Analysis of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were studied at BAM between 2006 and 2010.

Source: BAM

On 22 October 2018, the Museum of the Bible announced the results of the analysis of its five Dead Sea Scrolls fragments. At the request of the museum, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) conducted a battery of tests on the fragments. The results of BAM’s analysis permit the conclusion that the five fragments display material characteristics that are not consistent with those whose origins are certain.

BAM has extensive expertise in the analysis of artefacts and cultural assets. This includes the non-destructive material analysis of dyes, writing & drawing materials, and organic writing substrates.

Background on the tests

In April 2017, BAM received an analysis request from the Museum of the Bible, Washington D.C. Prof. Dr. Ira Rabin from the Analysis of Artefacts and Cultural Assets division at BAM led the examination of five fragments reportedly associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In an analysis, usually several non-destructive testing methods are conducted to determine the composition of the inks and the parchment. Generally, these tests try to determine if existing samples show any similarities to comparative samples.

“Scientific analysis can detect forgeries if materials were used that only existed after the supposed original was created,” explains Prof. Dr. Rabin.

Analysis of artefacts and cultural assets at BAM

Prof. Dr. Oliver Hahn: “BAM has decades of experience and the necessary expertise to conduct such tests. For example, we extensively studied fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls between 2006 and 2010 within the frame of a dedicated research project.”

The development and adaptation of non-destructive analytical methods makes them extremely valuable to extensively characterise the material composition of artefacts and cultural assets. Scientific material analysis methods provide important clues for answering historical and cultural questions that cannot be solved using the methods of the humanities alone.

In addition, it is often necessary to characterise environmental material damage in order to create suitable restoration or conservation strategies. The provision of support in natural science-related matters in restoring and conserving such assets is the main focus of the work of the Analysis of Artefacts and Cultural Assets division.

Find more information about the analysis conducted for the Museum of the Bible on our FAQ page.

About BAM

BAM promotes safety in technology and chemistry.
As a BMWi departmental research institute, BAM performs research, testing and offers advisory support to protect people, the environment and material goods. Its activity in the fields of materials science, materials engineering and chemistry is focussed on the technical safety of products and processes.

BAM’s research is directed towards substances, materials, building elements, components and facilities as well as natural and technical systems important for the national economy and relevant to society. It also tests and assesses their safe handling and operation. BAM develops and validates analysis procedures and assessment methods, models and necessary standards and provides science-based services for the German industry in a European and international framework.

Safety creates markets.
BAM sets and represents high standards for safety in technology and chemistry for Germany and its global markets to further develop the successful German quality culture "Made in Germany“.