Posted at 08:27 AM ET, 09/27/2011

Dead Sea Scrolls go online

For the first time, the 2,000-year-old, world-famous manuscripts are accessible to anyone in the world with a computer.


A part of the Isaiah Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, inside the vault of the Shrine of the Book building at the Israel Museum. (Lior Mizrahi - Getty Images)
Following criticism that only a small circle of scholars could access the Dead Sea Scrolls , Israel’s national museum and Google teamed up to the put the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century online.

Five of the most important scrolls, including the biblical Book of Isaiah, the manuscript known as the Temple Scroll, and three others have been digitized.

Viewers can translate the verses of the scrolls into English and see even the most minute details in the parchment, thanks to high-resolution photographs of the scrolls almost 200 times more clear than the average consumer camera. The images can also be zoomed in and out for better viewing — Google suggests zooming in on the Temple Scroll to “get a feel for the animal skin it’s written on — only one-tenth of a millimeter thick.”

The scrolls are believed to have been written or collected by an ascetic Jewish sect that fled Jerusalem for the desert 2,000 years ago and landed on the banks of the Dead Sea.

They weren’t discovered until 1947, when a Bedouin shepherd threw a rock in a cave and realized something was inside. The finding gave insight into the development of the Hebrew Bible and the origins of Christianity.

Although all of the Dead Sea Scrolls are due to be available on the Internet by 2016, the originals will remain in a vault in a Jerusalem building that requires at least three different keys, a magnetic card and a secret code to get inside.

View, read and interact with the five Dead Sea Scrolls here, or watch the video below:

By  |  08:27 AM ET, 09/27/2011

 
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