Museum of the Bible, Dead Sea Scroll Collection, Scientific Research and Analysis
Since 2002, many previously unknown textual fragments inscribed in Hebrew or Aramaic have surfaced on the antiquities market. Believed to be newly discovered biblical artifacts belonging to the canon of the Dead Sea Scroll Discovery, dozens have been acquired, publicly exhibited, and published by private and institutional collectors.
The Museum of the Bible curates 16 of these fragments. Thirteen of these 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). The volume was a collection of editions whose purpose was to provide a comprehensive physical and textual description of the fragments, and to situate them contextually within discussions of biblical texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and early Jewish history. At the time of publication, no scientific examination of the Museum’s scroll fragments had been carried out.
Since publication, scholars have expressed growing concern about the authenticity of these fragments. Exhaustive appraisals of the scribal features that grounded authenticity claims revealed inconsistencies with the original Dead Sea Scrolls. Additionally, suspicious physical anomalies observed on six of the fragments prompted further investigation into their provenance and led the Museum to sponsor scientific testing.
As a result of the growing questions, a more detailed materials investigation of the entire Museum of the Bible fragment collection was sought. In February 2019 the Museum contracted Art Fraud Insights, LLC to recruit and manage an independent Advisory Team for the purpose of designing and conducting a rigorous scientific protocol for the imaging and materials analysis of the fragment collection.
The goal of the research effort was to gather enough information that would allow for an evidence-based conclusion that would either confirm or refute the authenticity of each fragment.
To that end, comprehensive imaging and scientific analysis were conducted on the collection between May and October 2019. In addition to multispectral and reflectance transformation imaging (MSI/RTI) imaging and multiple physical examinations with both traditional and 3D microscopy, a subset of the collection 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 the unanimous conclusion of the Advisory Team that none of the textual fragments in the Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic. 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.
Analysis of the Palette of Infamous Forger Elmyr de Hory
Art Fraud Insights partner Jennifer L. Mass, Ph.D. of Scientific Analysis of Fine Art, LLC, conducted elemental, molecular, and microscopic analysis of the paint on the palette of Elmyr de Hory, found in his studio at the time of his death.
The first of its kind to be conducted on de Hory’s materials and output, this research identified the chemical and structural properties of the forger’s palette and distinguished it from those of Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani –two iconic artists whose style he was famous for forging. The research was conducted by Madeline Corona, M.S in Art Conversation at University of Delaware, and utilized an array of techniques including ultraviolet and visible cross-section microscopy, x-ray fluorescence, infrared spectroscopy, micro-raman spectroscopy, and x-ray diffraction.
The research was presented as part of Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes, at Winterthur Museum. These critical insights into de Hory’s techniques help build the art historical dossier of this enigmatic figure – and, by proxy, the artists he was so skilled at copying.