Dead Sea Scrolls unfurled online

Kathryn McConnachie
By Kathryn McConnachie, Digital Media Editor at ITWeb.
Johannesburg, 27 Sept 2011

Google, together with the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, has digitised the Dead Sea Scrolls - the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence.

High-resolution photographs of up to 1 200 megapixels, taken by Ardon Bar-Hama, show “even the most minute details” in the parchment.

According to Google, users can browse the Great Isaiah Scroll (which is found in most bibles) by chapter and verse. English translations are also available by clicking on the Hebrew text. A comments feature has also been enabled.

“The scroll text is also discoverable via Web search. If you search for phrases from the scrolls, a link to that text within the scroll viewers on the Dead Sea Scrolls collections site may surface in your search results,” says Google.

“It's taken 24 centuries, the work of archaeologists, scholars and historians, and the advent of the Internet to make the Dead Sea Scrolls accessible to anyone in the world.”

The scrolls are believed to have been written between the third and first centuries BCE. The scrolls were hidden in 11 caves in the Judean desert next to the Dead Sea, in order to protect them from the Roman armies in 68 BCE.

Discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947, the scrolls have been on display in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum since 1965.

Broader project

The latest project is part of a broader effort by Google to bring important cultural and historic collections online. Similar projects include the Google Art Project and the Yad Vashem Holocaust photo collection.

Earlier this year, Google also announced a $1.25 million grant to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to aid the preservation and digitisation of thousands of archival documents, photographs, audio recordings and film clips from Mandela's life.

A grant of the same size has also been made to the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, in Cape Town, for the documentation and digitisation of Tutu's archives, and an interactive digital learning centre.