Google digitizes the 10 commandments and Genesis scrolls in high-res photos

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In commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Google has teamed up with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.

The search giant says the site will give the public the chance to experience, view, examine, and explore the collection of some 5 000 images of Dead Sea Scroll fragments, “at a quality never seen before”.

Google has been working with the Israel Antiquities Authority to put together the library for the better part of two years using advanced technology first developed by NASA. The library consists of some 1000 new images of two-thousand year old scroll fragments; 3500 scans of negatives from the 1950s; a database documenting about 900 of the manuscripts, and interactive content pages. It enables scholars and millions of users worldwide to reveal and decipher details invisible to the naked eye.

“We’re working to bring important cultural and historical materials online and help preserve them for future generations. The pieces of culture and history being made accessible today — the manuscripts of the 10 commandments, the story of the creation of the world, and more — are known to almost every schoolchild around the world. This partnership is another step towards preserving cultural material around the world, and enabling users to enjoy it,” said Yossi Matias, Head of Google’s R&D Center in Israel.

According to the Silicon Valley giant, the site displays infra-red and colour images at a resolution of 1215 dpi, at a 1:1 scale, equivalent in quality to the original scrolls. A host of the Google’s services have also been integrated into the library, such as maps, hosting and YouTube.

One of the earliest known texts is a copy of the Book of Deuteronomy (which includes the Ten Commandments), as well as part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis (dated to the first century BCE, which describes the creation of the world), a number of copies of Psalms scrolls, tiny texts from the Second Temple period, letters and documents hidden by refugees fleeing the Roman army during the Bar Kochba Revolt, and hundreds of additional 2000-year-old texts, shedding light on biblical studies, the history of Judaism and the origins of Christianity.

Israel Antiquities Authority are believes the scrolls are the most “important national treasure” as its director, Shuka Dorfman, notes:

Only five conservators worldwide are authorized to handle the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now, everyone can “touch” the scrolls on-screen around the globe, and view them in spectacular quality, equivalent to the original! On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of their discovery, the IAA, in collaboration with Google, presents the scrolls online, using the most advanced imaging technology. Thus, this most important national treasure is available to the general public, preserving it for future generations.

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