Dead Sea Scrolls are resurrected online

Google and the Israel Museum have teamed up to place five digitized Dead Sea Scrolls online, allowing readers to view the ancient Hebrew texts in exquisite detail.

Indeed, the high resolution photographs, taken by Ardon Bar-Hama, are up to 1,200 megapixels, almost 200 times more than the average consumer camera – so viewers can see even the most minute details in the parchment. 

“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,” explained Google rep Eyal Miller.

“Today, as the new year approaches on the Hebrew calendar, we’re celebrating the launch of the Dead Sea Scrolls online; a project of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem powered by Google technology.”

According to Miller, users can easily browse the Great Isaiah Scroll by clicking directly on the Hebrew text and rendering an English translation.

“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,” said Miller.

“For example, search for [Dead Sea Scrolls ‘In the day of thy planting thou didst make it to grow’], and you may see a link to Chapter 17:Verse 11 within the Great Isaiah Scroll.”

Written between the third and first centuries BCE, the Dead Sea Scrolls include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. In 68 BCE, they were hidden in 11 caves in the Judean desert on the shores of the Dead Sea to protect them from the approaching Roman armies. 

They weren’t discovered again until 1947, when a Bedouin shepherd threw a rock in a cave and realized something was inside.

Since 1965, the scrolls have been on exhibit at the Shrine of the Book at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Among other topics, the scrolls offer critical insights into life and religion in ancient Jerusalem, including the birth of Christianity.