A joint effort between the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Google managed to transfer the Dead Sea Scrolls from their parchment and papyrus foundation to the online environment. High-resolution scans of the oldest known biblical manuscripts are now available for anyone to view.
These scrolls represent an important piece of world's history. Written between the first and third centuries BC, they paint the religious and political realities of their days in great detail, unmatched by any other historical sources.
They were so important even in their own days that they were hidden in 68 BC on the shored of the Dead Sea, in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of advancing Roman forces. But they were hidden so well that they were only discovered again in 1947.
According to archaeologists who scanned the area, scrolls were uncovered in 11 caves. These structures were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd of the Ta'amra tribe, who accidentally figured out that something lay in one of the caves after he threw a rock inside.
The scrolls are mostly written in Hebrew – though some are in Greek and Aramaic – on especially-prepared animal skins called parchments. A few of them are written on papyrus, the same type of support that the ancient Egyptians used for their official documents as well, LiveScience
Data contained in the scrolls are of tremendous historical value, since they offer exquisite insight into the way life and religion went on in ancient Jerusalem. They also cover critically-important events that later led to the emergence of Christianity.
The director of the Israel Museum, James Snyder, explains that the documents “are of paramount importance among the touchstones of monotheistic world heritage. They are really foundation stones to modern Western thought in the Judeo-Christian world in the same way that the 'Mona Lisa' was to development of art.”
“If you think of certain phrases that we all know, such as 'turning swords to plowshares,' meaning 'to not go to war anymore,' that comes from the Book of Isaiah, which we have in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” the official goes on to say.
“What we've just done with Google is to bring these treasures to as broad an audience worldwide as might possible be interested in tapping into them. All this was accomplished in just six months,” Snyder explains.
The online version of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be viewed at this link