Friday, 13 March 2020

The MoB Duped: All the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' at the Museum of the Bible are Forgeries

First it was 'Five of Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scrolls are forgeries' (Michael Greshko National Geographic Oct 22, 2018). Now the unsurprising results of further testing 'Exclusive: 'Dead Sea Scrolls' at the Museum of the Bible are all forgeries' (Michael Greshko Nat Geog March 13, 2020).
“The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” says CEO Harry Hargrave. “We’re victims—we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.” In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says. [...] the report’s findings raise grave questions about the “post-2002” Dead Sea Scroll fragments, a group of some 70 snippets of biblical text that entered the antiquities market in the 2000s. Even before the new report, some scholars believed that most to all of the post-2002 fragments were modern fakes.
Mind you, several of us were pretty sure that is how this was going to turn out (see Candida Moss here). Play the victim the MoB might, but who misrepresented the fragments to them? None other than the collector that bought them, Steve Green.
Around 2002, as antiquities dealers and collectors began showing biblical fragments that looked like long-lost pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many of them reportedly "traced back to the Kandos, who were rumoured to be selling pieces they had long ago spirited away to a vault in Switzerland".
By decade’s end, the trickle of post-2002 fragments turned into a flood of at least 70 pieces. Collectors and museums jumped at the chance to own the oldest known biblical texts, including Museum of the Bible founder Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby. Starting in 2009, Green and Hobby Lobby spent a fortune buying up biblical manuscripts and artifacts to seed what would become the Museum of the Bible’s collection. From 2009 to 2014, Green bought a total of 16 Dead Sea Scroll fragments in four batches, including seven fragments he bought directly from William Kando, the elder Kando’s son.
Initially, some Dead Sea Scroll experts thought the post-2002 pieces, including Green’s, were the real deal. In 2016, leading biblical scholars published a book on the Museum of the Bible’s fragments, dating them to the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But months before that book’s publication, doubt had started to creep into some scholars’ minds.
In 2016, researchers including Justnes and Kipp Davis, a scholar at Canada’s Trinity Western University who co-edited the 2016 book, began discussing signs that some post-2002 fragments in Norway had been faked. Davis then published evidence in 2017 that cast doubt on two Museum of the Bible fragments, including one that was on display when the museum opened in 2017. One fragment’s lettering squeezed into a corner that wouldn’t have existed when the writing surface was new. Another appeared to have a Greek letter alpha where a 1930s reference Hebrew Bible used an alpha to flag a footnote.
Ooops. "Despite being purchased at four different times from four different people, the report finds that all 16 of the Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments were forged the same way—which strongly suggests that the forged fragments share a common source". There is one common source, the antiquities market.

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