A little more than a year ago a collaboration between Google and the Israel Museum allowed putting on line five Dead Sea Scrolls. Now the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has launched the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, a new site that is home to about 5,000 images of fragments of those scrolls for a total of more than 900 manuscripts in a quality never seen before.
These fragments include some of the oldest versions of parts of the Jewish Bible and other texts dating back to about 2,000 years ago. Since 1947, these scrolls were discovered near the western shore of the Dead Sea, particularly in the area of Qumran, and for several years manuscripts of various kinds were found. Part of them were attributed to the sect of the Essenes but there’s still a controversy about it among scholars.
After decades of attempts to reconstruct the fragmented and controversy rolls on access to this archaeological heritage, a few years ago started a huge scan job. The collaboration of Google, which in recent years has been participating in various cultural initiatives that aim to preserve materials of historical importance, is allowing us to put online all the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Google has used several of its technologies for the creation of this new site, from Google Storage to the App Engine for their hosting to Google image technology for their scanning but also Google Maps and YouTube for the interactive maps and documentaries. In fact, the site also includes several interactive contents to better understand the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
All scholars but also ordinary people curious to take a look at these fragments still partly mysterious can now browse the new site to see the images at a resolution of 1,215 dpi. It’s therefore possible to have details that wouldn’t be possible to see with the naked eye also thanks to the infrared images. Obviously, there are zoom functions to see the details of a fragment.
Now we can hope that the translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be completed and verified without further controversy and paranoia. At this point, all the work has become very public and open, making this archaeological treasure available to everyone.