By GUY LAMOLINARA
Although the Dead Sea Scrolls may be the best-known archaeological objects held at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), they are by no means the only ones.
"The Dead Sea Scrolls take up a lot of our time, but they do not take up the time of all the employees of the Authority," said Ayala Sussmann, an archaeologist at the IAA in Jerusalem who is writing the exhibition catalog for "Scrolls from the Dead Sea."
"There are archaeological digs going on all over Israel," added Ruth Peled, also an IAA archaeologist, who oversees the cataloging and storage of all antiquities held at the Authority. Ms. Peled and Ms. Sussmann were at the Library in March during preparations for the exhibition.
The Israel Antiquities Authority oversees all archaeological "digs" done in Israel. The IAA has divided the nation into a grid, with each square covering an area of 10,000 meters. The agency periodically publishes a comprehensive report, the Survey of Israel, on activities and discoveries in each of these areas. Ms. Sussmann supervises the Survey and two other publications: a general-interest periodical and a more scholarly one, in addition to monographs. Although the IAA oversees the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Oxford University Press is the official publisher.
"We have digs going on all the time," said Ms. Peled. We give the license for the digs and we also issue building permits. We clear a proposed site for new construction, because so often in Israel, you come across antiquities on the sites."
It is also the job of Ms. Peled and others at the IAA to balance the needs of scholars with the need to ensure that the scrolls remain in their present state. "Very rarely does a scroll scholar work with the actual fragment," she explained. "They are working with photographs of the fragments."
Added Ms. Sussmann: "For example, only if the fragment is creased, and you want to be sure you know what you are looking at, would you go to the original. We try to prevent that as much as possible because we want them handled as little as possible.
"These are very delicate materials, you know. Two thousand years old," she continued. "There isn't much experience with their preservation."
The loan of 12 scrolls to the Library is the first time the IAA has released the materials since they came under Israeli control after the 1967 Six-Day War. "Our director was very anxious that people get a chance to see the scrolls," said Ms. Peled. "There is a craving to see them, and the director thought it was a fine idea" that they come to America.
Ms. Sussmann agreed: "We have things to show and we want to show them. It is no secret that some people think we are hiding them, but it's not the case. We don't have anything to hide. We want the public to see what we do."