Monday, August 06, 2012

The fake metal codices and SOTS

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Well, it's been a while, but discussion of the Jordan metal codices has come up again, this time at the recent Society for Old Testament Study meeting in July. Jim West has the story here: Members of the Society for Old Testament Study Call on Jordan to Release Information on the ‘Lead Codices’, following up with Some Things Just Need to be Said. Regarding the letter that was submitted to and published by the London Times, I was not at the SOTS meeting and was not asked to sign the letter, but I would not have done so if asked, at least in the form in which it was published.

I see two issues here. The first is the silence of the Jordanian Government about the metal codices. Since they were quite vocal about the importance of the finds initially, their subsequent silence is indeed noteworthy. My guess is that they have figured out that the codices are fakes and are just keeping quiet and hoping the whole issue goes away and spares them further embarrassment. If I am wrong, it would be helpful to hear what they do think and what they are currently doing about the codices, and to that extent I can support the central point of the letter. But I am not optimistic about the Jordanian authorities providing any important new information.

The second issue is the final sentence of the first paragraph of the letter: "There are many indications that these finds are not modern forgeries, but [that] possibility cannot as yet be definitively excluded."* I know of no such "many indications that these finds are not modern forgeries." Many of the codices, including the copper one [bad link now fixed - sorry!] first shown by Mr. Elkington to Classicist Peter Thonemann, are crude and obvious fakes. At least one of the lead ones seems to have been made of ancient lead, but the Oxford metallurgical report that says this (which was initially incorrectly quoted on the Jordan Codices Facebook page) also doubts that the inscribed areas on the lead went through a period of burial. In other words the evidence is consistent with old lead, which is not hard to come by, having been inscribed much more recently to make the codices. (For the report see the video here, especially from about 8:00 on. I make no judgment about how the incorrect quotation came about. See also here.)

I have collected the evidence that the codices are fakes here and here (with links), further discussion of which you can find here, here, and here. The last two and most recent posts were written nearly a year ago. No one has ever systematically addressed my points to show where I am wrong. There is every indication that these objects are modern forgeries (i.e., made within the last century or so, and some indubitably much more recently). In other words, unless stunning revelations were made at this SOTS meeting which have subsequently been kept very quiet, there is no basis for that sentence in the letter and I would not have put my name to it.

If there were real evidence that these metal codices are genuine ancient artifacts, there has been ample time for it to have been published in the peer-review journals in the last year. Since it hasn't, I take it that such evidence is wanting. Of course the possibility that some of them somewhere are genuine cannot be definitively excluded, but at this point the contingency is so remote as to be uninteresting.

My most recent posts involving the fake metal codice are here and here. Their links should lead you back through the whole labyrinth of posts on the subject going back to March of 2011.

I know I am repeating myself here, but unless and until someone comes up with some new, interesting information, there isn't a lot more to say. Efforts to revive the discussion should be resisted unless such new information is produced.

*I correct the quotation based on the scan of the original.