In May 2007 a new museum opened at Masada showcasing archaeological finds unearthed at the site by the expedition from Hebrew University of Jerusalem directed by the late Prof. Yigael Yadin. The special and innovative display in the museum was planned with the assistance of: Gila Hurvitz– museum curator, Institute of Archaeology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Eliav Nahlieli - designer and producer, Programa 1, Tel Aviv. The display combines finds from the excavations and a theatrically designed backdrop with explanations that visitors hear through a headset.
To present the story of Masada in its historical context - the political and military processes that shaped the period - the finds are arranged around three main focal points: Herod, the rebels and the Roman army. The museum is divided into nine spaces by archaeological and historical content. It features three-dimensional scenes, sculpted figures, architectural elements, a floor and walls, all made to conform as much as possible to real finds of the period, but in hues of dark gray to black. Minimal lighting transforms the backdrop into a "present absence" which disappears into the darkness and emphasizes dramatic angles, while the archaeological finds are illuminated and accompanied by written explanations.
The close relationship between the archaeological finds and the backdrop manifests itself in each and every space. For example, a stone table and magnificent dishes are displayed with inscriptions on amphorae describing special types of food and wine, against a backdrop of a Herodian-era banquet. In another space, depicting rebel dwellings in casemate rooms, simple cooking pots are on view along with the remains of clothing, straw baskets, brushes and Hebrew inscriptions dealing with everyday life. Latin inscriptions and items connected to the Roman army are presented in another space in a scene depicting a military camp of the Roman Tenth Legion that besieged Masada.
Recorded explanations that visitors hear through their headphones link the finds to the backdrop imparting the feeling that visitors are the confidantes of the narrator who accompanies them as the story unfolds. It is first and foremost the historical saga that has come down to us through the writings of Josephus Flavius, whom visitors encounter as they begin their museum experience. They discover various episodes in the reign of Herod, builder of Masada, moving on to the period of the Great Revolt against the Romans when the rebels lived on the mountain, and ending with the Roman siege and the fall of Masada.
The last space is devoted to Masada’s excavator, Prof. Yigael Yadin. It concludes the fascinating story of Masada that begins with the chronicler and ends with the excavator. Headsets must be rented to visit the museum. They are equipped with a T-link hookup for the hearing-impaired provided by museum staff. Headsets for the museum may also be rented at the Masada National Park main cashier booths. Explanations are available in Hebrew and English. The rental fee of NIS 20 includes the rental of a headset for a guided tour on top of the mountain.
Credit: Israel Nature and Parks Authority