Five Artifacts Displayed At Bible Museum Found To Be Fake

The artifacts have since been removed from their display

Part of the Isaiah Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, on display inside the vault of the Shrine of the Book building at the Israel Museum on September 26, 2011.
Lior Mizrah / Getty Images

The artifacts have since been removed from their display

Washington, D.C.’s Museum of the Bible said today five of its most valuable artifacts thought to be a part of the historic Dead Sea Scrolls are fake and will no longer be on display, CNN reported.

The fragments were sent to be tested by the German-based Bundesanstalt fur Materialforschung und-prufung (BAM) in April 2017 for 3D digital microscopy, scanning X-ray fluorescence and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy material analysis of the ink, sediment layers and chemical nature of the sediment, the museum wrote in a press release on their website. Their report was recently provided to the museum, and stated the fragments were found to “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,” said Jeffrey Kloha, the museum’s chief curatorial officer. “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.”

According to the museum’s website, the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1947 by a shepherd who struck old clay jars as he tossed stones in a cave near the Dead Sea. Between 1947 and 1956, scrolls and fragments were unearthed from 12 of the caves of Qumran. Over 900 texts were discovered in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, including almost every book of the Hebrew Bible with the exceptions of Esther and Nehemiah. They are dubbed on the museum’s website as “one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century.”

Though the findings of the fragments’ testing were just released, many scholars believed them to be fake even before the $500 million Museum of the Bible opened its doors on Nov. 17, 2017, CNN previously reported.

In 2014, Kipp Davis was hired to prepare the Dead Sea Scroll collection for publication by the museum’s owner Steven Green, whose family also owns Hobby Lobby. Davis, a Dead Sea Scroll expert at Trinity Western University in Canada, found that though the leather parchment appeared “ancient enough,” the writing “looked stretched and squeezed to fit the misshapen fragments.” He was convinced at least six of Green’s 13 fragments were “almost certainly forgeries.”

Kipp told CNN that Monday’s news of the fake fragments felt like “bittersweet vindication,” and noted that those motivated by faith to collect artifacts should be very wary of antiquities dealers eager to take advantage of them.

“These good intentions that draw from a place of faith are subject to some really gross manipulations and that is a big part of what has happened here,” Davis said.

The museum’s five fragments have since been removed from display and replaced with three other fragments, which will remain a part of the exhibit pending further scientific analysis and scholarly research.