Dead Sea Scrolls published online in joint Google-Israeli high-tech project

The Israel Antiquities Authority, with the help of Google, has digitized and uploaded 5,000 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including books that are not found in today’s Hebrew canon or the Christian Old Testament.

A copy of a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls is presented during a joint Israel Antiquities Authority, IAA, and Google press conference in Jerusalem.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been secreted away for most of their 2,000-year history — first by ancient people in the Khirbet Qumran caves near the Dead Sea and then by select groups of scholars in museums, universities, and even private collections.

Now Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) are making these sacred texts, including some that aren’t in today’s Bible, available to anyone who has a computer and a curious mind.

The IAA has digitized and released high resolution scans of 5,000 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments and the Judeo-Christian creation story. Since the texts were written on parchment and papyrus, many sections are worn, faded and completely illegible to the human eye. But the IAA is using NASA technology to photograph and upload copies of the texts at a quality never seen before.

“Only five conservators worldwide are authorized to handle the Dead Sea Scrolls,” IAA director Shuka Dorfman said in a press release. “Now, everyone can ‘touch’ the scrolls on-screen around the globe, and view them in spectacular quality, equivalent to the original.”



The team at the Israel Antiquities Authority uses NASA technology to compile multiple photographs of each fragment into one image.

It took five years of detailed work for the researchers at IAA to get to where they are now. Each fragment, some as small as dimes, is photographed 28 times front and back, using a camera system that can take photographs in different reflective wavelengths, according to FoxNews. A photographer then combines all of the exposures into one multispectral image, revealing words that were invisible for centuries.

“It is now like a dream come true,” Pnina Shor, the Dead Sea Scrolls project director told CNN, “Because now not only the scholarly world is going to care for this but the public as well. »

The scrolls were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Nabatean. To make them truly accessible to the public, the IAA will need to provide translations for all of the fragments. The organization is working on it, according to Dr. Shani Tzoref, a Dead Sea Scrolls researcher at the IAA.

“The intention [is to] add transcriptions, translation, and other user tools as we continue to develop the site,” Tzoref wrote in an email to the Daily News.

In 1947, while looking for a goat, a Bedouin shepherd wandered into a cave in the Judean Desert that contained some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over the next few years, hundreds of manuscripts were found scattered throughout the area, according to an IAA press release. Collectively, the site of the discoveries is known as the Qumran caves.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has the first seven scrolls that were discovered in Qumran Cave 1, according Tzoref. The museum partnered with Google last year to upload five of these, including a searchable version of the Book of Isaiah. (Try searching for “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb Dead Sea Scroll”on Google).



It took IAA researchers five years to upload high resolution images of 5,000 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The IAA has acquired most of the manuscripts discovered afterward, in nearby caves and elsewhere in the Judean Desert. The Book of Genesis, the Ten Commandments, and the apocalyptic prophecies of the prophet Daniel might be familiar to today’s Jewish and Christian worshippers. Viewers can zoom into the Book of Paleoleviticus, which contains bans against the ancient practice of sacrificing children to the Semitic god Moloch. The online collection also features fragments from the book of Psalms, including seven that are not found in the standard version of the Bible.

The collection also showcases books that are not in today’s Hebrew canon or the Christian Old Testament, including the Book of Enoch and the Book of War.


THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 2013, 2:33 PM


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