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Dead Sea Scrolls now accessible from personal computers and mobile phones

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 5th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Only five expert curators worldwide are authorized to physically handle the Dead Sea Scrolls. In order to share this treasure with the world, Israel's national antiques authority has since launched an updated version of its digital library of scrolls. Accessible from personal computers and mobile phones, the online resource presents hundreds of scroll fragments imaged with a camera specifically designed for this purpose.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Called an extraordinary marriage between high-tech wizardry and ancient history, the site showcases thousands of high-quality photographs of one of the world's most significant archaeological finds.

An early copy of the book of Deuteronomy, included in the scrolls, features the 10 commandments. The first of the scrolls were discovered in a remote cave at Qumran in the West Bank close to the Dead Sea in 1947, which was a year before Israel's war of independence and the Palestinian "Nakba."

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A wing of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, called the Shrine of the Book, the scrolls include part of the first chapter of the book of Genesis. Dated to the first century BC, the book describes the creation of the world. There are also a number of copies of Psalms scrolls, tiny texts from the second temple period and letters and documents hidden by those fleeing Roman forces during the Bar Kochba revolt. There are hundreds of more ancient texts that shed light on biblical studies, the history of Judaism and the origins of Christianity.

According to the Israel Antiques Authority, the upgraded website includes 10,000 new multispectral images, extra manuscript descriptions, content translated into Russian and German in addition to the current languages, a faster search engine, and easy access from the site to the Facebook page and to Twitter and more.

"The novelty is the quality of the pictures through a system that was created especially for the scrolls," Pnina Shor, curator and head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the IAA says. "These are the best possible images of thousands of fragments. They are exactly like the originals. The technology was invented for NASA. It is a living site and a uniquely comprehensive one for documents this old."

Bedouin treasure hunters and archaeologists in the 1960s had discovered the remains of hundreds of manuscripts made up of thousands of fragments in the Judean desert along the western shore of the Dead Sea. These fragile pieces of parchment and papyrus were preserved for two millennia in the hot, dry climate and the darkness of the caves.

The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Nabataean. The manuscripts have been dated to various periods between 408 BC and 318 AD.

"The scrolls provide an unprecedented picture of the diverse religious beliefs of ancient Judaism, and of daily life during the turbulent Second Temple period when Jesus lived and preached, on biblical studies, the history of Judaism and the origins of Christianity," the IAA Web site says.

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