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Israel breathes life into Dead Sea scrolls with updated archive

The scrolls are thought to have been written or collected by an ascetic Jewish sect that fled Jerusalem for the desert 2,000 years ago

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In a marriage between hi-tech expertise and ancient history, Israel‘s national antiques authority has launched an updated version of its digital library of the Dead Sea scrolls, allowing viewers to access thousands of high-definition photographs of one of the world’s most intriguing archaeological finds.

The online recourse, which is accessible from mobile phones and personal computers, showcases hundreds of scroll fragments photographed with a camera specially developed for the job.

According to The Guardian, only five experts worldwide are authorized to physically handle the scrolls.

Decades after they were found in desert caves and more than 2,000 years after they were written, the fragments of the scrolls are available for viewing on the upgraded website which includes 10,000 new multispectral images, content translated into Russian and German in addition to the current languages, extra explanations, a faster search engine, and easy access from the site to social media, said the Israel Antiques Authority, according to The Guardian.

“The novelty is the quality of the pictures through a system that was created especially for the scrolls,” said Pnina Shor, curator and head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the IAA. “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,” said Shor, according to The Guardian.

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

The scrolls, considered by many to be the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century, are thought to have been written or collected by an ascetic Jewish sect that fled Jerusalem for the desert 2,000 years ago and settled at Qumran, on the banks of the Dead Sea. The hundreds of manuscripts that survived, partially or in full, in caves near the site, have shed light on the development of the Hebrew Bible and the origins of Christianity, reported the Associated Press.

The most complete scrolls are held by the Israel Museum, with more large pieces and smaller fragments found in other institutions and private collections. Tens of thousands of fragments from 900 Dead Sea manuscripts are held by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

(With the Associated Press)