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Dead Sea scroll forgeries to be removed from Washington display    

20 March 2020


A fragment on display in the Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC, on 14 November 2017, at an exhibition preview

A fragment on display in the Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC, on 14 November 2017, at an exhibition preview

EXPERTS have confirmed that the Dead Sea scroll fragments in a Washington museum are forgeries.

The Museum of the Bible hired a team of art-fraud experts to examine pieces that were brought in by the museum’s chairman, Steve Green, in 2017. Although there was hope that the objects could be a hugely significant archaeological discovery, the fraudulent status of each one was confirmed on Monday. They are due to be removed next week from their display case in the museum.

The results were the conclusion of a six-month examination, prompted by the growing awareness of multiple forgeries in the global market for Dead Sea scroll pieces. Art Fraud Insights, the company hired by the museum, scrutinised each fragment and published the findings in an online report, Museum of the Bible Dead Sea Scroll Collection Scientific Research and Analysis.

Techniques deployed to create the fakes included the use of leather from Roman times — probably taken from footwear — to mimic parchment, as well as efforts to recreate ancient script. Clues about the origin of the pieces included the use of animal glue, which would not have been available in the era.

The original Dead Sea scrolls are thought to be genuine: the first piece of the original Hebrew Bible was discovered in the West Bank, in Palestine, in the 1940s. The pieces at the Museum of the Bible, however, are part of the “Post-2002 Fragments”, a cluster of 70 pieces that came on to the art market in the early 2000s. The legitimacy of these pieces has now been thrown into serious doubt.

The museum’s chief curatorial officer, Dr Jeffrey Kloha, said: “The sophisticated and costly methods employed to discover the truth about our collection could be used to shed light on other suspicious fragments, and perhaps even be effective in uncovering who is responsible for these forgeries.”

Read more on the story in Andrew Brown’s press column

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