Dead Sea Scrolls Go Digital

On New Interactive Website Created by the Israel Museum and Google. The Israel Museum recently launched its Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project, allowing users to examine and explore these ancient manuscripts at a level of detail never before possible. Developed in partnership with Google, the new website gives users access to searchable, fast-loading, high-resolution images of the scrolls, as well as short explanatory videos and background information on the texts and their history. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence, offer critical insight into Jewish society in the Land of Israel during the Second Temple Period, the time of the birth of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Five complete scrolls from the Israel Museum have been digitized for the project at this stage and are accessible online at dss.collections.imj.org.il

Dead Sea Scrolls Go Digital
The Scrolls that have been digitized thus far include the Great Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the War Scroll, with search queries on Google.com sending users directly to the online scrolls. All five scrolls can be magnified so that users may examine texts in exacting detail. Photographer Ardon Bar-Hama makes details invisible to the naked eye visible through ultra-high resolution digital photography – at up to 1,200 mega pixels each, these images are almost two hundred times higher in resolution than those produced by a standard camera. Each picture utilized UV-protected flash tubes with an exposure of 1/4000th of a second to minimize damage to the fragile manuscripts. In addition, the Great Isaiah Scroll may be searched by column, chapter, and verse, and is accompanied by an English translation tool and by an option for users to submit translations of verses in their own languages.

About the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE, they were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea. The manuscripts are generally attributed to an isolated Jewish sect, referred to in the scrolls as “the Community,” who settled in Qumran in the Judean desert.

The Israel Museum has been home to the Dead Sea Scrolls since it’s opening in 1965. The light-sensitive scrolls are housed and exhibited in the Shrine of the Book, designed by Armand Bartos and Frederic Kiesler, whose signature dome evokes the lids of the jars in which the scrolls were found. The scrolls that are now digitized and accessible through the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Project include:

• The Great Isaiah Scroll, inscribed with the Book of Isaiah and dating from ca. 125 BCE, is the only complete ancient copy of any biblical book in existence.

• The War Scroll dates to the late first century BCE or early first century CE and describes a confrontation between the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of Darkness”, which would last forty-nine years, ending with the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of Temple practice according to their beliefs.

• The Temple Scroll, from the early first century CE, claims to provide the details of God’s instructions for the construction and operation of the Temple in Jerusalem. Written on animal skin only one-tenth of a millimetre thick, it is the thinnest parchment scroll ever found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

• The Community Rule sheds light on the Community’s way of life, dealing with subjects such as the admission of new members, conduct at communal meals, prayer, cleansing rituals, and theological doctrines.

• The Commentary on Habakkuk interprets the first two chapters of the biblical book of the prophet Habakkuk in a unique style that makes it a key source of knowledge of the spiritual life of the secluded Qumran community, shedding light on the community's perception of itself.

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