Two thousand years after they were written and decades after they were found in desert caves, some of the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls went online for the first time on Monday in a project launched by Israel’s national museum and web giant Google.
The appearance of five of the most important Dead Sea scrolls on the Internet is part of a broader attempt by the custodians of the celebrated manuscripts — who were once criticized for allowing them to be monopolized by small circles of scholars — to make them available to anyone with a computer.
The scrolls include the biblical Book of Isaiah, the manuscript known as the Temple Scroll, and three others. Surfers can search high-resolution images of the scrolls for specific passages, zoom in and out, and translate verses into English.
The originals are kept in a secured vault in a Jerusalem building constructed specifically to house the scrolls. Access requires at least three different keys, a magnetic card and a secret code.
The five scrolls are among those purchased by Israeli researchers between 1947 and 1967 from antiquities dealers, having first been found by Bedouin shepherds in the Juddvean Desert.