Sixteen supposed fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls housed in the Museum of the Bible, owned by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, were found to be forgeries. According to National Geographic, the museum subjected the pieces of the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible to the scrutiny of art experts who released an over 200 page report Friday deeming them fake. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” investigator Colette Loll said. The majority of the pieces were likely made from ancient leather—rather than parchment—and the material was dipped in an amber-colored substance to mock the texture of the real scrolls. In addition, shiny ink pools that ran off the torn edges were visible—suggesting that the material was inked in modern times. Finally, the report claims that each of the 16 fragments were forged the same way despite being purchased from four different people. “The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” museum CEO Harry Hargrave said. “We’re victims—we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.”
While the report examines the authenticity of the supposed scrolls, it doesn't investigate the origins of the forgery. Green and Hobby Lobby spent a significant amount of money procuring the fakes, but the identity of the forger remains unknown. Book collector Michael Sharpe, who sold Green one piece in 2010, claimed he had “zero idea” the piece was a fake. Two other American sellers, bookseller Craig Lampe and collector Andrew Stimer, and a son of a Bethlehem-based antiquities dealer did not speak out about the matter.