Washington, D.C., March 14, 2020 --
The March 15, 2020 Dead Sea Scroll conference has been postponed due to the public health situation. The museum remains open to the public this weekend. The museum will close beginning Monday.
Museum of the Bible Hosts Two-Day Conference on Testing of its Dead Sea Scrolls Collection
Museum of the Bible’s two-day conference on the testing of its Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) collection begins today with an invitation-only academic symposium followed by a public event on Sunday, March 15. Entitled A Journey for the Truth: Investigating the Recent Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments, the conference features Colette Loll of Art Fraud Insights and her team of researchers who conducted a battery of scientific tests to determine the authenticity of the museum’s 16 DSS fragments.
The team utilized multispectral and reflectance transformation imaging (MSI/RTI) as well as traditional and 3D microscopy to examine the museum’s entire DSS collection. A subset was selected and sampled for a full elemental and molecular profile. The specific tools used for this analysis included Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), macro x-ray fluorescence imaging (MA-XRF), scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive x-ray analysis (SEM-EDS), micro-Raman spectroscopy (Raman), and microchemical testing.
“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,” concluded Colette Loll, founder and director of Art Fraud Insights, in a detailed report about the findings. “Moreover, each exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries created in the twentieth century with the intent to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments.”
In 2016,13 of the museum’s fragments were published by a team of scholars in Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection (Publications of Museum of the Bible 1; Leiden: Brill, 2016). Since publication, scholars have expressed growing concern about the authenticity of some of these fragments – especially since all were purchased after 2002 when suspected forgeries entered the market. Extensive appraisals of the scribal features revealed inconsistencies with authentic DSS. Pending further analysis, Museum of the Bible displayed, upon opening in November 2017, five of its DSS fragments with exhibit labels indicating that authenticity had not yet been verified.
In October 2018, Museum of the Bible announced the results of scientific testing of the five fragments on display conducted by Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM). All fragments exhibited characteristics “inconsistent with ancient origins” and they were removed from display. The museum then decided to retain Art Fraud Insights to design and implement the scientific research and analysis of its entire collection.
“Notwithstanding the less than favorable results, we have done what no other institution with post-2002 DSS fragments has done,” Museum of the Bible Chief Curatorial Officer Dr. Jeffrey Kloha said. “The sophisticated and costly methods employed to discover the truth about our collection could be used to shed light on other suspicious fragments and perhaps even be effective in uncovering who is responsible for these forgeries.”
During the conference, Dr. Kloha will announce plans to repurpose the current DSS exhibit on the museum’s fourth floor to detail both the history and research of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“What Museum of the Bible is doing is extremely important in the museum world,” said Colette Loll. “Usually, items that are determined to be fake are quietly removed from display and transferred to the euphemistic ‘study collection.’ Museum of the Bible has opted to be as transparent as possible with its collection of Dead Sea Scrolls – from the interim gallery labels, to the public announcement of the results of the research and the subsequent release of all of the associated research materials. This data can now be used for comparison to other questioned fragments. What a tremendous contribution to the field.”
Sunday’s public event will take place from 2:00-3:30 p.m. in The Gathering Room of Museum of the Bible. A full video of the public conference as well as the full Art Fraud Insights report will be posted on the museum website shortly after the conclusion of the conference.