Since last November, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, has been home to 16 fragments of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls - or so it thought.
"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", he said.
The Museum of the Bible raised eyebrows even before opening its giant bronze, Latin-inscribed gates: its primary financial backer is billionaire Steve Green, whose arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby has supported conservative causes in Washington. Some legitimate specimens are considered to be priceless, and a number of them have sold for millions of dollars, according to CNN.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by Bedouin shepherds in Qumran Caves in the West Bank in the 1940s and revolutionised the study of the early bible.
According to the Independent, roughly 100,000 fragments exist, but "the excavation and selling of fragments is outlawed under a United Nations convention on cultural property from 1970, which means that private sellers fight over fragments removed before that time".
Curators typically seek to authenticate materials by analyzing the archaeological excavations that uncovered them, but Kloha said this type of analysis was frequently impossible for the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments.
Last year, the $500 million museum opened just blocks away from the Capitol.
Now the museum has been forced to admit a painful truth: Technical analysis by a team of German scholars has revealed that at least five of the museum's 16 scroll fragments are apparent forgeries. In addition to the alleged Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, the Greens ran afoul of the Justice Department, which said they had acquired thousands of smuggled artifacts looted from Iraq and elsewhere. "In light of the results of the three research projects, the museum has removed these fragments from display, replacing them with three other fragments that will be on exhibit pending further scientific analysis and scholarly research", it said, in its statement.
The discovery was so vast, with more than 900 manuscripts and an estimated 50,000 fragments, it took six decades for scholars to excavate and publish them all.
He said biblical artifacts are commonly faked, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are particularly popular among forgers.
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.
"They made it widely known that they were buying everything", said Joel Baden, a professor at Yale Divinity school and co-author of 'Bible Nation, ' a new book about the Greens.
"There's been different sources, but I don't know specifically where those came from", he said.