Dead Sea scrolls going digital on Internet

JERUSALEM Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:26am EDT

1 of 4. A preservationist works on a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls in a laboratory in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem October 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Scholars and anyone with an Internet connection will be able to take a new look into the Biblical past through an online archive of high-resolution images of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the custodian of the scrolls that shed light on the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus, said on Tuesday it was collaborating with Google's research and development center in Israel to upload digitized images of the entire collection.

Advanced imaging technology will be installed in the IAA's laboratories early next year and high-resolution images of each of the scrolls' 30,000 fragments will be freely accessible on the Internet. The IAA conducted a pilot imaging project in 2008.

"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 Authority said in a statement.

It said that the new technology would help to expose writing that has faded over the centuries and promote further research into one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century.

The scrolls, most of them on parchment, are the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible and include secular text dating from the third century BC to the first century AD.

For many years after Bedouin shepherds first came upon the scrolls in caves near the Dead Sea in 1947, only a small number of scholars were allowed to view the fragments.

But access has since been widened and they were published in their entirety nine years ago.

A few large pieces of scroll are on permanent display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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