Explorations adds exhibit of Bible-era artifacts


Amphora jars from ancient shipwrecks are part of a new exhibit at Explorations in Antiquity. 

Explorations in Antiquity in LaGrange will soon open its Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery, displaying real antiquities from the Bronze Age through the late Byzantine Period.

The Explorations in Antiquity Center is an educational experience focused on ancient Middle-Eastern history. Its purpose is to help people experience the ancient biblical world, its history and culture.

Since its founding in 2005, the center has been praised for its excellence in accurately portraying what life would have been like for everyday people living in Israel — throughout both Old and New Testament periods — in contrast to the theatrical evangelism of other 'time-of-Jesus'-type attractions.

Explorations favors an educational approach which ties together history, geography, theology and archaeology and lets the visitor draw his or her own conclusions. The walk-though living history museum features The Life of the Shepherd, The Life of the Farmer and The Life of the Village, a Roman theater and market street.

There also is the Archaeological Garden, with life-size reproductions and foliage accurate to the region, including almond, pomegranate, ficus, fig, olive and date palm.

Explorations is taking biblical history a step further in opening its Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery. Explorations is one of only seven museums worldwide selected by the Israel Antiquities Authority to receive a permanent collection of artifacts.

The three other collections in the United States are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jewish Museum in New York and The Skirball Museum in Los Angeles, making Explorations' collection the only permanent collection from the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Southeast.

A new exhibit hall has been carefully constructed to be humidity controlled, tornado-proof, fire-proof and burglary-proof to ensure the safety of some of Israel's national treasures.

Seven exhibits will tie into the living replicas in the garden outside of the exhibit hall, including the farmer, shepherd and village recreation. The exhibits will also include several new areas of ancient Israelite life, including the lives of fishermen, tombs from th Old and New Testament eras — even an undersea shipwreck scene.

Each exhibit's artifacts will be displayed in their original context in keeping with the spirit of Explorations, so that visitors can best see how each item was originally used. Artifacts displayed will be as simple as oil lamps, sickle blades, loom weights and coins used by villagers in their daily routines, and as special and unique as a replica ship hull displaying artifacts retrieved from real ancient shipwrecks including amphorae used to transport wine or oil.

A replica New Testament tomb will feature ossuaries, carved stone boxes used to hold the bones of long-dead ancestors, and an ancient tomb door mounted at its entrance. The Life of the Village exhibit will show how food was stored and prepared, and how families buried and honored their dead.

Everything from ancient game boards to figurines and beads of stone and glass will be available for the visitor to explore in a replica of its original environment and imagine its use 2000 years ago.

The items selected for the new exhibit were chosen with guidance from the Center's founder, Dr. James Fleming, who is not only a Biblical archaeologist and scholar but also a true academic. Fleming was involved in some of the excavations where the artifacts were unearthed.

Fleming has spent nearly 40 years living and working in Israel, where he founded the Biblical Resources Study Center and The World of the Bible Archaeological Museum and Pilgrim Center. He was the director and academic dean of the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies from 1980-1987.

Currently, Fleming is an adjunct faculty member for several accredited graduate programs sending students to study in Israel. He also serves on the advisory board of Biblical Archaeology Review.

The Explorations in Antiquity Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. There is an admission charge, and several different tours and programs are offered.

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