The Israeli Antiquities Authority has launched an upgraded version of an online archive of the Dead Sea scrolls, enabling web users to view thousands of high-quality images of the ancient texts along with explanations and translations into various languages.
The new website, officially opened on Tuesday, is the second incarnation of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library and has over 10,000 photographs of the ancient texts that were found in a series of caves at Qumran in the Judean Desert.
Images were rendered using multispectral photographic methods that reproduce the documents in exceptionally high quality. The site — available in English, German, Arabic, and Hebrew versions — also provides commentary and explanations on some of the more famous scrolls including a book of Exodus written in paleo-Hebrew script, the books of Samuel, the Temple Scroll, Songs of Shabbat Sacrifice, and New Jerusalem.
On the new Dead Sea Scrolls site, surfers can search for phrases in Hebrew or English and match fragments, sort the fragments according to the caves where each was originally found, and view the locations on Google Maps.
According to an IAA press release, since the launch of the earlier version of the website a year ago over half a million people have visited the site, with 25,000 new visitors viewing it every month.
The scrolls, thought to have been written or collected by Jews who left Jerusalem for the desert in the time of the Second Temple two millennia ago, were one of the great archaeological discoveries of the 20th century when they were first uncovered in the 1940s. They shed important light on ancient Judaism, the birth of Christianity, and the evolution of the Bible.
There are some 900 texts that are kept in a specially controlled dry environment to simulate the desert conditions in which they survived for thousands of years. However, the ancient artifacts have been given a modern breath of life with their own Facebook page where web users can stay up to date on the latest developments in research on the scrolls.