Infrared light photography and other imaging techniques

A scientist in Israel prepares to photograph sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls with infrared light.

Photo imaging and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Time and exposure to light can wear away the text of an ancient document. But new light-manipulation technologies are helping researchers “see” words that no longer appear on a parchment.

Our eyeballs are limited—they only respond to certain frequencies of light. But special cameras can use infrared light to uncover things that our eyes can’t see. When scientists shine infrared light on a fragment of Dead Sea Scroll text, the blank space around words absorbs the light. But areas where letters once appeared reflect the infrared light back, giving us a record of what was there.

Through use of computer software like Photoshop, researchers can enhance these new images to get an even clearer picture of how the scrolls first appeared.