Washington Bible Museum Reveals that 5 of 16 Dead Sea Scroll Fragments are Fake

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Posted on: October 31, 2018

Museum exhibits usually give us a glimpse into the past. They usually display artifact such as craftwork, writings, and clothing based on what ancient and early civilizations would have used. But what if one of those artifact were fake? Or maybe 5? It appears that in the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in Washington’s Museum of the Bible, 5 out of the 16 scroll fragments have been determined to be fake.

On October 22 it was confirmed that some of the scrolls were not in fact original fragments, although there were already questions about their authenticity since the opening of the Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit on November 2017: inconsistent handwriting and content across the texts had created some serious doubts about the origins of the scroll fragments. These inconsistencies were the decisive piece of evidence that led to a team of German scholars concluding that at least 5 fragments were not real.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were ancient Jewish texts written in mainly Hebrew, with some written in Greek, Aramaic, and Nabataean Aramaic. These texts were written nearly 2000 years ago and most of the scrolls were lost or destroyed by the natural elements. However, there were several scrolls that were well preserved and kept that were discovered in the mid-20th century on the west shores of the Dead Sea. 

Most of the scrolls and fragments of the scrolls were tightly controlled by the Israeli Antiquities Authorities, to ensure the protection and authenticity of the scrolls. But by 2002, there were a huge surge in scroll fragments that started to appear out of nowhere. Along with museums, there were many American Evangelical Christians who were eager to get their hands on owning a piece of these sacred texts due to their historical significance and spiritual value. After the discovery that some of the scrolls might be fakes, many of the people who bought fragments of the texts are just beginning to realize that they might have been scammed with a facsimile and robbed of thousands or even millions of dollars.

The Green family, large contributors to the museum who played an instrumental role in its opening, also bought many fragments of the texts. They were asked earlier in 2017 on how they acquired the texts, but Steve Green wasn’t sure of who sold them the texts.  However, they have been known for getting in trouble with the justice system in terms of acquiring ancient artifacts in the past.  In one instance, they had smuggled looted artifact from around the world and were forced to return these artifacts and pay a 3 million US dollar fine last year.

The fake Dead Sea scrolls that were discovered may have an affect on the museum’s credibility. However, it is important to know next time where an artifact is obtained from, and whether there could be any credibility from where it came from. In addition, there should be more research next time to prevent having another fake historical artifact on display.


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