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Dead Sea Scrolls to be put online

The Israel Antiquities Authority, with a little help from Google, is digitizing the Dead Sea Scrolls to make them publicly available online.

The scrolls, which contain the earliest known copies of almost every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), will complete their journey from ancient world to cyberspace with the help of new imaging technology. The antiquities authority says it will ensure the preservation and scholarship of the texts for generations to come.

Once there is a copy of a manuscript online that is as good as, or clearer than, the original, said Pnina Shor, the project manager at the antiquities authority, there will be no need to expose the fragile fragments of parchment and papyrus to the ruinous effects of light and air again.

For decades after the scrolls were discovered in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, access was limited to a tight circle of scholars. There has been increased access in the last 20 years, and the entire collection of scrolls, photographed with infrared techniques in the 1950s, was published in 2001.

The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. and shed light on the history of Judaism and early Christian life. They remain the subject of heated academic debate around the world.

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