In honor of the sixtieth anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Antiquities Authority is convening an international committee of experts to offer advice on the Digitization of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is regarded as one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century. These ancient Hebrew scrolls were accidentally discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in November 1947, having been hidden for almost 2000 years in remote caves in the Judean Desert.
The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal a wealth of information about the history of the Second Temple period, a time of crucial developments in the crystallization of the monotheistic religions. Some of the scrolls, biblical and sectarian, were written as early as the end of the third century BCE but most of them date to the first century BCE and the first century CE. They contain fragments of all of the books of the Bible (with the exception of the Book of Esther) as well as a complete text of Isaiah. Especially significant are the fragments of the Apocrypha, previously known only in Greek and Latin. The scrolls preserve the original Hebrew and Aramaic versions. The sectarian texts reflect the beliefs and apocalyptic expectations of the community that wrote them.
During the first forty years since their discovery only a very small number of the c. 900 texts known to us today were published. In the beginning of the 1990’s, shortly after the founding of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the Authority initiated the establishment of a committee of scholars for the advancement of the publication of the scrolls and appointed Professor Emmanuel Tov of the Hebrew University to head it. The publication project, which included dozens of scholars from all over the world, was completed in 2001 and was celebrated in a festive ceremony that took place at the residence of the President of Israel.
The conservation and preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls have concerned both scholars and conservators since their discovery. Conservation measures to preserve the scrolls were first taken by researchers during the early 1950’s. In the ensuing years it has become clear the scrolls suffered extensive damage due to inappropriate conservation measures that stemmed primarily from a lack of knowledge. Therefore, concurrent with the establishment of the committee of scholars, the IAA set up a unique conservation laboratory dedicated solely to the preservation of the scrolls. The laboratory’s treatments are accompanied by constant research and professional consultation with experts from all over the world. The conservation work is ongoing; the task is extremely complicated and time consuming. However, in light of past experience the IAA is collaborating through the Italian Ministry of Culture with Italian experts in conservation and preservation of ancient manuscripts to re-examine the current methods of treatment and to research conservation problems that have yet to be solved.
In addition, since many of the thousands of fragments of scrolls were only photographed once, close to the time of their discovery in the 1950’s, the IAA has decided to convene an international committee of experts to evaluate innovative techniques and methods of documentation. The committee will assist the Authority in selecting the most appropriate means of digitizing the scrolls for publication, research and conservation purposes. Invited experts will include, among others: Prof. Yaacov Choueka - The Friedberg Genizah Project; Dr. Greg Bearman - JPL - NASA; Prof. Ferruccio Petrucci - Image Spectroscopy, Uni. of Ferrara; Simon Tanner - King's Digital Consultancy Services, London; Orly Simon - Head IT Department, JNUL. All together we will have ten experts from various fields of photographic technologies and managing of digital projects databases.
The conference will take place in Jerusalem from November 4 -7, 2007.