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News – Dead Sea Scrolls go online

October 2008

Dead Sea Scrolls go online

 

The Israeli authorities are taking digital photographs of the Dead Sea scrolls, the earliest known copies of the Hebrew Bible, and planning to put them online for public view. The project will take more than two years to complete, said the Israel Antiquities Authority, which looks after the 2000-year-old documents.

     Wandering Bedouin shepherds came upon the 900 scrolls by chance in caves near the Dead Sea in 1947. After a long process of deciphering, they were found to contain almost the entire Hebrew Bible and gave unique insights into the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus.

     The artefacts are considered among the most important archaeological discoveries of all time and until recently were only available to a small number of researchers. However, they were published in full seven years ago and new technology is helping to read parts that were previously illegible and make them available to a wider audience.

     New types of camera can now photograph the most fragile sections of the scrolls without causing damage – and so far 4000 pictures have been taken of 9000 scroll fragments. ‘We are able to see the scrolls in such detail that no one has before’, said Simon Tanner, a digital expert from King’s College London, who is in charge of data collection according to a report in the Telegraph newspaper.

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