Monday, October 09, 2017

DEAD SEA SCROLLS ARE COMING UP AS FORGERIES


A Bedouin shepherd hears pottery break as he throws stones into a cave while searching for lost sheep among arid cliffs abutting the Dead Sea. He enters the cave and uncovers the find of the 20th century — 2,000-year-old Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls, then the earliest written record of the Bible.

Seven decades have passed since that Hollywood-esque discovery of some 900 manuscripts and up to 50,000 fragments in the 11 caves of Qumran. Now, accusations of dozens of million-dollar forgeries make for a worthy sequel.

It’s a whodunit involving a complex network of high-stakes deals with dubious provenance, and perhaps even academic obfuscation. The process by which the forgeries are being manufactured has yet to be fully exposed. The motive is entirely clear: The tiniest of ancient snippets sells for well over $100,000 per fragment in these private off-the-books sales.

Since 2002, the world’s private antiquities markets have been saturated with certified millennia-old leather inscribed with biblical verses by what, on expert inspection, appears to be a modern hand. This has led some scholars to believe one or more of their own has gone rogue and created a proliferation of fakes that are being peddled to a growing number of Evangelical Christian collectors.

The Museum of the Bible, set to open this November in Washington, DC, is foremost among those collectors who have been “duped,” to the tune of millions of dollars, scholars say. A series of recent articles in respected academic journals calls into question the authenticity of at least half a dozen in its trove of tiny scroll fragments.

Among those raising awareness of the allegedly forged fragments is paleographer Dr. Kipp Davis, a research fellow at Trinity Western University and associate of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at TWU.
“There is a growing emerging consensus among Dead Sea Scroll scholars that many of the fragments in the private collections are fakes,” Davis told The Times of Israel. In his latest article, “Caves of Dispute,” published in the Brill Dead Sea Discoveries series this month, Davis found that at least six of the Museum of the Bible’s 13 published fragments are forgeries.

In conversation with The Times of Israel, Davis said while he is convinced that six of the fragments are forgeries, “that number could be higher. There are people out there that think that all 13 of the fragments are fake. I’m not quite there, but I have colleagues who are fairly sure they are forgeries.”
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