Want to browse through the Temple Scroll on your laptop while drinking your morning coffee? Or maybe check out the War Scroll on your iPad on the train to work? No problem … just go to Google and you’ll be able to read the Dead Sea Scrolls online. Can’t decipher ancient scripts? No problem. You’ll also be able to read the Dead Sea Scrolls translated online.
Using the latest high-resolution photography and imaging techniques, Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have joined forces in a project to digitize the more than 30,000 Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the IAA’s collection with the intention of putting the Dead Sea Scrolls online. In the coming months, Google will begin making these new, high-quality images of the scrolls available online, where they can be viewed, searched, scrutinized and studied by anyone in the world at anytime—all for free and with no strings attached. The Dead Sea Scrolls translated online will also be a part of the project’s scope, which will encourage scholars and laypeople alike to access and read Dead Sea Scrolls online. Knowledge that was once the domain of a handful of scholars will now be available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.
The monumental, $3.5-million project will provide everyone from scroll scholars to BAR readers with unfettered access to the documents, allowing people to read Dead Sea Scrolls online when the texts formerly could be seen only in museum collections, restricted photographic archives or as photographs in massive scholarly tomes that only libraries and research institutions could afford. The digitization project will also incorporate an array of secondary information, including scroll transcriptions, translations and bibliographies, thereby allowing users to perform any number of searches related to the reading and study of the scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls translated online will allow those who are untrained in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek – the original languages of the scrolls – to study the texts.
Being able to read Dead Sea Scrolls online will also enable linguistic specialists, who formerly did not have access to the documents, to contribute their translating skills to the efforts underway to decipher the texts. More translations could result in a greater number of Dead Sea Scroll translations online, thus providing even greater access to the texts.
The scrolls, which were last photographed as a group in the 1950s, are now being photographed with the latest multi-spectral and infrared imaging technology. The new images will allow conservators to track and better understand the deterioration of the ancient parchments, and scholars will also be able to use them to read and translate portions of the texts that are no longer visible to the naked eye.
The project to put the Dead Sea Scrolls online, in addition to limiting the need to expose the original documents to the harmful effects of light and air, will open up new vistas for digital, computer-based research on the scrolls.
Would you like to see the Dead Sea Scrolls translated online? So get out your computer and get ready to start browsing. The world of the Dead Sea Scrolls is about to get a lot more sophisticated.
Based on: “Strata: Dead Sea Scrolls Go Digital.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Mar/Apr 2011, 20.