Washington DC’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are forgeries, experts say

The exhibit of 16 fragments were on display at the Museum of the Bible


A report commissioned by the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC has found that all 16 of its Dead Sea Scroll fragments in its collection are forgeries.

The findings were outlined in a 200-page report produced by a team led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll, which was released online after an academic conference due hosted by the Museum of the Bible on March 15-16 was cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The team unanimously concluded that each fragment “exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries created in the twentieth century with the intent to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments.”

The six researchers, who spent six months examining each fragment, found that they were made of ancient leather rather that the parchment of the authentic scrolls.

They suggested that the source of the leather was likely to be Roman-era sandals left in the Judean Desert.

They also suggested that the ancient leather had been treated and written on with ink in modern times, pointing to clues in the penmanship and the presence of glues and chemical treatments that would not have existed at the time.

The fragments were due to be removed from the Museum of the Bible’s display on Monday.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” Harry Hargrove, chief executive of the Museum of the Bible told National Geographic. “We’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.”

The 16 fragments were acquired between 2009 and 2014 by Museum of the Bible founder and businessman Steve Green.

The report was commissioned following a 2018 report by the German Federal Institute for Material Research that found that the Dead Sea Scroll antiquities market was filled with forgeries and suggested that five of the Museum of the Bible’s fragments were fake.

The fragments were part of a collection of seventy pieces that came onto the antiquities market since 2002, reputedly after having been hidden away since the 1950s. The report findings will put the remaining pieces’ authenticity into further doubt.

The source of the forgeries remains unknown.

The findings do not cast doubt on the over 100,000 fragments of the authentic Dead Sea Scrolls held by the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest known pieces of the old Testament and date from between 400 BCE to 300CE. They were first discovered by Bedouin tribesman in the West Bank’s Qumran caves in 1947.

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