One last item, vis a vis the inscriptions atop Absalom. While the inscriptions are 4th century they are based on earlier writings which suggest that Zach. James and Simon may be buried there in the valley. We have just finished some more casting and preliminary results show that there are more inscriptions there. We will present these at the SBL meetings in Atlanta. What is of interest is that no one has challenged the finding, prob. because no dealers nor is Shanks involved, also Puech is one of those rare scholars who seldom 'gets it wrong. Secondly, as the insc. is 1.5 meters long one has to ask about literacy among the 'people of the book' it was def. meant to be seen from a distance.
I'd like to hear more about these earlier writings.
UPDATE (16 July): Joe Zias e-mails in reply:
Basically I'm presently contemplating that that the (1st century AD?) "pillar" mentioned by Hegesippus in the 2nd (quoted by Eusebius)�may be identical to the "Absalom" monument.
"...and they buried him [in the valley?] on the spot [where he was killed] and the [nearby but not same spot?] pillar [="Absalom"?] erected to his memory still [according to Hegesippus and/or Eusebius?] remains..."
The quotation is from Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 2.23.