Dead Sea Scrolls go digital

(CNN) - Google has teamed up with the Israel museum to put some of the world's oldest surviving religious texts right online.

Starting this week, internet users can for the first time use Google search and scanning technology to examine five manuscripts from what many historians believe is one of the most important archaeological finds ever made - the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The ancient texts were first discovered in 1947 by a nomadic shepherd in a cave near the Dead Sea.

The scrolls reveal details about the development of Judaism and shed light on the relationship between early Christian and Jewish religious traditions.

The Israel Museum is home to eight of the texts and they are considered to be the best preserved and most complete of some 900 manuscripts that make up the Dead Sea Scrolls.

"The scrolls are the oldest complete written text of the bible as we know the Bible today," said James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum.

The museum wanted to display its treasure on-line and reach a larger audience, and Google had already begun work on scanning and cataloging 30,000 Dead Sea fragments from another collection.

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information, making it universally accessible and useful, and we can't think of more important information content than these ancient scrolls" said Yossie Matias, head of Israel R&D Center, Google Israel.

The end result is an on-line database that allows users to look at the museum's scrolls in rich detail, and in the case of the Great Isaiah scroll, the English translation of the Ancient Hebrew is just a click away.

"You have the capability with high-resolution definition to look at the scrolls in a comfortable setting to enlarge them, to magnify them, to translate them into English and to search for words, phrases or verses that you want to find on your own - it really allows your own interactive research with the material," Snyder said.

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