Fake Dead Sea Scrolls fragments found by German researchers

A Dead Sea Scrolls fragment from the book of Genesis part of Museum of the Bible's Scholars Initiative research project published by Brill in 2016. Of the museum's 13 published scrolls at least six are of dubious authenticity. (Image by Bruce

The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., says five of its Dead Sea Scroll fragments are fake, and will no longer be on public display.

Five fragments "show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin", the Museum of the Bible said, in a statement released Monday.

"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".

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. Some legitimate specimens are considered to be priceless, and a number of them have sold for millions of dollars, according to CNN.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, a scattered collection of ancient parchment containing the oldest known text of the Hebrew Bible, are particularly prized specimens in the field of biblical archaeology.

According to the Independent, roughly 100,000 fragments exist, but "the excavation and selling of fragments is outlawed under a United Nations convention on cultural property from 1970, which means that private sellers fight over fragments removed before that time".

On the website, "The Lying Pen of Scribes", scholars and scientists have identified more than 70 purported Dead Sea Scroll fragments that have surfaced on the antiquities market since 2002.

Scholars and media reports raised questions about the museum's Dead Sea Scroll fragments past year in the run up to the Green family's November opening of the $500 million museum.

The family agreed a year ago to return those artifacts and pay a $US3 million fine.

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CNN raised questions about the museum's Dead Sea Scroll fragments in an article published last November, as the Green family prepared to unveil their new, $500 million museum.

The Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC, sent five of its 16 fragments for analysis in Germany. As scholars began to study them, some noted puzzling features and labelled them as forgeries. The scroll fragments will no longer be displayed, the museum said.

While Khola insists the museum's acknowledgement of the forgeries demonstrates the museum's "commitment to transparency", Hebrew Bible expert Joel Baden from Yale Divinity School argues the fake fragments should never have been displayed in the first place before their (in) authenticity was determined.

But then Bedouin shepherds stumbled on the scrolls, hidden away for almost 2,000 years in caves in Qumran, on the western shore of the Dead Sea.

Between 2009 and 2014, Steve Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby, purchased up to 16 fragments in the name of the company.

The Museum of the Bible said it plans to conduct more research about their authenticity.

The discovery was so vast, with more than 900 manuscripts and an estimated 50,000 fragments, it took six decades for scholars to excavate and publish them all.

The Green family has collected about 40,000 artifacts worth more than $205 million over the past eight years. Hobby Lobby said it was "new to the world of antiquities" and did not "understand the correct way to document and ship them".

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