Saturday, September 03, 2011

Fake metal codices: the video

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Tom Verenna has put together a video that summarizes the case that the Jordan metal codices are fakes. It's not quite ten minutes long, but is worth your time. Toward the end there is an additional—devastating—revelation about that Oxford metallurgical report on the lead.

(Although I am mentioned in the credits and I am a member of the biblioblogger cabal mentioned in the video, I had no involvement in the making of the video. Tom gets the credit for that, with feedback on earlier drafts from some members.)

UPDATE: Some of us have tried posting a link to the video on the Jordan Codices Facebook website, but these comments are swiftly deleted. I had added some screen grabs here, but I've taken them down, since that seemed like overdoing it.

UPDATE (4 September): Tom collects blogospheric reactions here.

UPDATE: Dorothy King has observations on the verisimilitude of the menorahs on the metal codices. Not surprisingly, there are problems.

UPDATE (5 September): Forgot the "Background here and links" link.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Mark Goodacre's NT Blog's 8th blogivesary


BNTC 2011

THE ANNUAL BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE started yesterday in Nottingham. This is the first time in many years that I have not been able to attend. I hope the papers and the whisky evenings go well.

Bible Places Blog: Gaddafi and the Bible

BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Gaddafi and the Bible. Really.

Dueling sites for the baptism of Jesus

POLITICS: Dueling sites for the Baptism of Jesus:
Jordanian Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Baptism Site

Jordan, fighting Israel over Christian tourists, is claiming that the Christian baptism site Qasr al-Yahud is actually on its territory.
by Elad Benari (Arutz Sheva
First Publish: 9/2/2011, 1:12 AM

A Jordan-based group is threatening to file a lawsuit against Israel in the International Criminal Court over its opening of the baptismal site Qasr al-Yahud near the Jordan River.

The group, which calls itself “The Arab Union to Resist the Expulsion of Arab Christians”, is headed by the speaker of the Jordanian senate, Taher al-Masri, and includes Muslim and Christian officials from around the Arab world.

The group is upset over the fact that on July 12, Israel held an official ceremony to mark the opening of Qasr al-Yahud, the site which is known as the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and which is considered the third holiest site in Christianity.

Background on the opening of Qasr al-Yahud is here.

Graffiti in ancient Israel

GRAFFITI IN ANCIENT ISRAEL is explored in The Media Line:
In Search of Ancient Graffiti
Written by Arieh O'Sullivan
Published Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Paleo-Facebook, writings on the wall tell of ordinary people from distant past

HIRBET BURJIN, Israel -- It’s hot. A haze of heat hangs flat over a copse of hundred-year-old oaks and dry scrubland of the Judean foothills where people may have lived for millennium, but not a soul is around today.

“Don’t worry. The air conditioner is on inside,” jokes Boaz Zissu, a rugged, tall archaeologist with a swagger that makes it easy to conjure up his past as the former commander of the unit for protection of antiquities in Israel.

Shortly later, after clambering through the thicket and fig trees, crawling down steps carved into the earth, we are sitting in the cool, darkened halls of a cave staring at its white limestone walls and trying to decipher the mysterious scratches.

“It says ‘Christo.’ It’s the name of Jesus but in vocative, like ‘O Jesus,’” says Zissu, pointing out the ancient Greek letters chi and epsilon carved about chest height.

Ancient graffiti, etched into the walls of burial caves, tombs and quarries, is a postcard from the past and gives us a look into the minds of our ascendants. In a way, graffiti is like the Facebook of earlier eras.

“Graffiti are a way of expressing yourself,” says Zissu, today a senior lecturer at Bar Ilan University. “In a period when Internet and blogs didn’t exist and somebody wanted to express himself and to say something they were doing, they did it with a nail on a wall of a cave.”

With a smaller daily readership but longer archiving.

The article is difficult to excerpt from here, but it deals with graffiti left by Byzantine monks in Greek and by Second-Temple era Jews in Hebrew.

That project to produce a comprehensive collection of ancient inscriptions from the land of Israel is noted here. And another recent article on graffiti in ancient Israel is noted here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Steve Caruso on "units of forgery" in the metal codices

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Steve Caruso has an interesting argument in his latest blog post: Jordan Lead Codices: Units of Forgery.
As a greater number of pictures of the codices surface -- in addition to other numerous points of evidence discussed by others -- virtually every specimen revealed can be discounted as a forgery outright as we see various patterns emerge regarding their construction.

Directly to the point: Each plate thus far has shown itself to be a collage of identical master pattern "stamps" of text arranged in such a manner to make each set seem like a full document rather than a collection of component pieces.
Background here and links.

More on the ancient Buckinghamshire "brothel"

MORE ON THE ANCIENT BUCKINGHAMSHIRE "BROTHEL" that may preserve evidence for systematic infanticide: This article supports the infanticide theory:
Terrible secret of Roman brothel finally uncovered

(Henley Standard)

THE rediscovery of infant bones has led to a Hambleden field being identified as the earliest proven site of infanticide in Britain.

An excavation of Yewden Villa at Mill End in 1912 found a number of unusual discoveries, the most startling of which was the remains of 97 newborn babies.

The theory that the villa was used as a Roman brothel has also gained weight after the latest archaeological findings.

A H Cocks, former curator of Buckinghamshire County Museum, noted the discovery but focused on the tonne of pottery that was also found.

The remains of the infants, buried between 150 AD and 200 AD and all the same size, were rediscovered in cigarette boxes at the Aylesbury museum in 2008.

Dr Jill Eyers, director of Chiltern Archaeology, pushed for extensive investigation into the bones, which has confirmed beyond doubt that each baby was killed shortly after birth.

“Refinding the remains gave me nightmares for three nights,” said Dr Eyers. “It made me feel dreadful. I kept thinking about how the poor little things died. The human part of the tale is awful.”


“Because there was so much trade coming through, they had a little brothel operating.”

There was no such thing as abortion then — the best option was an ointment designed to kill sperm which didn’t work. Dr Eyers said there would have been no place for babies for women who had gone down the road of prostitution. She discounted her colleague’s theory of a birthing centre having been at the site.

“I wanted that as well, as I didn’t want them to have been killed, but it just doesn’t work,” said Dr Eyers.

“There has never been a birthing centre in the Roman empire anywhere in the world and this is an unusually high number of burials.”

Her suspicion that the infants were systematically killed because they were unwanted births has been confirmed by Simon Mays, a palaeontologist who has spent the past year measuring the bones.

Dr Eyers said: “He proved without doubt that all the infants were new-born. They were all killed at birth and all at the gestation period of between 38 and 40 weeks.

The ancient Judaism connection:
Dr Eyers noted striking similarities between Yewden Villa and a site in Ashkelon in Israel, which archaeologists have concluded was also a brothel.
Background, with support for a different interpretation of the evidence, is here.

UPDATE (1 September): Judith Weingarten directs me to Dead babies still are bad evidence for a Roman brothel , by Rosemary Joyce at the Ancient Lives, Ancient Bodies blog, which responds to that recent BBC article and supports that different interpretation of the evidence.

Children's literature: Going Golem


More Golem posts here.

Israel's ancient rebel caves

Israel's ancient rebel caves, a hidden adventure

By Ari Rabinovitch

JERUSALEM | Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:09am EDT

(Reuters) - You'll need a headlamp, a tight waistline and no fear of the dark in order to enjoy one of the most extreme, yet lesser known, archaeological wonders of the Holy Land.

These tunnels have come up from time to time over the years in various posts, e.g., here, here, and, more recently, here and here.

More Elad controversy

POLITICS: The Elad controversy continues.
Leftists in Last-Minute Bid to Halt Ir David Excavations

After failing to halt the Elad organization's archaeological work at Ir David, leftists are decrying the 'privatization of archaeology'.

by David Lev
First Publish: 8/30/2011, 11:37 PM (Arutz Sheva)

A group of 150 archaeologists and students sent a petition Tuesday to Environment Minister Gilad Erdan and Sport and Culture Minister Limor Livnat, asking them to drop their support for a law that formalizes private archaeological digs and research at national parks and historical sites. The petition says that the law would “politicize archaeology in Israel and damage the independence of researchers," and calls for the ministers to oppose the "privatization of archaeology," which, they write, would be the death knell of archaeology in Israel.

But supporters of the law said that there were already hundreds of independent and private groups conducting archaeological research around the country. In fact, supporters say, there is only one dig that the group is interested in halting – the one going on in Ir David (the City of David), conducted by the Elad organization.

For background links and a rather different take on the current controversy, see here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New articles on the Miriam/Mariam ossuary

ARTICLES ON THE MIRIAM (MARIAM) OSSUARY appeared in a couple of places yesterday:

2,000-Year-Old Burial Box Could Reveal Location of the Family of Caiaphas (Science Daily)

Ancient burial box offers biblical clues (UPI)

I'm not sure of the reason for the renewed interest, since there are no significant revelations in either article. But the following from the Science Daily piece seems to give a few new details:
A genuine among fakes

In the Laboratory for Comparative Microarchaeology, Prof. Goren conducted a thorough examination of the limestone box, which boasts decorative rosettes in addition to the inscription. "When a rock is deposited in the ground for millennia, it is affected by the surrounding environment and affects the surrounding environment," he notes. Processes such as erosion by acidic ground water and the accumulation of calcareous or siliceous coatings, biological activity such as the development of bacteria, algae, lichens, and the nearby activity of flora and fauna lead to a coating of the stone. Most of these features are impossible to replicate in the lab.

Conclusive evidence of these natural processes was found not only on the stone of the ossuary, but also above and below the inscriptions. "Beyond any reasonable doubt, the inscription is authentic," says Prof. Goren.
Background here and links.

The Libya Museum in Tripoli is safe

THE LIBYA MUSEUM in Tripoli is safe according to Luke Harding in the Guardian. He reports that it was liberated by local supporters on 21 August.

(HT Dorothy King.)

Fake metal codices latest

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Steve Caruso has identified a letter sequence in one of the codices (full picture here) which overlaps with a letter sequence on a coin of John Hyrcanus I. I do not have sufficient expertise on the scripts he is dealing with to comment ex tempore on his arguments for mixed scripts. The letter sequence itself is short and is suggestive, but not compelling.

Also, more bogosity from the Jordan Codices Facebook page has been noted by Dan McClellan (More Dishonesty from Jordan Codices) and Tom Verenna (Alert the Press! Real Academics Don’t use Facebook or Blog!). I had a good chuckle over the pistachio nuts too. And note the misapprehension of the Jordan Codices commenter (shared, as it happens, by David Elkington) that "Paleo-Hebrew" is a language rather than a script.

The supposed "team of leading scholars" working on the codices are sounding increasingly like those "top men" working on the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders. But if they do exist and if they have seen this Facebook page (as the Jordan Codices commenter claims), they must be cringing.

Background here and here and follow the many links back.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lecture on Qumran Tefillin by Yonatan Adler

LECTURE: The Tefillin of Qumran: Archeology and Halacha, by Yonatan Adler at Chabad Oxford, Friday at 1:00 am, British time. It appears that it will be live-streamed at the link.
Rabbi and archeologist, Yonatan Adler, tackles a medieval rabbinic debate about the proper arrangement of the parchments within tefillin by comparing these opinions to actual 2,000-year-old phylacteries found in Qumran.

Rabbi Dr. Yonatan Adler is an Israeli archaeologist, and has recently completed his Ph.D. dissertation at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, entitled: “The Archaeology of Purity: Archaeological Evidence for the Observance of Ritual Purity in Ereẓ-Israel from the Hasmonean Period until the End of the Talmudic Era (164 BCE – 400 CE)”. Adler is also a graduate of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem, where he received rabbinical ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He is currently resident at Oxford, as a Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Sunday, August 28, 2011