Provenance vs. Authenticity: An Archaeological Perspective on the Post-2002 “Dead Sea Scrolls-Like” Fragments

In: Dead Sea Discoveries

Abstract

This article adds an archaeological voice to the current debate surrounding the authenticity of recently acquired “Dead Sea Scrolls-like” fragments. In our opinion, since these fragments are above all archaeological artifacts, considerations of provenance should take priority over authenticity. We begin with a survey that contextualizes this debate in relation to other types of archaeological artifacts, and consider the importance of context as well as ethical, legal, moral, and economic issues relating to the acquisition and publication of unprovenanced artifacts. We conclude that any artifact that lacks verifiable documentation of its provenance—whether or not it is authentic—should not be studied or published by scholars. Finally, we urge professional organizations and publishers to establish or strengthen policies preventing the publication of such artifacts, even after primary publication or presentation elsewhere.

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