The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is reportedly removing five artifacts from its Dead Sea Scrolls display after scientific testing indicated the fragments were not authentic.
According to CNN, scholars in Germany sampled the fragments and determined that five “show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum.”
“Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency,” Jeffrey Kloha, chief curatorial officer for the Museum of the Bible, told the network.
“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 authentic Dead Sea Scrolls make up the earliest surviving pieces of the Old Testament. They were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in the Qumran caves of the Judean Desert.
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There has been no word from Steve Green, founder of the museum as well as president of the arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby, regarding the cost of the 16 fragments, but other Christian history buffs have paid millions of dollars for similar pieces.
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The museum published details of its Dead Sea Scroll fragments in 2016, the same year Norwegian collector Martin Schøyen also published his collection of fragments.
That raised concern among some experts who suspected modern forgeries.
“For one thing, the sudden emergence of so many ‘new’ Dead Sea Scrolls on the market in the past few years – of which the Museum of the Bible owns only a relatively small percentage – should be suspicious right off the bat,” Bible scholars Joel Baden and Candida Moss told LiveScience. “As no archaeological excavations are uncovering new scrolls, there’s no reason that there should be a surge in availability all of a sudden – unless they are being manufactured.”
“The spread of forgeries is closely connected with the lack of awareness on how important is to go in depth with researching the provenance,” papyrologist Roberta Mazza, a research fellow at the University of Manchester told LiveScience.
He recalled the 2012 sensation over the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ wife, a papyrus suggesting Jesus had been married during His earthly ministry.
“The moment someone researched [its] provenance properly, it became clear it was a forgery,” Mazza said.
In April 2017, the Museum of the Bible sent five fragments to the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung, or BAM, a German institute for analyzing materials.
Experts used 3D digital microscopy and examined the ink and sediment on the papyrus.
Their report, noted CNN, “further raises suspicions about the authenticity of all five fragments.”
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