The ancient, fragile pieces of parchment containing the oldest known Bible text are no longer restricted to the scrutiny of glove-wearing museum curators and magnifying-glass-wielding archaeologists.
Google and the Israel Museum have used infrared technology and computer-enhanced photography to post five of the 950 manuscripts online, where the zoom button can give scholars and everyone else the chance to get a good look. The high-resolution digital images are accessible through the museum’s website using a Google viewing tool, and the Great Isaiah Scroll — the largest and best preserved piece — is searchable by column, chapter and verse in English.
(MORE: Google+ Finally Opens to the Public)
The project is in line with Google’s mission “to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and useful,” as Yossi Matias, managing director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel, told Bloomberg. Google recently also put an archive of photos from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum online .
The Dead Sea Scrolls were written 2,000 years ago and discovered in caves near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. They are considered historically significant not only for containing Scripture but also for their detailing of everyday life during the time period.
PHOTOS: Disputed Antiquities: Museums and Nations Fight to Possess Artifacts of the Past