вторник, 31 марта 2020 г.

Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scroll collection found to be fakes


A collection of supposedly valuable Dead Sea Scroll fragments on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC has been found to be fake.

Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scroll collection found to be fakes
A Dead Sea Scrolls fragment from the book of Genesis, part of Museum of the Bible's Scholars Initiative research project
published by Brill in 2016. Of the museum's 13 published scrolls, at least six are of dubious authenticity
[Credit: Bruce & Kenneth Zuckerman & Marilyn J. Lundberg, West Semitic Research,
courtesy of Museum of the Bible]
After six months of analysis, experts released a 200-page report detailing how the fragments were forged - likely made from old shoe leather.

"Each exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries," the analysts said in a statement.

The scrolls are a set of ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible.

The first of the scrolls were found in caves in Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea in 1947. They were reportedly first discovered by a young Bedouin shepherd searching for lost sheep. Their discovery is considered to be among the most significant archaeological finds in history.


The majority are held in a collection by the Israeli government. The fakes were among the most valuable artefacts in the Museum of the Bible's collection.

Costing $500m (£386m), the museum was opened by Evangelical Christian and billionaire Steve Green in 2017.

Mr Green has not disclosed how much was paid for the 16 fragments but similar, authentic artefacts may be sold for millions.


"After an exhaustive review of all the imaging and scientific analysis results, it is evident that none of the textual fragments in Museum of the Bible's Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic," said the head of the investigation, Colette Loll of Art Fraud Insights, in a statement.

Since 2002, previously unknown textual fragments - believed to be biblical artefacts belonging to the Dead Sea Scroll - surfaced on the antiquities market.

The Museum of the Bible purchased 16 of these fragments from four individual private collectors. Thirteen of these were published by a team of scholars in 2016 "to provide a comprehensive physical and textual description of the fragments," the analysts wrote. "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."


To make convincing fakes, researchers estimate the forgers coated the scraps with a "shiny amber material... most likely animal skin glue".

The exhaustive report was the product of a six-month effort, including 3D microscopes, infrared spectroscopy and "energy dispersive X-ray analysis".

Part of the same collection had already been removed from display after tests in October 2018 found them to be inauthentic too.

These earlier tests were ordered after biblical scholars who examined 13 of the museum's previously unstudied fragments said there was a "high probability" that a number of them were modern forgeries.

And this was not the first time the museum's owners have faced controversy. In 2017, Mr Green's company the Hobby Lobby paid a $3m fine (£2.3m) and returned thousands of items after the US Department of Justice accused it of smuggling artifacts from Iraq.

Source: BBC News Website [March 16, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

Study reveals diet of ‘Theropithecus oswaldi’ found in Spain's Cueva Victoria


A study published in Journal of Human Evolution  reveals for the first time the diet of the fossil baboon Theropithecus oswaldi found in Cueva Victoria in Cartagena (Murcia, Spain), the only site in Europe with remains of this primate whose origins date back to four million years ago in eastern Africa.

Study reveals diet of ‘Theropithecus oswaldi’ found in Spain's Cueva Victoria
Theropithecus oswaldi cast [Credit: Smithsonian]
The new study analyses the diet of the only fossil remains of this primate with the analysis of buccal dental microwear. According to the conclusions, the eating pattern of this guenon—the most abundant in the fossil records from the African Pleistocene—would be different than the one in the baboon Theropithecus gelada—the phylogenetically closest species living in Semien Mountains, northern Ethiopia, at the current moment—which usually eats herbs and stalks.


The study, led by the lecturers Laura Martinez and Alejandro Perez-Perez, from the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona (UB), counts on the participation of experts from the Faculty of Earth Sciences and the Faculty of Psychology of the UB as well as members from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, University of Alicante, the Museum of Orce Prehistory and Palaeontology (Granada) and the George Washington University (United States).

Cueva Victoria: The long journey of the African baboon Theropithecus oswaldi

The genre Theropithecus spread over the Sahara Desert, from east to north and south in the African continent. Its evolutionary lineage, also present in some European and Asian areas, reached its limit of disappearance about 500,000 years ago. Today, it would be only represented by the species Theropithecus gelada, a baboon which only eats plants and shows an ecological profile more similar to herbivore animals rather than primates.

Study reveals diet of ‘Theropithecus oswaldi’ found in Spain's Cueva Victoria
The presence of this African guenon in the south-eastern area of the Iberian Peninsula strengthens the hypothesis
of the animal dispersal models going from the African continent to Europe during the Pleistocene
through the Strait of Gibraltar [Credit: University Of Barcelona]
In 1990, the excavation campaign led by the palaeontologist Josep Gibert found the first fossil remain—a tooth—of Theropithecus oswaldi (Journal of Human Evolution, 1995). This cave, an old manganese mine, provided with fossil remains of about a hundred species of vertebrates and it is one of the few European sites of the early Pleistocene with remains of human species. Outside the African continent, the fossil records of this baboon are scarce and researchers have only found other remains in Ubeidiya (Israel) and Minzapur (India).


The new fossil evidence of T. oswaldi, which date back to 900,000 and 850,000 million years ago, were recovered by a team led by the lecturers Carles Ferrandez-Canadell and Lluis Gibert, from the Department of Mineralogy, Petrology and Applied Geology of the Faculty of Earth Sciences of the UB. The presence of this African guenon in the south-eastern area of the Iberian Peninsula strengthens the hypothesis of the animal dispersal models going from the African continent to Europe during the Pleistocene through the Strait of Gibraltar.

What was the fossil baboon diet like in the south of the Iberian Peninsula?

The analysis of the produced buccal-dental stretch marks due to food intake reveal the T. oswaldi specimens in Cueva Victoria "would have a more abrasive diet compared to the current T. gelada, and more similar to the diet of other primates such as mangabeys i(Cercocebus sp) and mandrylles (Mandrillys sphinx), which eat fruits and seeds in forested and semiopen ecosystems," notes Laura Martinez, lecturer at the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the Faculty of Biology and first author of the study.

Study reveals diet of ‘Theropithecus oswaldi’ found in Spain's Cueva Victoria
Cueva Victoria provided with fossil remains of about a hundred species of vertebrates and it is one
of the few European sites of the early Pleistocene with remains of human species
[Credit: University Of Barcelona]
Other recent studies based on the observation of T. gelada in the area of Guassa, Ethiopia, describe a more diverse diet, with rhizome and tubers over the most unfavourable season. "The difference between T. oswaldi and T. gelada -continues the researcher- shows that the observed specialization in the current baboon could be a derived specialization which did not exist in the fossils of its lineage. This could respond to a regression in its ecological niche as an adaptation to anthropically altered ecosystems or as a result from climate change."

Source: University of Barcelona [March 24, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

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