Scientists and scholars in Jerusalem have begun a programme to take the first high-resolution digital photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls so that they can be shown on the internet. In a project that could take five years and cost millions of dollars, the fragments will be photographed first by a 39-megapixel digital camera then by another digital camera in infra-red light. Finally, some will be photographed using a sophisticated multi-spectral imaging camera.
Eventually all the fragments will be available to view online, with transcriptions, translations, scholarly interpretations and bibliographies provided for academic study. "The aim is that you can go online and call up the scrolls with the best possible resolution and all the information that exists about them today," said Pnina Shor, head of the artefacts treatment and conservation department at the antiquities authority.
The work has already brought to light new revelations about the scrolls. The infra-red photography has picked out letters not previously visible to the naked eye. The detailed colour photographs of papyrus fragments may help to identify pieces that fit together and fragments written by the same scribes. Scholars hope that this information will enable them to piece together more of the fragments and so come closer to putting complete sections of the scrolls together.