Archaeology Odyssey 5:5, September/October 2002


How Moses Shapira forged an entire civilization

By Hershel Shanks

Moses Wilhelm Shapira is best known for the so-called Shapira Strips, narrow fragments of supposedly ancient parchment on which were inscribed a somewhat different version of the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy than is known from the Bible. Said to have been found in the cliffs east of the Dead Sea, they were written in the ancient Semitic script used before the Babylonian Exile. Shapira sought to sell them to the British Museum for a million pounds. When he arrived in London in 1883, he allowed two of the 15 strips to be exhibited to the public. The crowds went wild. Even the British prime minister, the deeply religious William Gladstone, came to view the exhibit.

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