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December 2, 2021, 12:40 pm UTC    
September 03, 2021 08:13AM
This March, readers of the New York Times were presented with the tale
of Moses Shapira[2], an antiquities dealer from Jerusalem, who showed
up in London in 1883 with 15 leather strips that he claimed were an
ancient — maybe even Moses’s original — copy of the biblical book of
Deuteronomy. He had acquired the strips five years earlier, he said,
from Bedouin who had found them in a cave on the east side of the Dead
Sea. The British Museum was interested in buying the manuscript — for
a reported 1 million pounds (over 120 million pounds in today’s
money!) — and commissioned an expert, Christian David Ginsburg, to
study it. The British public was ecstatic and crowded around a display
in the British Museum in an effort to glimpse even part of it. Just
when it looked like the museum would buy it, Charles Clermont-Ganneau,
the great French orientalist (and Shapira’s long-standing nemesis)
showed up. After barely looking at the strips, Ganneau declared them a
forgery. Every other scholar quickly fell in line behind Ganneau,
including Ginsburg himself. Shapira fled London in disgrace, losing
his mind and wandering the continent aimlessly for six months before
he killed himself in a Rotterdam hotel. Now comes the stunning coda: a
researcher claims that they might have been authentic.


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The Shapira myth

Hermione September 03, 2021 08:13AM

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