Five Dead Sea Scrolls on display at Bible museum revealed as fakes

At least five Dead Sea Scrolls on display at a museum in the US appear to be fakes, the museum’s directors have admitted.

When the $500m 'Museum of the Bible' held its grand opening in November 2017 questions were raised about the authenticity of the ancient religious manuscripts.

After analysis found they had been forged, Jeffrey Kloha,
chief curator for the museum, said it is ‘an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts’.

The 16 scroll fragments held at the museum were its main attraction but technical analysis by a team of German scholars revealed that at least five of them appear to have been forged.

The painful admission is said to have serious implications – not only for the Bible museum – but for other Christian individuals and institutions who paid a high price for what now seems to be a massive case of archaeological fraud.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish religious manuscripts and were found in the Qumran Caves in the West Bank of the Dead Sea in what is now Israel.

The massive cache of Hebrew parchment is thought to date back to the days of Jesus – from the last two centuries BC and the first century AD.

With more than 9,000 documents and 50,000 fragments, the entire collection took decades to fully excavate.

Most of the scrolls and fragments are tightly controlled by the Israeli Antiquities Authority but in 2002, a wave of new fragments began mysteriously appearing on the market, despite skepticism from Biblical scholars.

These fragments, they warned, were specifically designed to target American evangelical Christians, who prize the scrolls.

It appears that the museum may have fallen for the forgeries.

A Baptist seminary in Texas and an evangelical college in California reportedly paid millions to purchase alleged pieces of the scrolls.

Also eagerly buying up fragments was the Green family – evangelical Oklahoma billionaires who run the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores and who famously sued the Obama administration on religious grounds, saying they didn’t want to pay to provide their employees access to the morning-after pill or intrauterine devices.

The Greens are the primary backers of the Museum of the Bible and went on an archaeological acquisition spree in the years leading up to the museum’s opening.

Mr Kloha said: ‘As an educational institution entrusted with cultural heritage, the museum upholds and adheres to all museum and ethical guidelines on collection care, research and display.’

The museum sent the fragments to researchers for analysis in April 2017 and has displayed the five fragments since its opening in November 2017.

The fake fragments have been replaced with other fragments ‘that will be on exhibit pending further scientific analysis and scholarly research,’ the museum said.


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