The Israel Antiquities Authority has teamed up with the Internet search giant Google to put the Dead Sea Scrolls online. This project will grant free, global access to one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.
"Putting the Dead Sea Scrolls online is the ultimate way to share the scrolls with the public and the scholarly world," said Pnina Shor, project manager on behalf of the IAA.
There are 900 religious manuscripts found in 30,000 Dead Sea Scroll fragments. The scrolls are kept in temperature-controlled rooms at the Israel Museum.
Only four trained workers are allowed to handle the artifacts which are made up of parchment and papyrus.
The IAA and Google announced the joint project at a press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Shor said the project will ensure the preservation the scrolls and give wider access.
"By putting them online we will enable people from all over the world by the click of a button to sit on their couches and go through them, read through them," Shor said.
The entire collection was photographed only once in the 1950s using infra-red technology.
Now, the IAA will use technology developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to image the fragments. Google-Israel will upload the images to the Internet, including transcriptions, translations, commentaries and bibliography.
"From our perspective we're going to make things available relatively fast, as soon as we get the content," said Professor Yossi Matias, director of Google-Israel Research and Development Center.
The first stage of the project should be available online within a few months and completed within five years.