Dead Sea Scrolls Are Now Available Online
December 18, 2012

Google Helps Bring Dead Sea Scrolls To The Internet

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

The Internet is an amazing thing, opening up the doors to countless libraries and allowing for the travel to countless destinations.

Today, Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority have partnered up to remind us all of just how amazing it is to live in the information age.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the earliest known biblical documents and, as such, carry an immense religious significance all across the world. These scrolls were located in 1946 and 1947 in jars on the Northwest shore of the Dead Sea. These documents are said to be more than 2,000 years old and contain not only the foundation to many biblical texts, but also historical information as well.

Thanks to the partnership between Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority, the new Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library is now available to the public for the first time. This library contains thousands of digitized photographs of these biblical and extra-biblical documents.

These scrolls contain the earliest known recording of the Ten Commandments as well as a portion of Genesis, the first book of the bible. Both of these documents play a significant role in both Judaism and the Christian faith, and each are said to be dated back to the first century, B.C.

Shuka Dorfman, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told the Associated Press (AP) that this move is meant to make these ancient documents freely available to anyone who may wish to read and study them. As carting these very old and very fragile documents around from museum to museum can be very dangerous and tricky, posting them on the Internet is a much easier way to make these documents accessible.

"Only five conservators worldwide are authorized to handle the Dead Sea Scrolls," said Dorfman as he spoke with the AP. "Now, everyone can touch the scroll on screen around the globe."

Much of the dead sea scrolls have been damaged, but are still readable and offer an insight into these ancient religions. According to the Leon Levy Library, some of the traditional text found in the Hebrew bible is true to the Hebrew found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In addition to portions of Genesis and the 10 commandments, the Dead Sea Scrolls also contain portions of Psalms, a book which contains mostly songs and poems of praise.

According to the Library, this is one of the most well-preserved scrolls and contains a total of 48 Psalms, 7 of which aren´t found in the standard Masoretic version of the Bible. These ancient versions of Psalms are also the earliest reference to Kind David as the composer of these Psalms.

The Leon Levy Library also highlights a section of Leviticus which is written in ancient Hebrew script. This biblical text was used in First Temple times to define the laws to be observed by followers of the day. This particular fragment highlighted in the Scrolls prohibits an ancient cultic practice of sacrificing children to Molech, a Semitic god.

This new partnership is a part of Google´s Cultural Institute project which is meant to provide a digital visual archive of some of the world´s most significant documents and events.

"We're working to bring important cultural and historical materials online and help preserve them for future generations," said Yossi Matias, the head of Google´s research and development center in Israel.

"Our partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority is another step toward enabling users to enjoy cultural material around the world."