The S C R I P T A Q U M R A N I C A E L E C T R O N I C A project (SQE) is all about bringing the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered by beduins in 1947 and today curated at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Shrine of the Book, to the digital age. Its aim is to provide a new standard online platform for Dead Sea Scrolls editing and to prepare pioneer Digital Scholarly Editions of Qumran Texts. It is the intention of the SQE project to provide the public with world-wide free access to its tools for Dead Sea Scrolls research. The resulting dynamic, extensible, and collaborative platform will ultimately set the stage for the next generation of Dead Sea Scrolls research.
By combining two major databases (the digital images of all known Qumran fragments at the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, IAA, Jerusalem, and the textual and linguistic data for all texts included in the Qumranwörterbuch, Qumran Dictionary, at Göttingen Academy), SQE brings together scholars of the Scrolls and AI as well as database specialists on the one hand, as well as a broader public on the other hand. The highly customized and cutting-edge tools will enable scholars and students of the Scrolls (and more than 25.000 fragments) deeper insights than previously thought possible.
Currently, the joint Göttingen/Haifa project consists of two editorial (one for each university) and two IT teams (Göttingen Academy and Tel Aviv University), as well as several additional partners. The principal investigators are Prof. Dr. Reinhard G. Kratz (Theological Faculty, University of Göttingen) and Prof. Dr. Jonathan Ben-Dov (now at the Department of Bible, Tel Aviv University ), together with Prof. Dr. Nachum Dershowitz (School of Computer Science, Tel Aviv University). Cooperation partners include the Israel Antiquities Authority (Pnina Shor, Dr. Joe Uziel), the Department of Hebrew Culture Studies at Tel Aviv University (Prof. Dr. Noam Mizrahi), and the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities (apl. Prof. Dr. Ingo Kottsieper).
Having once connected and synchronized all data from both databases, a “Virtual Research Environment (VRE)” is programmed by the IT Team (Göttingen).
This VRE will subsequently be used by the various editors to produce their respective Digital Scholarly Editions (published on the Scripta Qumranica Website, but available in several formats). The Editorial Teams (Göttingen and Haifa, Paris) give their input to the IT Team: What tools, functions, algorithms are needed to produce the edition? How intuitive is the user interface and what can be improved?
In this phase, the IT Team is responsible for the import of the editorial data (readings, reconstructions; until automated functions and editing of the data are realized within the SQE system), for providing the requested functions as well as optimizing the so-called “Scrollery” from the editors’ feedback.
Here, the Computer Sciences (Tel Aviv) come into play, developing tools that enable the user to, e.g., find images from a certain fragment on different (historical photos), spot letters or “Regions of Interest” (ROIs; with the help of, inter alia, Deep Learning and Neural Networking Technologies) and have characters recognized automatically (OCR), as well as assign and link all available data to the single objects.
The IT-Team itself is finally assisted by qualified User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) experts (Haifa) who are designing the “fine-tuned” version of the interface.