Recently, the Israel Museum made the famous Dead Sea Scrolls found near Qumran, Israel available to the public.  Google has now made them available to the public via the internet.

Last week, the Israel Museum went live with a website that shows detailed views of five of approximately 970 scrolls in conjunction with the Google Art Project and the Israel Antiquities Authority.  Since the opening of the website on Monday, the museum has reported over 1 million visitors from all over world ranging from the United States to Japan and Pakistan as well as the Netherlands, Canada and the Arab world.

The five Dead Sea Scrolls that can be viewed are the Books of Isaiah and Habakkuk, the Community Rule Scroll, Temple Scroll and War Scroll.  The images of the scrolls can be searched via text and the website features videos and other information about the Dead Sea Scrolls and life at Qumran.  The website also aims to translate many of the texts into other languages such as Chinese in the future.

According to spokespeople for the project, the scrolls were photographed in the Israel Museum’s vault via an advanced camera developed in Santa Barbara, California that can read words that are invisible to the naked eye and not damage ancient manuscripts with its flash.

The Antiquities Authority currently is in possession of thousands of scrolls which it would like to make available to scholars.  Recently, they announced they would be partnering with Google in order to do so and recently completed photographing a section of the Book of Daniel known as “The Thanksgiving Scroll”.

The Dead Sea Scrolls date to the years between 70 and 150 CE immediately following the destruction the Second Temple and were first discovered between 1947 and 1956.  Scholars purchased the scrolls from Bedouins who discovered them shortly beforehand after learning of their importance. The scrolls are officially part of the museum’s “Shrine of the Book” collection in Jerusalem.  The scrolls contain text written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and contain the earliest known version of the Bible as well as information regarding the origins of Christianity and the ascetic lifestyle often associated with it.