Dead Sea Scrolls scholars may soon pour over enhanced copies of the ancient scripts in a digital library posted in a joint project between Israel’s Antiquities Authority and Google Inc.’s Israeli development center.
“The project will provide unlimited access to one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century, crucial to biblical studies and the history of Judaism and early Christianity,” Shuka Dorfman, the authority director, said in an e-mailed statement today.
The people who wrote the scrolls hid them in caves along the shore of the Dead Sea, probably about the time the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The scrolls, so fragile that direct light cannot shine on them, were discovered between 1947 and 1956.
The online library being developed with Google at a cost of millions of dollars will include online data to allow users to search in a number of languages and formats, the authority said. The unprecedented access may lead to new insights, according to the statement.
The joint project, which is the first time the entire collection of 900 documents will be photographed since the 1950s, will post its first images online within a few months.
Advanced imaging technology will render the digital copies equal in quality to a physical viewing of the scrolls, eliminating the need for their re-exposure and better preserving the originals for future generations. With the aid of infra-red light, it will also bring back letters and fragments invisible to the naked eye, according to the statement.
“This project will enrich and preserve an important and meaningful part of world heritage by making it accessible to all on the Internet,” Yossi Matias, director of the Google-Israel center, said in the statement.
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