Officials at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC announced on Friday that all 16 of the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display are forgeries
“We’re victims — we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud,” CEO Harry Hargrove said at an academic conference hosted by the museum, National Geographic reported.
A team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll issued a 200-page report concluding that the pieces of leather used for the fragments may have been ancient, used to fool researchers, but the writing was added in modern times.
“These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll wrote.
In addition to the 16 fragments in the DC museum, the report sheds doubt on some 70 fragments that were acquired after the year 2002. Over 100,000 fragments are in the Shrine of the Book on the grounds of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
“Once one or two of the fragments were fake, you know all of them probably are, because they come from the same sources, and they look basically the same,” Årstein Justnes, a researcher at Norway’s University of Agder, told National Geographic. Justnes reported on the questionable scrolls in his Lying Pen of Scribes project.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish religious manuscripts that many historians, archaeologists and theologians consider to be the most significant find of the 20th century. Almost 100,000 fragments were found by Bedouins in 1947 in clay jars in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert on the northern shore of the Dead Sea. Scholarly consensus dates these scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE. The report does not question the authenticity of these scrolls.
Around 70 newly discovered fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls appeared on the antiquities market since 2002. The suspicion is focused on the provenance of more than 25 previously unpublished scroll fragments that were collected by two collectors more recently. Steve Green, bought 13 fragments between 2009 and 2014. The owner of the arts and crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby, Green donated the documents and thousands of other artifacts to the Museum of the Bible