Home inContext Googling the Dead Sea Scrolls

Googling the Dead Sea Scrolls

Samara Greenberg

Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Google are joining forces to bring the Dead Sea Scrolls to Internet users worldwide, allowing both scholars and the general public to access the ancient manuscripts for the first time. The project will grant free, worldwide access to the 2,000-year-old text by uploading high-resolution images that are exact copies of the originals. The first photographs are slated to be online within months, and the entire collection within five years.

The scrolls, believed to be “one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th Century,” were first discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea in 1947. Primarily written in Hebrew with parts in Greek and Aramaic, the scrolls contain the earliest known copies of almost every book of the Hebrew Bible, including the oldest surviving copy of the text of the Ten Commandments.

One of the many fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls

“The images will be equal in quality to the actual physical viewing of the scrolls, thus eliminating the need for re-exposure of the scrolls and allowing their preservation for future generations,” the IAA said in a statement. “The technology will also help rediscover writing and letters that have ‘vanished’ over the years; with the help of infra-red light and wavelengths beyond,” it said. The scrolls will be available in their original languages as well as in English.

Indeed, the plans to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls is an amazing feat and exciting news for all, as it will allow scholars and the general public alike to place the scrolls’ many different fragments together and potentially discover new meaning and insight.