Since the sacred text of the Dead Sea Scrolls was discovered in the 1940s few besides religious scholars were allowed to closely examine the centuries old text. Google now gives the world up close and personal access to the scrolls, thanks to a partnership with the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Both have put 5000 images of scroll fragments online at resolutions as high as 1215 dpi.
Access to the Dead Sea Scrolls compliment earlier efforts made last year by Google and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which put portions of the scrolls online as part of an ongoing exhibit. According to Google the scrolls when viewed at such high-resolution reveal a level of detail that are invisible to the naked eye.
“The site displays infrared and color images that are equal in quality to the Scrolls themselves,” Google Israel’s Principal for New Business Development, Eyal Miller, and the Head of Israel Research and Development Center, Yossi Matias, explained in a Google blog.
Among the scroll fragments on display at the online museum is one of the earliest copies of the Book of Deuteronomy, known for containing the 10 Commandments, and the Book of Genesis, which describes the creation of heaven and earth and the first humans’ banishment from the Garden of Eden.
At the digital library site, you can dive directly into eyeballing the scrolls, as well as learning about their background and that of the project’s sponsors. You can also read about the historical context for the scrolls and what’s been done to preserve them.
When browsing the scrolls, you can do so by site, language or content. As your cursor hovers over the thumbnail of a scroll fragment, you can see when the image was shot and even start an online conversation about it. Double-clicking on a fragment will increase its size.
Google’s partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority is part of the search giant’s effort to bring important cultural and historical materials to the Internet. Other Google initiatives include the Yad Vashem Holocaust photo collection,Google Art Project, World Wonders and the Google Cultural Institute.
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John Mello writes on technology and cyber security for a number of online publications and is former managing editor of the Boston Business Journal and Boston Phoenix. Disclosure: He also writes for Hewlett-Packad's marketing website TechBeacon.