Dead Sea Scrolls Go Digital.
(photo credit: JWG)
The Dead Sea Scrolls are undeniably fascinating. Their intriguing history – and significant impact on ours – means that they are hotly contested and debated even now, 70 years after archaeologists discovered the first scrolls. In a bid to extend the world’s global library, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) collaborated with Google on an ambitious project to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Archivists used a specially-developed photography technology to protect the delicate scrolls from damage: ultraviolet-protected tubs lit the scrolls for 1/4000th of a second, creating 1200 megapixel images that reveal the scrolls in exceptional detail. As a result of these efforts, anyone anywhere in the world with a computer can access The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls.
Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls So Special?
An estimated 22% of the total content consists of excerpts of biblical stories written before scholars formally canonized the Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls include parts from every book of the Bible except Esther. This number rises when one includes deuterocanonical texts. The inhabitants of Qumran witnessed the beginnings of what would become early Christianity. What is truly extraordinary is the impact this has on the canon’s timeline.
The exciting findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls brought the earliest formal versions of Biblical stories forward by almost 1000 years!
While telling Biblical stories, the vast majority of the Scrolls are non-biblical and detail the captivating lives and community standards of the local Jewish community in ancient times. Written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, the Israel Museum has generously translated and analyzed the texts into English to reach a broader audience.
Why the Israel Museum?
The prestigious Israel Museum is the country’s biggest cultural asset. Established in 1965, the Israel Museum is located in Jerusalem’s beautiful Givat Ram neighborhood, surrounded by national institutions such as the Knesset and Supreme Court. Scholars, archaeologists, and museum lovers consider The Israel Museum among the world’s top art and archaeology museums. The renown museum hosts comprehensive collections of art and artifacts and boasts the planet’s largest selection of Biblical and Holy Land archaeology. Without no uncertainty, it is the ideal place to hold the Dead Sea Scrolls collection.
The Dead Sea Scrolls got a warm welcome and plenty of special treatment at the Israel Museum. Housed in a white, domed, purpose-built exhibition hall called the Shrine of the Book, The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of more than 15,000 fragments of parchment and papyrus inscribed with a range of ancient texts. Discovered in 11 different caves in the Dead Sea region of Qumran, the area’s low humidity and dry air, preserved them for thousands of years. The Israel Museum's enormous efforts help keep them protected for millennia to come.
The museum’s impressive 20-acre campus is home to an astonishing collection of almost 500,000 pieces, including prehistoric artifacts, Renaissance paintings, Ottoman archaeology, and contemporary Israeli artwork. A significant number of the museum’s extraordinarily varied collection were discovered throughout Israel and recovered from war-ravaged European Jewish communities. These fascinating pieces allow us to paint a living picture of ancient Israel. The Israel Museum's discoveries both challenged and consolidated the shape of the Bible’s story, and our understanding of our ancestors’ lives.
The Future of Bible Scholarship
The digitization and translation of museum collections are changing the way we learn about Biblical history. This incredible effort opens access to the famous Dead Sea Scrolls to anyone with a computer, Internet connection, and the desire to learn.
The Dead Sea Scrolls give us a truly unbelievable glimpse into how our ancestors lived and learned in the Land of Israel. These accounts prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jews and Israel have shared a history for thousands of years; they offer hope for our continued co-existence. The Israel Museum’s stunning exhibition of The Dead Sea Scrolls stands testimony to our undeniable heritage.
While the Israel Museum's Dead Sea Scrolls are free, there is also a vast collection of replicas and adaptations you can bring to your home from the Israel Museum’s Official Shop. From Dead Sea Scroll replicas to historically accurate Judaica, Israel Museum gifts are extraordinary pieces that allow you to physically interact with the artifacts that shaped our world and religion.
As the world grows "smaller" the opportunities for everyone everywhere to enjoy the Israel Museum continue to grow exponentially. Access the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls, shop Israel Museum products online, or make a virtual visit to the museum.
The article was written in cooperation with Judaica Webstore