Celebrating 50 Years in 2017

Brent Seales

Madison Biblical Archaeology Society is celebrating 50 years of archaeological history with a Friday evening lecture on October 20, 2017.

Professor Brent Seales will present, "Digital Unwrapping: Homer, Herculaneum, and the Scroll from En-Gedi," highlighting his ground-breaking research that is allowing modern scholars to access carbonized ancient texts that have been unreadable up to now. Professor Seales earned his PhD in computer science at the University of Wisconsin and is currently chair of the computer science department at the University of Kentucky.

Professor Seales has developed a software program that digitally unwraps ancient scrolls that have burned to a crisp and are otherwise unreadable. His program successfully analyzed a computerized tomography scan (CT-scan) of a 2,000-year old scroll recovered from the 1970 excavation of a burned synagogue at En Gedi, an oasis on the shore of the Dead Sea in Israel. When the scroll was finally readable, it turned out to be the biblical book of Leviticus. He is also working on virtually unrolling carbonized scrolls recovered from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, burned but not destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

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“Brent Seales has made a career of unlocking lost secrets. With specialized software he and his team developed, the University of Kentucky computer scientist can read ancient scrolls too fragile to unroll.”
- Discover magazine, May 2017

“Brent Seales has unlocked the text in the early Leviticus scroll from En Gedi — the oldest Pentateuchal scroll in Hebrew outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”
- Sci-News.com, September 2016

The lecture will be presented at Upper House, located at 365 E. Campus Mall, Room 200, on the University of Wisconsin campus, beginning at 7:00pm on October 20, 2017. The public is invited to this free lecture. The society gratefully acknowledges the co-sponsorship of the Stephen and Laurel Brown Foundation for this event, with additional financial support from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and allgodspeople.com.

Parking is available below Upper House. Enter off of Lake Street between University Avenue and Johnson Street.

This event is also being held in celebration of International Archaeology Day, October 21, 2017.

Download a poster for this talk.

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Recent Programs

Sidnie White Crawford

On May 7, 2017, Sidnie White Crawford, professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska, spoke on The Qumran Scrolls As A Scribal Collection

Sidnie White Crawford has spoken before the society previously on her internationally recognized Dead Sea Scroll research; her topic in 2001 was "Not According to Rule: Women, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran." This time she took a broader view of Dead Sea Scroll research and with some references to her latest project which argues that Qumran served as a library and scribal center in competition with the Temple in Jerusalem, and that the manuscripts found in the eleven caves at Qumran are the remnants of that library.

Dr. Crawford currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, the American headquarters for archaeological research in the Holy Land. This was her second lecture before the Madison Biblical Archaeology Society.

On March 19, 2017, Joel Pless, professor of Theology at Wisconsin Lutheran College, gave a lecture on The People of Pompeii.

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. It remains to this day one of the most valuable archaeological sites for learning about the daily life and times of a first century Roman city, a city of the New Testament era. Professor Pless described the sequence of events as the volcano erupted and buried the city under volcanic ash. He examined pictures of the plaster casts of the human victims of the Pompeii eruption in their final moments of life.

Professor Pless teaches New Testament and church history at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

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The Dead Sea Scrolls have been a major topic of events throughout the 50-year history of MBAS, and so it was appropriate that our first lecture of this semicentennial year would return us to that momentous discovery in the Qumran caves overlooking the Dead Sea. We look forward to more special lectures this year, during our 50th anniversary year.

For information on MBAS or to join the email list to be notified of future MBAS events, contact MBAS secretary Gordon Govier.

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MBAS has been active in Madison for a half-century. Professor Menahem Mansoor began MBAS in 1967, out of a desire to offer the public an opportunity to learn more about the development and significance of Biblical Archaeology. The Purpose of MBAS is to promote the knowledge of, and an interest in, Biblical Archaeology in the Madison area and throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Activities include lectures, field trips, and movies. MBAS also encourages its members to volunteer at archaeological excavations in Israel and adjacent countries. Members of the Society have participated in excavations in Israel and Jordan since 1976. MBAS membership is open to anyone who is interested in Biblical Archaeology. MBAS is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, and contributions are tax deductible.

Membership dues:

Please make checks payable to MBAS and mail to:
Madison Biblical Archaeology Society
910 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive
Madison WI 53706

To find out about recent topics and guest lecturers, check the 1997-2016 MBAS MEETINGS ARCHIVE. For further information on MBAS activities or to contact MBAS, contact MBAS secretary Gordon Govier.

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