The Israel Museum and Internet giant Google have made high-quality images of five of the Dead Sea Scrolls available for viewing online.
Antiquities officials say the online project launched Monday provides unlimited access to the 2,000-year-old manuscripts, which are considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.
When complete, the project by Israel's Antiquities Authority and Google will have placed images of the 30,000 fragments that make up the scrolls on a free, searchable database.
The scrolls scanned and placed online so far include the Temple Scroll and the Great Isaiah Scroll.
The link is http://dss.collections.imj.org.il
The Dead Sea Scrolls contain some of the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible and descriptions of life for Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus. They were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s in caves near the Dead Sea.
Over the years, Israeli antiquities officials have given scholars and researchers very limited access to the scrolls because of their fragile condition. The Israel Museum rotates the scroll sections on display every three or four months to minimize damage from exposure to light.