Dead Sea Scrolls fake, will no longer be displayed. Five of the most valuable exhibits at the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC have been found to be fake.
The artefacts, thought to be part of the historic Dead Sea Scrolls, will no longer be displayed.
Academics tested the fragments and found that the “show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum,” the institution said.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest copies of Bible text ever found, and include passages of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, that range from 1,800 to more than 2,000 years old.
“Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artefacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency,” said Jeffrey Kloha, the chief curatorial officer for Museum of the Bible, said in a statement.
“As an educational institution entrusted with cultural heritage, the museum upholds and adheres to all museum and ethical guidelines on collection care, research and display,” Mr Kloha said.
While the cost of the scrolls has not been revealed, the museum is thought to have spent millions of dollars on them. The institution faced questions over the authenticity of the fragments even before the site opened in November 2017.
In April 2017, it sent five fragments to the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) a German institute for analysing materials, who tested the ink and the papyrus. The Museum of the Bible said that the recently-received report “further raises suspicions about the authenticity of all five fragments.”
The museum said that supported two other research projects on its DSS fragments. Two years ago, Brill, a leading international academic publisher, released the first in a series of planned volumes sponsored by Museum of the Bible. Edited by Emanuel Tov, Kipp Davis and Robert Duke. Mr Davis and some of the contributors raised questions about the authenticity of some of the fragments.
“My research has focused primarily on two aspects of Museum of the Bible’s fragments: scribal quality and technique in the penning of the texts as well as the physical composition and current state of the manuscript media,” said Mr Davis. “My studies to date have managed to confirm upon a preponderance of different streams of evidence the high probability that at least seven fragments in the museum’s Dead Sea Scrolls collection are modern forgeries, but conclusions on the status of the remaining fragments are still forthcoming.”
Today, many of the Dead Sea Scrolls—which total some 100,000 fragments—are housed in the Shrine of the Book, part of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The excavation and selling of fragments is outlawed under a UN convention on cultural property from 1970, which means that private sellers fight over fragments removed before that time.
The founder of the Museum of the Bible, Steve Green, who his business the Hobby Lobby craft chain, faced scrutiny over the purchase of more than 5,500 artefacts from 2010 that originated from Iraq. The chain agreed to pay a $3m fine last year to settle a case with the Department of Justice that claimed the objects were illegally smuggled. The items have since been returned.
Hobby Lobby said that it was new to the world of antiquities when it began acquiring historical items for its Museum of the Bible in 2009 and made mistakes in relying on dealers and shippers who “did not understand the correct way to document and ship” them.