ALL Dead Sea Scrolls in Washington Bible Museum are Fakes
Washington DC’s Museum of the Bible was opened in 2017 and has since charged its victims customers $24.99 to see an exhibition of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a collection of biblical era texts, including the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. Now, the Museum has announced that all 16 of the museum ’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are “modern forgeries.”
The authentic Dead Sea Scrolls trace back to their discovery in 1947 when Bedouin herders discovered scores of clay jars in Palestine ’s Qumran caves containing thousands of 1,800-year-old scrolls, and this recent scam has blurred and confused scientists, since the forgeries first emerged in 2002. But rather than owning to these crimes the Museum of the Bible CEO, Harry Hargrave, said “we’re victims of misrepresentation, we ’re victims of fraud.”
Part of Dead Sea Scroll number 109 (4Q109), also known as Qohelet (Ecclesiastes). From Qumran Cave 4. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/CC BY SA 4.0)
No More than Leather Crafted Forgeries
A recent private investigation led to a 200 page report being drawn up by a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll, who said the museum’s forged fragments were “made of ancient leather, but inked in modern times” to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls, and she added that they had been made “with the intent to deceive.”
100,000 fragments from authentic Dead Sea Scrolls are kept in the Shrine of the Book, in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and in 2002 a group of 70 snippets allegedly from ancient biblical texts appeared on the antiques market. Årstein Justnes is a researcher at Norway’s University of Agder and his Lying Pen of Scribes project tracked the movements of the post-2002 fragments. In an interview with National Geographic the researcher said that when the first two fragments were found to be fake his team suspected “all of them probably are.”
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In late 2018, another National Geographic article detailed tests conducted on five fragments which were found to be, “probably modern forgeries,” and in response, in February 2019 the Museum of the Bible commissioned Loll and her company, Art Fraud Insights, to conduct physical and chemical investigations of all 16 pieces they hold. At the end of November 2019 the researchers confirmed they were all modern forgeries made from leather.
Another Case of Clever Forgers Meeting Stupid Buyers
Jennifer Mass, the president of Scientific Analysis of Fine Art, demonstrated that forgers had soaked the fragments in an amber-colored animal-skin glue mimicking the diagnostic glue-like substance found covering real Dead Sea Scrolls. And to further confuse the original buyer of the forgeries the team of investigators think the leather that the forgeries were made on is indeed ancient, perhaps found in the Judean desert or elsewhere; but artificial holes in some of the fragments suggests the leather was taken from ancient shoes or sandals.
Furthermore, the forged fragments were also dusted with clay minerals which were found to be consistent with sediments from Qumran, where the original Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and chemical analyses led by Buffalo State College conservation scientist Aaron Shugar mapped various chemical elements across the fragments revealing “calcium had soaked deeply into the leather pieces, suggesting the leather had been treated with lime to chemically remove its hair.”
Two of the Museum of the Bible Dead Sea Scroll fragments showing a possible line of manmade holes on the right. (Art Fraud Insights)
Museum of the Bible’s Forgeries, Hoaxes, and Stolen Goods
The new investigation finds that all 16 of the Museum of the Bible ’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments were forged the same way, indicating that they all share a common source, but the forgers remain unknown. With criminal origins, this latest announcement raises questions how the Museum of the “Bible” procured and assembled its collection?
According to the New York Times, in 2017 U.S. officials forced the museum’s owner, Hobby Lobby, to return “5,500 illegally imported clay tablets to Iraq and pay a $3-million fine.” In 2019 I wrote an Ancient Origins news feature when museum officials said some of the fragments had been “stolen and sold to the museum by Oxford professor Dirk Obbink.”
We Have a “Victim Card,” Therefore We Have No Responsibility
National Geographic says the Museum of the Bible ’s “new leadership team” voiced their hopes that the new “analysis” (in other words: exposure of corruption) would help Dead Sea Scroll scholars around the world. Christopher Rollston, a specialist on Semitic texts at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. said he welcomes the museum’s efforts to set things right, adding that a central theme of the Bible is “forgiveness and the possibility of redemption, after someone finally comes clean.”
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Museum of the Bible, November 4, 2017. Washington, D.C. Exterior front door. (Fuzheado/CC BY SA 4.0)
Perhaps this version of “Coming clean,” means all the corrupt staff who bought and perpetuated these hoaxes, even when under investigation, should be forgiven? But the trouble with this argument is that the top man at the Museum of the Bible, CEO Harry Hargrave, is certainly not “coming clean,” and has doubled-down with what is an almost cringeworthy claim of “victimization,” that great get-out of responsibility free card, when he told National Geographic, “we’re victims of misrepresentation, we ’re victims of fraud.”
When a big strong CEO flips his script and says an eight-worded sentence using the word “victim” twice, witty readers will see this as an exceptionally lame play of the “victimization card,” and that the Museum of the Bible is fabricating victimhood to justify their abuse of the public. Others will go so far as to say they have manipulated and distracted from the crimes committed, all for the sake of “$24.99, or $14.99 for kids and free for children six-years old and under.”
Top Image: A new scientific investigation on the 16 purported Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Museum of the Bible has confirmed that all are modern forgeries. Source: Photograph by Rebecca Hale, NGM staff
By Ashley Cowie