x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The benefits of having the Dead Sea Scrolls online

Access to one of the pillars of the great monotheistic religions has been a problem for a long time, but scholars now have new opportunities for research and analysis.

In a wired world, heritage should be shared, not hoarded. Plans by Google and Israel to digitise one of archaeology's most important discoveries is in the best spirit of closing this historic divide.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, among the most treasured religious texts ever written, are going online. Unearthed in a West Bank cave six decades ago, the centuries-old parchment and papyrus is valued for its insight into the history of Judaism and early Christianity.

Many theologians believe the scrolls substantiate the same points found in early Islamic texts. Indisputably, they are one of the pillars of the great monotheistic religions.

Access has been a problem for far too long. Only four people are trained to handle the fragile documents, and researchers have rightly complained of being shut out from careful study. But with the scrolls' online revival will come new opportunities for research and analysis, the Israel Antiquities Authority says. No one will be shut out again.

Scholars will continue to debate the scrolls' origin, and regional rivals will still disagree on the text's rightful owner. But there is no debating the benefits of free access to information, history and culture.