Published: Tue, October 23, 2018

DC's Bible Museum to Stop Displaying 5 Fake Dead Sea Scrolls

DC's Bible Museum to Stop Displaying 5 Fake Dead Sea Scrolls

The Museum of the Bible said Monday that five fragments in its collection of Dead Sea Scrolls are fake and will be removed from display.

The museum said it replaced the five fragments from display with three other fragments, "that will be on exhibit pending further scientific analysis and scholarly research".

"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".

German-based scholars tested the fragments and found that five "show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum". Three of those 9 are now on display at the museum with signs addressing the questions about their authenticity, the spokesperson said. They also agreed to pay a $3 million forfeiture for similarly imported goods no longer in their possession.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered among the 20th century's greatest archaeological finds. In the last two decades, more fragments have emerged on the antiquities market, prompting some suspicion about where they came from.

When the US$500 million Museum of the Bible held its grand opening in Washington, US in November 2017, attended by US Vice President Mike Pence, there were questions even then about the authenticity of its centrepiece collection of Dead Sea Scrolls.


The family amassed about 40,000 items, some of which were donated to the museum, including the purported Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

Davis had been involved in the museum's initial 2016 publication of the scroll fragments, but later wrote about his questions concerning the authenticity of some of the texts.

In April a year ago the museum sent five of its 16 Dead Sea Scroll pieces to Germany's Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) for testing after previous studies questioned their authenticity. Their small size makes it hard to determine their authenticity, and no test can definitively determine that a fragment is real. He said in some cases letters are oddly shaped or not straight, or they appear to conform to the edge of the fragments and other "bizarre-looking features".

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest version of the Hebrew Bible and offer insight into what the sacred text looked like at the turn of the era, said Joel Baden, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, and a critic of the museum.

Between 2009 and 2014, Steve Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby, purchased up to 16 fragments in the name of the company.

Those same scholars questioned the Greens' fragments even before the museum opened with splashy ceremonies previous year, including an event attended by Vice President Mike Pence.

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