Dead Sea Scrolls Online, Searchable, Thanks to Google


The famed Dead Sea Scrolls have gone digital, thanks to a collaboration between Google and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Five of the scrolls are now viewable online in high-resolution digitized format. An English translation of the original text is also available.

Google partnered with photographer Ardon Bar-Hama to make digital versions of the scrolls accessible to whole world. Bar-Hama captured 1,200 megapixel photographs, allowing users to see every minuscule detail of the texts.

For those less aimed at archaeology and more at cultural understanding, Google also made it possible to view the English translation and browse the text by chapter and verse. The content is also searchable via Google; queries that specify the Dead Sea Scrolls and seem aimed at a specific segment of the text may yield an entry for the digitized copies in Google’s search results.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden in caves in the Judean desert in 68 BCE to protect the texts from Roman invaders. The scrolls were then lost until 2,000 years later, when a shepherd stumbled upon the scrolls by accident in 1947. The next two decades were spent recovering and restoring the scrolls.

The manuscripts included discussions of ancient community and religious life in Jerusalem. The most famed scroll is the Great Isaiah Scroll, the oldest recorded scriptural document.

Since 1965, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been on display in The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Now anyone who can access the Internet will be able to access these cultural artifacts, which have been deemed the “greatest archaeological find of the 20th century.”

Google contributions to the digitization project include hosting on Google Storage and the Google App Engine, contributions to the actual web experience, and the digital organization and indexing of the scroll content. Other similar Google projects have included the Prado Museum Project, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Photo Project, and the Google Art Project.

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