from the October 2008 issue

NASA Technology Illuminates Faded Dead Sea Scrolls

Scientists are using American space-age technology to bring to light the faded script on thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest existing record of the Old Testament. Israeli authorities said experts will digitally photograph the scrolls and post them on the internet for the entire world to see.

The Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled the project at a news conference in Jerusalem to mark the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the first Dead Sea scrolls. The scrolls were found in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd near the ancient ascetic community of Qumran; some 2,000 years had elapsed from the time the pottery jugs containing the scrolls were placed in cool Judean Desert caves, until their chance rediscovery.

The technology developed by retired NASA scientist Dr. Greg Bearman, will also be used to monitor the scroll fragments on an ongoing basis for conservation purposes. But even more exciting is the expectation that it will reveal portions of the text that were invisible until now. High-tech cameras using infrared photography are now being used to uncover sections of the 2,000-year-old scrolls that have faded over the centuries and become indecipherable, the Israeli Antiquities Authority said.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report October 2008

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