A new study sponsored by the Museum of the Bible reveals that the 16 fragments in their collection are fakes
The Museum of the Bible holds 16 fragments of reputed Dead Sea Scrolls in their collection. On Friday, March 13, 2020, a study revealed that all 16 of these are modern forgeries. Already in 2018, a different study had tested five of the 16 fragments and concluded that they were fakes. The new study—which was conducted by Art Fraud Insights, led by the art fraud investigator Colette Loll, and funded by the Museum of the Bible—analyzed all 16 fragments.
Through a series of physical and chemical tests, Loll and her team determined that the fragments had been deliberately manipulated to look ancient. The forgers had used old pieces of leather and written on them with ink in modern times. Using a microscope, the investigators were able to see pools of ink in cracks of the weathered leather, cracks that would not have been there when the leather was new. Additionally, they noted places where the ink overlaid the uneven mineral crust of the ancient leather. Had the fragment been written in ancient times, this would not be the case.
Further, the material of the 16 fragments was also suspicious. The majority of the authentic Dead Sea Scrolls were written on parchment, whereas these fragments were written on leather. Although the leather was ancient, it was still an unusual writing surface and raised a red flag for investigators.
These 16 fakes tricked biblical scholars, collectors, and the founder of the Museum of the Bible alike. Yet there were always skeptics, who thought that the new Dead Sea Scroll fragments appearing on the antiquities market after 2002 were not authentic. This report seems to settle things—or does it?
Even after this thorough investigation, not everyone is entirely convinced. According to renowned biblical scholar Emanuel Tov, who served as editor-in-chief of the official International Dead Sea Scroll Publication team for two decades, in his mind these fragments have not all been proven to be fakes beyond doubt. Since similar tests have not been performed on authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments and fragments of later texts from the Judean desert, a baseline for comparison hasn’t been established. As quoted in National Geographic, Emanuel Tov explains, “The report expects us to conclude that abnormalities abound without demonstrating what is normal.”
We will wait to see how the saga unfolds. Read the full report.
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