Thousands Of Fragments Of The Dead Sea Scrolls Went On-line

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Thousands of  fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls went on-line Tuesday (December 18, 2012) with the launch of a  new website by  Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Manuscripts  made up of  thousands of  fragments – discovered from 1947 and until the early 1960’s in the Judean  Desert along the western shore of the Dead Sea – are now available to the public online.  

The high resolution images are extremely detailed and can be accessed through various search options on the site.

The project uses the most advanced and innovative technologies available to image the entire collection of about 930 manuscripts, comprising thousands of  Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, in high-resolution and multiple spectra. Through this process, hundreds of images are now accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world over the Internet, with many thousands more on the way.

We have succeeded in recruiting the best minds and technological means to preserve this unrivalled cultural heritage treasure which belongs to all of us, so that the public with a touch of the screen will be able to freely access history in its fullest glamour.” – said Shuka Dorfman, Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) General Director

The IAA is collaborating with Google to upload all of the digitized Scrolls images online, enabling users to explore the manuscripts and their contents in a number of languages and formats.  Ultimately,  the images will be  accompanied  by meta-data including transcriptions,  translations  and  detailed bibliography.

The imaging technology used in this project is an innovative  MegaVision product that enables the digital imaging of every Scroll fragment in various wavelengths and in the highest resolution possible. This will allow long term monitoring for preservation purposes in a non-invasive and precise manner. The images are equal in quality to the actual physical Imaging a plate in three visible wavelengths in the IAA studio viewing of the Scrolls, thus eliminating the need for their repeated exposure and allowing their preservation for future generations.  The technology also helps recover traces of writing that have faded to invisibility over the years, with the help of  near-infra-red wavelengths.

The Qumran Caves Scrolls contain significant religious literature. They consist of  two types: “biblical” manuscripts—books found in today’s Hebrew Bible, and “non-biblical” manuscripts—other religious writings circulating during the Second Temple era, often related to the texts now in the Hebrew Bible. Of this second category, some are considered “sectarian” in nature, since they appear to describe the religious beliefs and practices of a specific religious community.

The scrolls, thought to have been written or collected by Jews who left Jerusalem for the desert in the time of the Second Temple two millennia ago, were one of the great archaeological discoveries of the 20th century.

Scroll dates range from the third century bce  (mid–Second Temple period)  to the first century of the  Common Era, before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce.  While Hebrew is the most frequently used language in the Scrolls,  about 15% were written in Aramaic and several in Greek.

The Scrolls’ materials are made up mainly of parchment,  although some are papyrus,  and the text of one Scroll is engraved on copper.

Explore the Archive – examine high-resolution  spectral  images  of  manuscript  fragments  and  browse  scans of  negatives  from the 1950s  here.

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