Monday, December 24, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls to be Re-Photographed

This story is from the Financial Times.  The best sentence is the last.

The Dead Sea scrolls, the most potent source of our knowledge of Judaism and early Christianity, are to be digitised for the internet in a project that could take up to five years. It will involve the manipulation of some 15,000 scraps of leather or papyrus, some no bigger than a speck of dust.

Project leader Simon Tanner, of the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King's College London, said the difficulty of photographing the scrolls would be deepened by the fact that in many cases there is little contrast between the writing and the material on which it is written.

The team would be using a digital camera offering up to 20 times more resolution than a conventional model and an infra-red camera that would enable the script to be more easily read against the background.

Tanner said he had worked on more than 450 digitisation projects and the scrolls were the most technically challenging he had faced. The Israel Antiquities Authority faced complex handling and conservation issues in making the scrolls available for digitisation.

The publication of the scrolls was completed in 2001 after a period of 35 years in which they were monopolised by a group of scholars. They have been photographed only once before, in the 1950s. Now the intention is to make them available to amateurs and professionals alike, allowing people to manipulate the images of the fragments in a number of different ways.

HT: Joe Lauer

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