Photoshop & the Dead Sea Scrolls

Ah–here’s a great example of a non-traditional use of Photoshop that I’ve been wanting to share for a while. Researchers at USC’s West Semitic Research Project have been using Photoshop to aid in analyzing the Dead Sea Scrolls and other historic texts. Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, director of the WSRP, writes, “Adobe Photoshop CS2 is the single most important enabler in the WSRP’s work. It is pivotal to our ability to unlock the history of the ancient past.” We’ve put together a 4-page article (PDF) that talks more about the work:

Frequently, Photoshop CS2 is used to combine parchment or papyrus fragments of texts that are often physically separated in different museums and libraries in what amounts to digital jigsaw puzzles. Some writing is so tiny that researchers use a fiber-optic “light brush” to direct a very narrow beam of light onto a small area. In such cases, Photoshop CS2 allows scholars to combine images to build composites out of the smaller images. Some writing cannot be seen at all because the background is too dark or the ink itself is too faded. In this case, researchers use infrared and ultraviolet imaging to reclaim the ink traces. Because infrared and ultraviolet images sometimes hide as well as reveal data, scholars use Photoshop CS2 to combine various images in order to have all the visual information available for viewing.


  • The WSRP maintains online guides for scholars using Photoshop in their research.
  • John Dowdell mentions Adobe’s growing focus on imaging science and outreach to scientists–for example, the image authentication work on which Adobe’s been collaborating with Dr. Hani Farid & his team.
  • The Photoshop product pages cover ways in which the application’s capabilities have grown for these users in the most recent releases.

0 thoughts on “Photoshop & the Dead Sea Scrolls

  1. Ah, John…. You need to spend more time with scientists who *are* using Photoshop for unbelievably diverse purposes. There are bio-science folks (like us), materials scientists, historians, archaeologists, mathematicians, image forensics, etc…etc…etc…

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