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These Dead Sea Scrolls Turn Out to Be Fakes

Experts say all of DC museum's fragments are 'deliberate forgeries'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2020 7:11 AM CDT
Updated Mar 21, 2020 10:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – It would be more accurate to call the "Dead Sea Scrolls" at a museum in Washington, DC, the "Old Sandal Fakes," researchers say. A team of art fraud experts spent six months analyzing the supposed scroll fragments at the Museum of the Bible and concluded that billionaire Steve Green, owner of the Hobby Lobby chain, had paid millions of dollars for forgeries that were probably made from Roman-era shoe leather made to resemble ancient parchment, the Guardian reports. The company hired to examine the fragments said they all appeared to be "deliberate forgeries created in the 20th century with the intent to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments." The museum says it will remove the scroll fragments from display while it is closed during the coronavirus crisis.

The researchers say the forgers imitated the writing of ancient Hebrew scribes and coated the leather in "shiny amber material ... most likely animal skin glue," the BBC reports. In 2018—a year after the $500 million museum opened—scholars determined that at least five of its 16 scroll fragments were fakes. The original scrolls were found in caves on the shore of the Dead Sea in 1947. Experts say the researchers' finding cast doubt on all 70 of the supposed scroll fragments that went on the market after 2002, when an antiquities dealer's son claimed to have found them in a family vault. Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, the museum's chief curatorial officer, says the "sophisticated and costly methods employed to discover the truth about our collection could be used to shed light on other suspicious fragments." (Read more Dead Sea scrolls stories.)

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