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Thursday, October 19, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

Seek, and ye shall ... probably have to seek some more

Seattle Times staff reporter

Emerald City Search Clue #1

Though ancient scribes were experts in this,
today's specialists may not agree.
If you add up the way of the seeker,
it's a simple two hundred and three.

Ten days. Ten clues. One medallion. $2,500.

The first Seattle-wide Dead Sea Scrolls-themed treasure hunt — the Emerald City Search — begins today, starting with the first clue on this page.

One clue will follow each day for the next nine days.

Each of these sometimes-rhyming, sometimes-pun-laden riddles will deal with facts and trivia about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and each will reveal information about where a medallion is hidden, somewhere on public property in Seattle. You have 10 days to find the medallion. The first one there gets $2,500 in cash and prizes.

"For clues No. 1 through 4, no one has a hope," dares Julie Stein, director of the Burke Museum by day and assistant clue-writer by night. "After that, it gets a little easier. A little."

Where to look — and not

A few initial hints? The medallion is in plain sight. It's not at the Pacific Science Center (or anywhere at Seattle Center). And you don't have to destroy, overturn or alter anything to get to it.

On your mark? Get set ...

Hold the phone.

What do the Dead Sea Scrolls — biblical and sectarian manuscripts found in 2,000-year-old pieces of pottery in the desert of Israel — have to do with a modern-day treasure hunt in the urban landscape of Seattle?

Well, for one, the Scrolls are a whole lot more than just index-card-sized fragments of ancient goat hide in a museum somewhere. They contain ancient lists of community rules, scholarly commentary and chapters of the Bible — Genesis, Deuteronomy, Exodus, to name a few — that outdate the only other full Biblical manuscripts written in Hebrew by 1,000 years.

Since their happenstance discovery by a Bedouin goat shepherd in 1947, these texts have served as missing puzzle-pieces and downright puzzling pieces to religious groups and a community of historians internationally.

And, for another, the "Copper Scroll" makes reference to an ancient, real hidden treasure, which is buried somewhere in the salt-steeped caves of ancient Israel. Scientists are still piecing together that mystery today. (Indiana Jones, anyone?)

"When you start thinking about it, a treasure hunt just seems the most appropriate way to get people to learn about [the Scrolls]," explains Karen Tollenaar Demorest, who is spearheading the Emerald City Search in conjunction with Alumni and Community Relations of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Burke Museum and the Hillel Center at the University of Washington. "That, and we didn't want to host another lecture."

Sending us on a quest

The Emerald City Search committee, including Dead Sea Scrolls expert Professor Scott Noegel, wrote the clues with a purpose in mind: They wanted to send Seattle-area residents on a quest — a quest for the answers to the riddles (through the annals of Google, perhaps); a quest for the location of the medallion (through the streets of our own Seattle); and, ultimately, a quest for information about the origins and importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves (through the exhibit at the Pacific Science Center).

Stanley Chernicoff, a geology lecturer and chief clue-writer, hopes the treasure hunt will also help collapse the 7,000 miles and 2,000 years between modern Seattle and ancient Canaan. The nature of the clues requires that players first imagine visiting the desolate, rose-orange lands northwest of the Dead Sea where the Scrolls were found, Chernicoff explains, and then go on to explore Seattle's own gray-green urban landscape, in search of the medallion. At least one of the clues makes reference to the history of Seattle as well.

"Writing clues with all that overlapping time and place was tough," Stein says. "It made my brain hurt."

A community connection

The treasure hunt is also intended to forge a connection between us and the ancient community — probably a Judaic sect that settled in ancient Khirbat Qumran called the Essenes — that studied, transcribed and stored the Scrolls originally. Today, hundreds of thousands of modern Judeo-Christian believers read, study and transcribe those same words, often verbatim, that are found in the scrolls, and many Jewish communities still perform the same rituals listed in the sectarian manuscripts that the Essenes were practicing 2,000 years ago.

"Rituals, these acts of doing the same thing at the same time every year, or every day, forever, regardless of where you are, builds community," says Rabbi William Berkovitz. "It's amazing to read these texts and I think, hey, I still do that!"

Chernicoff hopes the Emerald City Search, if it becomes an annual event connected to a different exhibit each year, will be the beginning of a modern "ritual" in its own right. He fondly remembers participating every year as a child with his father in a similarly run Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt in St. Paul, Minn., which has been going on since 1952. Portland's Oregonian newspaper also holds an annual treasure hunt during the Rose Festival each May.

The Emerald City Search, he says, "could become something that people look forward to, something they remember doing when they were younger, and something their kids will do. It could really bring Seattle together."

"And in the meantime, it's going to be nonderisive and educational," says Noegel. "And a whole lot of fun."

Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745 or hedwards@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published October 19, 2006, was corrected October 25, 2006. A previous version of this story stated that the Dead Sea Scrolls outdate other Biblical texts by 1,000 years. In fact, they outdate the only other full Biblical manuscripts written in Hebrew by 1,000 years. Also, a previous version misidentified the person who took part in a similar treasure hunt in Minnesota. It was Rabbi William Berkovitz who participated in the Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt, which takes place in St. Paul, not Minneapolis.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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