DEAD SEA SCROLL FRAGMENTS PROVE TO BE FAKES
The prized objects in the Museum of the Bible have been removed
Five fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls collection at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, have been proven to be forgeries.
The Dead Sea Scrolls – a collection of religious manuscripts – were found in caves on the shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now the West Bank. Between 1947 and 1956, more than 800 papyrus and leather documents were found in clay jars. Believed to be written by members of a Jewish community living in the area between 150 BC and AD 70, they contain the oldest surviving sources of the Hebrew Bible, as well as writings on Jewish history.
The majority of the fragments are in the care of the Israeli Government, but a few others are housed in museums across the world. The Museum of the Bible holds 16 fragments – some of the museum’s most prized items – but five have now been exposed as fakes. Doubts had been raised over their authenticity, so they were sent to be tested by experts in Germany using X-ray and material analysis – which has now revealed “characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin”. They’ve since been removed from the museum and replaced by other pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
It’s not the first controversy to surround the museum – months before its grand opening in 2017, its chairman, Steve Green, was caught up in a smuggling scandal. A US Government investigation concluded in 2017 found more than 5,500 artefacts imported by Hobby Lobby – a chain of arts and crafts stores of which Green is also president – had been smuggled from Iraq. Hobby Lobby settled, forfeiting the artefacts, while the Museum of the Bible released a statement denying that any of the items were bound for its collection.
The Dead Sea Scroll fragments on display in the Museum of the Bible INSET: An Israel Antiquities Authority worker restores a scroll in Jerusalem