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Farragutful / CC BY-SA
Farragutful / CC BY-SA
World News

'We're victims of fraud': Investigation reveals Dead Sea Scrolls at Museum of the Bible are fake

by Tola Mbakwe

The Museum of the Bible has said it's fallen victim to fraud after an investigation found Dead Sea Scroll fragments it has displayed in an exhibit are phony.  

The museum in Washington DC funded researchers to test its collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments after scholars expressed growing concern about the authenticity of some of the fragments since they were put on display in 2016. 

"After an exhaustive review of all the imaging and scientific analysis results, it is evident that none of the textual fragments in Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic," concluded Colette Loll, founder and director of Art Fraud

Insights, in a detailed report about the findings. 

"Moreover, each exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries created in the twentieth century with the intent to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments."

The investigation began after experts were worried that the museum's collection weren't real since all were bought after 2002, when suspected counterfeits entered the market.

In 2017 Museum of the Bible sent off five of its Dead Sea Scroll fragments to be tested for authenticity. Results showed they were probably modern forgeries. 

The new investigation revealed the other eleven fragments are also fake, with the primary reason being that they were made of ancient leather instead of "tanned or lightly tanned parchment", according to National Geographic. 

National Geographic added: "Testing showed that the forger soaked the fragments in an amber-coloured concoction, most likely an animal-skin glue. 

"The treatment not only stabilized the leather and smoothed out the writing surface, but it also mimicked a signature, glue-like feature of the real Dead Sea Scrolls."

Museum of the Bible CEO Harry Hargrave said: "The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible. 

"We're victims, we're victims of misrepresentation, we're victims of fraud."

Loll has commended the Museum of the Bible for its honesty and for removing the collection. 

"What Museum of the Bible is doing is extremely important in the museum world.

"Usually, items that are determined to be fake are quietly removed from display and transferred to the euphemistic 'study collection.' Museum of the Bible has opted to be as transparent as possible with its collection of Dead Sea Scrolls - from the

interim gallery labels, to the public announcement of the results of the research and the subsequent release of all of the associated research materials. 

"This data can now be used for comparison to other questioned fragments. What a tremendous contribution to the field."

The museum held a two-day academic conference on the testing of its Dead Sea Scroll collection on Friday and Saturday. There will also be a public event on Sunday.

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