Thursday, August 28, 2008

THE PROJECT TO REPHOTOGRAPH the Dead Sea Scrolls is, not surprisingly, getting a lot of media attention, some of which includes some new information. From CNN:
"Just by applying the latest infrared technologies and shooting at very high detail, lots of resolution, we are already opening up new characters from the scrolls that are either extremely indistinct or you just couldn't see them before," said Simon Tanner, director of King's Digital Consultancy Services.

Tanner, who has worked on previous digital projects involving antiquities, is on a team that also includes Greg Bearman, who recently retired as principal scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Bearman pioneered archaeological digital imaging and owns a company, Snapshot Spectra, that makes the imagers.

"To switch over to digital is really the way to go, and people were resistant to it initially, because it was a new way of doing stuff," he said. "They want their light table and their magnifying glass."

But with digital imaging, Bearman said, "You can see where the ink has broken away and you can see the texture of the animal skin, so you can see more detail than you can see with the naked eye."

Another benefit of the imaging process, Bearman said, is that it enables scientists to determine the amount of water present in the parchment.

That will help authorities determine whether the parchment is too wet or too dry, and enable them to keep the scrolls in conditions that are perfect for conservation.
More on the last point from the APF:
"I believe that by using spectral photography we will succeed, through non-invasive means, to determine the amount of water present in the parchment from which the scrolls are made," said Greg Berman, an imaging expert who recently retired from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory research centre.

"Data such as this has added value for conservation and preservation issues. If, for example, we discover that the parchments are too dry, it will be necessary to modify the conditions in which they are maintained," said Berman, one of several international experts who have worked alongside IAA staff.
From the Guardian:
The detailed colour photographs of papyrus fragments may help to identify pieces that fit together and fragments written by the same scribes. Scholars hope that this information will enable them to piece together more of the fragments and so come closer to putting complete sections of the scrolls together.
And the Telegraph has pictures.

Background here.