Culture At Large

Digitizing the Dead Sea Scrolls

Chris Salzman

At a previous job I worked on a few digitization projects. They are painstaking. There's so many variables to balance, and standards to enforce, not to mention the repetitive work they usually entail. And what I was doing didn't even touch the importance of this project.

The New York Times reports:

half a dozen specialists embarked this week on a historic undertaking: digitally photographing every one of the thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the aim of making the entire file — among the most sought-after and examined documents on earth — available to all on the Internet.

Equipped with high-powered cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have significant scholarly impact.

The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), as well as apocryphal texts and descriptions of rituals of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.

Only a handful of the scrolls exist in large pieces, with several on permanent exhibit at the Israel Museum here in its dimly lighted Shrine of the Book. Most of what was found is separated into 15,000 fragments that make up about 900 documents, fueling a longstanding debate on how to order the fragments as well as the origin and meaning of what is written on them.

Read the rest of the article at the NY Times site.

The wikipedia entry for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Not that I'll be able to do anything with them, but it's neat to hear that they'll be freely available to anyone who is curious.

Any biblical scholars out there want to chime in on the importance of this venture? Other thoughts?

HT: Iyov

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Technology, Theology & The Church, The Bible, News & Politics, World