazilians and taking lessons with him was unforgettable. We have a social project through a Catholic community in our city and the content learned here will help us collaborate more, "said Almeida.
Regina Alcântara traveled more than three thousand miles with her husband, from Rondônia to Engenheiro Coelho, to attend the meeting. "I never imagined having so much knowledge in one place! This congress has given us the opportunity to understand the Bible in a broader and more detailed way,” she says.
UNASP-Engenheiro Coelho campus director, Paulo Martini says that hosting the event on campus was an honor. "It is a huge privilege for the institution to participate in the Congress of Archeology with the greatest archeologists in Brazil, discussing a subject as important and relevant as the sacred scriptures," he says.
For Rodrigo Silva, curator of the Museum of Archeology at UNASP and speaker for Hope Channel’s Novo Tempo (New Time) the event was historic, not only for UNASP and the Adventist Church, but also for Brazil. “It is the first Congress of Biblical Archeology; no other has brought so many Israeli archaeologists into one place to talk about science, archeology, and the Bible,” he says.
For Ariel Horovitz, organizer and general director of the Moriá Center Institute, the Congress aspired to reach new audiences. "It was a unique opportunity for us to share a science called Archeology and introduce many to Israel,” he concludes.