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“To all: ‘Careful, they are fakes, and they belong together!

They are part of the same game.’ To scholars: ‘Stop publishing (which de facto means authenticating) unprovenanced material.’ To students: ‘Learn by our mistakes.’ To journalists: ‘You seriously need to write about this.

However, because it is suspected that many of these “new” fragments use ancient 2,000-year-old leather as their “slate,” old stand-by technology is insufficient. Ancient material can and almost certainly has been manipulated in modern times,” said Davis.

With carbon dating off the table, international scholars are turning to new, noninvasive testing for proving — or disproving — the authenticity of the “dubious” fragments in private collections. The path from the greatest discovery of the 20th century to forgeries on the antiquities markets was direct.

It’s a whodunit involving a complex network of high-stakes deals with dubious provenance, and perhaps even academic obfuscation.

He enters the cave and uncovers the find of the 20th century — 2,000-year-old Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls, then the earliest written record of the Bible.

Seven decades have passed since that Hollywood-esque discovery of some 900 manuscripts and up to 50,000 fragments in the 11 caves of Qumran.

(Image by Bruce and Kenneth Zuckerman and Marilyn J.

Lundberg, West Semitic Research, courtesy of Museum of the Bible) A Bedouin shepherd hears pottery break as he throws stones into a cave while searching for lost sheep among arid cliffs abutting the Dead Sea.

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