History buffs: Dead Sea Scrolls come to you

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Part of the Book of Genesis. (Photo by Shai Halevi, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority/Google)

Part of the Book of Genesis. (Photo by Shai Halevi, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority/Google)

More than six decades since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls Israel and Google have partnered to put 5,000 images of the ancient biblical artifacts online.

Written more than 2,000 years ago on pieces of parchment and papyrus, they were preserved by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves in which they were hidden. The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is launching the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments, at a quality never seen before.

The texts include one of the earliest known copies of the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments; part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which describes the creation of the world; and hundreds more 2,000-year-old texts, shedding light on the time when Jesus lived and preached, and on the history of Judaism.

Millions of users and scholars can discover and decipher details invisible to the naked eye, at 1215 dpi resolution. The site displays infrared and color images that are equal in quality to the Scrolls themselves. There’s a database containing information for about 900 of the manuscripts, as well as interactive content pages.

Google helped by hosting the project on Google Storage and App Engine, and through the use of Maps, YouTube and Google image technology.

The partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority is part of Google’s ongoing work to bring important cultural and historical materials online, to make them accessible and help preserve them for future generations.

Other examples include the Yad Vashem Holocaust photo collection, Google Art Project, World Wonders and the Google Cultural Institute.

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