National Geographic reports that a group of independent researchers has confirmed that the 16 fragments belonging to the Bible Museum are fakes that deceived collectors, some biblical scholars and the museum that had the scrolls on display.
In October 2018, the Bible Museum announced that five of the fragments it presented were apparently falsified and decided to entrust commissions to experts to investigate its entire collection.
In 2018, the museum discovered that five of its fragments like the one illustrated were actually fake, which prompted it to launch an investigation into the others.
Real pieces of Dead Sea scrolls, like the one pictured, had a number of differences from fake counterparts, including the materials they were written on (stock)
The more than 200-page report by researchers at Art Fraud Insights, says that the counterfeits, while probably printed on old leather, actually had a number of glaring differences from the more than 100,000 real fragments of the old text.
On the one hand, a team led by artistic fraud investigator Colette Loll says that the real parchments were made from tanned parchment as opposed to the museum’s leather versions.
Investigators speculate that the counterfeits could have been reused from old leather sandals discovered in Roman times.
The counterfeits also seem to have been soaked in an amber-colored solution considered to be a kind of animal skin glue which smoothed the leather and gave it an aesthetic appearance similar to the real versions.
As explained by National Geographic, the collagen in the parchment on which the real Dead Sea scrolls are written has decomposed to form a gelatin which gives them their characteristic appearance.
Microscopic analysis of the counterfeits also revealed features such as ink build-up and torn edges caused by the inscription that would not have been likely if the leather was new at the time of manufacture.
“The material is degraded, it’s so fragile, so rigid,” investigator Abigail Quandt, responsible for preserving books and paper at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, told National Geographic.
“It is not surprising that scholars thought they were untrained scribes, as they were really struggling to train these characters and keep their pens under control.”
The results cast doubt on the scrolls that surfaced in the early 2000s and can now be re-examined
While the report does not shed much light on the origin of the counterfeits, it casts doubt on a whole class of Dead Sea Scrolls that surfaced after 2002 – a class to which the Bible Counterfeit Museum belongs.
According to National Geographic, around 70 excerpts from biblical text suddenly spilled into the antique market in the early 2000s.
The origins of the scrolls have never been determined, but scholars have long questioned their authenticity.
“ Once one or two of the fragments were fake, you know they are probably all fake because they come from the same sources, and they basically look the same, ” Årstein Justnes, researcher at the ‘Agder in Norway, who is also facing Lying Pen of Scribes, a project that traces the post-2002 fragments, told National Geographic.
The museum says it plans to reorganize its exhibit to show how the scrolls were faked and reassesses the origin of other artifacts in its collection.
WHAT ARE THE DEADS OF THE DEAD SEA?
Discovered between 1946 and 1956, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 ancient scrolls dating back 2,000 years.
The texts include thousands of fragments of parchment and papyrus and, in rare cases, entire manuscripts.
They contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible as well as a range of extra-biblical documents.
The scrolls were found by the shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib while searching for a wandering among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea in what was then British-mandated Palestine – today the West Bank .
The story goes that in a cave in the dark crevice of a steep rocky hill, Muhammed threw a stone into the dark interior and was surprised to hear the noise of breaking pots.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include thousands of fragments of parchment and papyrus (archival photo), contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible. They also present a range of extra-biblical documents
Venturing inside, the young Bedouin found a mysterious collection of large clay jars in which he found old scrolls, some wrapped in linen and blackened with age.
The texts have since been searched by archaeologists, who are now rushing to digitize their content before it deteriorates beyond readability.
The texts are of great historical and religious significance and include the first known copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents, as well as the preservation of evidence of diversity in late Second Temple Judaism.
Dated between 408BC and 318AD, they are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Nabataean, mainly on parchment, but some are written on papyrus and bronze.
The rolls are traditionally divided into three groups.
“Biblical” manuscripts, which are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible, account for 40% of transportation.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by the Shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib while searching for a wander among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea