Dead Sea Scrolls Hit the Web

If you are familiar with the history of Israel and surrounding regions, you would know the significance of Dead Sea Scrolls and how fragile and delicate they are.

These papyrus and parchment manuscripts were written between 150 BCE and 70 CE and are of profound historical and religious significance. Due to the nature of their significance and importance to people who follow Abrahamic religions, they are treasured by archaeologists and the Israeli government spends an enormous amount of money to protect these fragile manuscripts that can be damaged by direct light.

In fact, these manuscripts are stored in a cool dark area, which is regulated by advanced technology, and is revealed only for brief periods at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the book. Google has now announced that it would now make it possible for scholars, researchers and regular Internet users to access and search these ancient documents online. Yossi Matias, the MD of Israel’s Google’s R&D Centre revealed that it is the company’s mission to organize all the information found in the world and digitalize the information so that they are accessible to everyone.

The idea is to digitalize the scrolls entirely so that the necessity to salvage the documents from vaults would be unnecessary. The fragile documents could be permanently damaged due to exposure to light, temperature conditions and mishandling. Five of the eight scrolls have already been digitalized and the Great Isaiah Scroll can be searched by verse, chapter and column.

The project would also include a tool that would translate the verses that are written in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek to English. It is also possible that the digitalized documents would reveal new words and better understanding of the scrolls, which may lead to alternative theories about the beginning of Bible. It is not clear how much the project costs as both Google and Israel Museum declined to comment.

It is very important to digitalize information, especially the kinds that are ancient and fragile. Especially in times of war and conflict, precious manuscripts can be lost forever, or even be stolen. Digitalizing the Dead Sea Scrolls and making them available online with English superscripts would ensure easy accessibility of the scrolls, and protection against damage to the scrolls themselves.

Dead Sea itself has been promoted as a new natural wonder of the world. With a saline concentration that can make people float on the water, its clay and water have been proven to be therapeutic for a number of ailments. In fact, Dead Sea is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Middle East, and it is touted as the world’s ‘lowest’ spa as it lies several feet below sea level. If you are interested in stuff that is geekier, you could take a look at the Fossilized Video Games.