September 26, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls now online

by Jan Harris

Parts of the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known biblical texts, have been digitised and made available online, so that anyone in the world can view them.

The 1,200 megapixel images show the 2,000-year-old scrolls in minute detail and scrolling over the image of the Great Isaiah Scroll generates an instant translation into English.

Only fragments remain of some of the scrolls, which are written on papyrus or parchment in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

Five scrolls were scanned at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem with expert help from Google, including the Temple Scroll, the War Scroll, The Community Rule Scroll and The Commentary of Habakkuk Scroll, as well as the Great Isaiah Scroll, which is the most famous of the artefacts.

The images were taken by photographer Ardon Bar-Hama, using ultraviolet-protected flash tubes in order to prevent further damage to the fragile documents.

The scrolls, which were discovered in caves near the Dead Sea, East of Jerusalem, contain secular writings as well as biblical texts.

It is believed that they were written by a Jewish sect from Qumran in the Judean Desert.

When the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, the artefacts were taken to the caves for safe-keeping.

And if viewing the scrolls online isn’t quite enough, 20 of them will be part of an exhibition of more than 500 ancient artefacts from Israel at Discovery Times Square in Manhattan.

It will be the first time that four of the scrolls have been made available for public viewing.

The exhibition will make its world premiere on 28 October.

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