A thorough investigation of one of the world's most valuable collections of Dead Sea Scroll fragments has revealed a shocking truth: not one of the collection's 16 fragments analysed is authentic.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, a trove of religious manuscripts containing the oldest known foundations of the Old Testament, date as far back as the third century BCE. The vast majority of these ancient, weathered texts are displayed in Jerusalem, but many more fragments circulate on the private market, where they are coveted by cashed-up collectors and museums.
Unfortunately, many researchers in the field of biblical archaeology suspect that some of these supposed relics – especially a mysterious body of fragments that only turned up late in the day, in 2002 – are cunningly crafted forgeries that can fool even experts.
That bleak view was seemingly confirmed in late 2018, when the US$500 million Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC revealed that at least five of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments in its collection on display were actually fakes.
Since then, the museum has engaged further scientific help to ascertain whether the rest of its scroll fragments (rumoured to have cost millions to acquire) are the real deal. It turns out, rather embarrassingly, they are not.
"After an exhaustive review of all the imaging and scientific analysis results, it is evident that none of the textual fragments in Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic," says art fraud investigator Colette Loll, the founder and director of Art Fraud Insights.