As many as 16 presumed fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Museum of the Bible have been revealed to be forgeries, National Geographic reported.
The museum, owned by Steve Green, the head of the Oklahoma City-based private art corporation Hobby Lobby, handed the snippets of the most ancient surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible over to art professionals, conservationists, and scientists for chemical and physical analysis.
“These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive", investigator Colette Loll concluded.
As the experts scrutinised the supposed pieces of art and history, they found that the majority of the said exhibits were seemingly made from ancient leather rather than parchment, with the cover dipped in some amber-coloured liquid to imitate the texture of the authentic scrolls.
On top of this, ink pools off the torn edges were found to have been produced in modern times. The report also claimed that the fragments look strikingly alike despite having been purchased from four different people.
Commenting on the disconcerting findings, Museum CEO Harry Hargrave said that the entity is trying to be “as transparent as possible”, noting that they are “victims – victims pf misrepresentation", saying “…we are victims of fraud".
The probe led by art fraud expert Colette Loll and her assembled team spanned from February to October last year, with Loll insisting on independence and conditioning that the findings be released to the public. The Museum of the Bible agreed to the terms, with Loll noting she had never worked with such an “up-front” museum.
100% - all 16 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments - held by @museumofBible have now been conclusively shown to be modern fakes.— Incunabula (@incunabula) March 13, 2020
This likely means that all the fragments held in the Schøyen Collection are also faked.
This is a gigantic multimillion dollar fraud.https://t.co/yQfT4gERTM
While the over 200-page report looked into the authenticity of the Bible snippets, it didn’t outline the origins of the forgery, including the chain of ownership. The identity of the forger still remains unknown, despite multiple independent attempts by the museum's management and curators to determine this.
Testing has been conducted since 2017, when the Museum of the Bible was first opened, but it wasn’t until Colette Loll's team’s analysis that the forgery was 100 percent proven.
The new findings, incidentally, don’t cast doubt on the 100,000 real Dead Sea Scroll fragments, the majority of which are stored in the Shrine of the Book – part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
To be clear, all this applies ONLY to the recent fragments which have come up for sale since around 2002.— Incunabula (@incunabula) March 13, 2020
It does NOT apply to the original Dead Sea Scrolls, now mainly held in Jerusalem's Shrine of the Book (a part of the Israel Museum), whose authenticity is undisputed. pic.twitter.com/CapCyMr6CD
They date back to 1947, when Bedouin herders accidentally discovered clay jars in the Qumran caves. The latter appeared, to the researchers’ jubilation, to hold thousands of parchment scrolls more than 1,800 years old, including a number of the oldest surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible.