Thursday, November 10, 2011

Digitizing the Ancient World!

Judaism is one of the world's oldest religions, dating back over 5,000 years. Being this old, there is a lot of history to it. Today we are lucky enough to have the technology to look back in time and get a real idea of how these people lived.  One of the greatest discoveries in the past 60 years has been that of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by archaeologists between 1947 and 1956.  The scrolls are named for the area where they were found, the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, and date back to the 3rd century BCE.  They found 5 different parchments; The Great Isaiah Scroll, The War Scroll, The Temple Scroll, The Community Rule, and The Commentary on Habakkuk.  Each of these scrolls give us insight into the life of the Jewish people during the time of the Second Temple.

This is all great information, but what does it have to do with technology?  Over the past few years, the Israel Museum has been working with Google to put these scrolls online.  For the first time, you can now view these scrolls up close and personal without having to travel to Israel.  James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher, the Director of the Israel Museum, explained that, "They are of paramount importance among the touchstones of monotheistic world heritage...Now, through our partnership with Google, we are able to bring these treasures to the broadest possible public."  By hosting these scrolls, Google has made it so that you can now explore the life and times of the past.

Google used a 1,200 Mega Pixel Camera (keep in mind the camera on your cell phone is at best 8 mega pixels) that had an exposure of 1/4000th of a second.  This was the least intrusive way to shoot the scrolls as light can deteriorate the scrolls themselves (remember they are over 2,000 years old).  You are able to zoom in and really examine these pieces of history.  "The Dead Sea Scrolls Project with the Israel Museum enriches and preserves an important part of world heritage by making it accessible to all on the internet, " said professor Yossi Matias, the Managing Director of Google's Research and Development Center in Israel.

The Dead Sea Scroll Digitizing has been funded by George Blumenthal and the Center for Online Judaic Studies.

To see them for yourself, head over to The Dead Sea Scrolls Online.  See what life was like 2,000 years ago without ever leaving your chair!

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