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December 19, 2012

Google Helps Bring Biblical History to the Internet

New images of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now online courtesy of an online partnership between Google and Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has launched the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of more than 5,000 images of scroll fragments.

The ancient manuscripts include one of the first known copies of the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments and part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which tells of the creation of the world. Also online are hundreds of other 2,000-year-old texts, which illuminate Jesus’ time on earth as well as the history of Judaism.

“Millions of users and scholars can discover and decipher details invisible to the naked eye, at 1215 dpi resolution,” reads a joint blog post by Eyal Miller, new business development, and Yossi Matias, head of Israel Research and Development Center.

“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. We’re thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, and use of Maps, YouTube and Google image technology.”

Google first partnered with the Israel Antiquities Authority last year when the technology giant helped put online five texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. They included: The Great Isaiah Scroll, the War Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll, The Temple Scroll and the Community Rule Scroll.

“You can browse the Great Isaiah Scroll, the most well known scroll and the one that can be found in most home Bibles, by chapter and verse,” the blog post reads. “You can also click directly on the Hebrew text and get an English translation. While you’re there, leave a comment for others to see.”

The digital library, which took two years to compile, uses technology that was developed by NASA.

The high-resolution photographs of the ancient texts are up to 1,200 megapixels, enabling viewers to see even the smallest of details in the parchment.

By zooming in on the Temple Scroll, for instance, one can see the animal skin it’s written on — only one-tenth of a millimeter thick.

Google now wants to take the project a step further. The company has launched a “Cultural Institute,” a digital visual archive of historical events in co-operation with 17 museums and institutes around the world.

“We’re working to bring important cultural and historical materials online and help preserve them for future generations,” said Yossi Matias, head of Google’s Research and Development Center in Israel. “Our partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority is another step toward enabling users to enjoy cultural material around the world.”