Google Digitizes Ancient Copies of the Ten Commandments and Genesis

If dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy pos­es any threat to the mar­ket for words print­ed on real paper—and the jury is still out on that one—then it must also be cred­it­ed for expos­ing us to texts from the ancient world.

Last fall we post­ed about how the Israel Muse­um dig­i­tized the Dead Sea Scrolls, near­ly 1,000 texts found on the north­west shore of the Dead Sea in 1946. They are the ear­li­est known sur­viv­ing man­u­scripts from what is called the Hebrew Bible. Dig­i­tiz­ing the texts—most were on parch­ment but some were writ­ten on bronze or papyrus—allows view­ers to zoom in to exam­ine the writ­ing and even the paper fibers of hun­dreds of frag­ments.

Now the Israel Antiq­ui­ties Author­i­ty has expand­ed upon the col­lec­tion. Housed in the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Dig­i­tal Library are the ear­li­est known copies of the Book of Deuteron­o­my (which includes the Ten Com­mand­ments) and Chap­ter One of the Book of Gen­e­sis.

Each scroll frag­ment was scanned using spec­tral imag­ing tech­nol­o­gy that allows for the recov­ery of writ­ing that had fad­ed to near invis­i­bil­i­ty over the years. The boon for schol­ars is clear, but for reg­u­lar folks this archive is bet­ter than a muse­um vis­it. The Leon Levy site is search­able by dis­cov­ery site, con­tent and ancient lan­guage.

Google is mak­ing its mark as a major facil­i­ta­tor of cul­tur­al preser­va­tion. Anoth­er recent project with ties to ancient texts and his­to­ry is Caminos de Sefarad, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Red de Jud­erías de España to cre­ate a dig­i­tal map of Spain’s Jew­ish her­itage.

More than 500 land­marks from the Sefarad—the Sephardic Jews before they were expelled from Spain and Por­tu­gal in 1492—are ful­ly anno­tat­ed with cur­rent pho­tos, text and spe­cial details. Vis­it Rib­a­davia, a once-pros­per­ous city in Spain’s north­west moun­tains, and learn about Jew­ish wed­ding tra­di­tions from the Mid­dle Ages. The Jew­ish Quar­ter of Léon is called the Bar­rio Húme­do (Wet Dis­trict) and is known today for its fine wine and food. Use the time­line to keep your­self ori­ent­ed in chrono­log­i­cal his­to­ry and click Street View to see this vibrant dis­trict as it is today.

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Read more of her work at and

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