Turning Point for Dead Sea Scrolls
Photograph by Sebastian Scheiner, AP
The Dead Sea Scrolls—the oldest known surviving biblical and extra-biblical texts in the world—are slated to be scanned with high-resolution multispectral imaging equipment and shared online, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Google announced Tuesday, when this picture was taken in an IAA lab.
Discovered in caves near the Dead Sea in the 1940s and 1950s, the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek scrolls date to between 150 B.C. and A.D. 70. They include copies of nearly every book in the Old Testament as well as others that are not part of the traditional canon, such as the Gospel of Judas (time line of early Christianity).
The high-tech imaging of the scrolls—to be conducted with Google's research and development operation in Israel—was originally conceived as part of an IAA initiative to conserve the thousands of delicate papyrus and parchment fragments and monitor their conditions much more accurately and noninvasively.
According to the IAA, the technology will also help scholars rediscover writing and letters that have "vanished" over the years. And "since we're going to have the best possible images," said Pnina Shor, the IAA's Dead Sea Scrolls project manager, "we said, 'Why don't we take all the images, add to them all the translations, the transcriptions, the commentary and put them online?'"
—Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel
Published October 20, 2010