The Museum of the Bible will no longer display five of its artifacts — once believed to be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls — after lab tests indicated the fragments may be fake.
The Washington, D.C., museum announced Monday that a German lab performed a battery of tests on five of its 16 fragments that showed “characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin.”
“Though we had hoped the testing would render different results, this is an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of verifying the authenticity of rare biblical artifacts, the elaborate testing process undertaken and our commitment to transparency,” Jeffrey Kloha, the museum’s chief curatorial officer, said in a statement. “As an educational institution entrusted with cultural heritage, the museum upholds and adheres to all museum and ethical guidelines on collection care, research and display.”
The fragments have been on display at the $500 million museum since its grand opening last November, alongside more than 3,000 other artifacts including a first edition of the King James Bible and a page from the Gutenberg Bible.
Questions about the scrolls' authenticity were raised two years ago by academics conducting research sponsored by the museum, according to the statement. The museum sent the fragments to the German-based Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung in April 2017 for an analysis of the ink and sediment layers.
While the research was conducted, the museum continued to display the fragments alongside “information to educate guests about the importance of determining authenticity and about some scholars’ skepticism of the fragments’ authenticity.”
The museum said the inauthentic artifacts will be replaced by three other fragments while further analysis is conducted.
“The museum continues to support and encourage research on these objects and others in its collection, both to inform the public about leading-edge research methods and ensure our exhibits are presenting the most accurate and updated information,” said Kloha.
The museum, one of the largest dedicated to the Bible in the world, is the brainchild of Hobby Lobby craft chain owners Steve and Jackie Green. Just last year, Hobby Lobby was forced to pay a $3 million fine and return thousands of antiques it bought that were smuggled from archaeological sites in Iraq.
Contributing: Nancy Trejos and Mike James, USA TODAY
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