Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Papyrus forgeries?

FURTHER TO ROGER BAGNALL'S STATEMENT, "I don’t know of a single verifiable case of somebody producing a papyrus text that purports to be an ancient text that isn’t. There’s always the first," quoted yesterday, two people have e-mailed with examples of forged papyri.

Joseph D. Reed at Brown University:
Though not a Coptic specialist or religious historian, I've been following the news about the Jesus' Wife fragment, including the notices on your blog. I'm reminded of an evident forgery of a papyrus fragment of Bion of Smyrna that I came across while researching Bion years ago. I'm attaching the ZPE article in which C. Gallazzi analyzes it as modern (though written on ancient papyrus); there's a photo of the papyrus at the bottom of the last page. Some of Gallazzi's arguments are similar to the ones raised against the two Coptic fragments, especially those concerning the John fragment by Hagen et al. I was reminded of it by Bagnall's statement that he knew of not a "single verifiable case of somebody producing a papyrus text that purports to be an ancient text that isn’t"; the Bion case is at least in some ways parallel.
The article is Claudio Gallazzi, "Un papiro falso con un frammento di Bione, cm.6.4 ×4.3," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 34 (1979): 55-58.

Pierluigi Piovanelli at the University of Ottawa:
[With regard to Bagnall's statement] here is an excerpt from footnote 106 (devoted to illustrious forgeries) of my article in Burke's volume Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery?, p. 183.

(... on) the Artemidorus Papyrus (attributed to the Greek forger Constantine Simonides [1820-1867?]) (... see) Luciano Canfora, The True History of the So-called Artemidorus Papyrus (Bari: Edizioni di Pagina, 2007); idem, Il viaggio di Artemidoro. Vita e avventure di un grande esploratore dell’antichità (Milan: Rizzoli, 2010); idem, La meravigliosa storia del falso Artemidoro, La memoria 855 (Palermo: Sellerio, 2011); Kai Brodersen and Jaś Elsner, eds., Images and Texts on the “Artemidorus Papyrus”: Working Papers on P.Artemid. (St. John’s College Oxford, 2008), Historia, Einzelschriften 214 (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2009); Federico Condello, “ ‘Artemidoro’ 2006-2011: l’ultima vita, in breve,” Quaderni di storia 74 (2011) 161-248 (kindly brought to my attention by Claudio Zamagni) (...).
Larry Hurtado has recently blogged on the notorious hoaxer and forger Constantine Simonides. It seems Simonides was responsible for a number of forged papyri.

So if the Gospel of Jesus' Wife and the Harvard John fragment are papyrus forgeries, they are not unprecedented. There is even precedent for the use of ancient papyrus to make a forgery.

Background here and links.

UPDATE: Joseph Reed e-mails a follow-up:
Thanks for calling attention to the Bion forgery on your blog. That papyrus has some general similarities to the new Coptic ones—size, shape, appearance of the writing (though the letter forms are different)—common signs of a cautious counterfeiter? I believe the jury is still out on the fascinating Artemidorus papyrus that P. Piovanelli brought to your attention; despite the vigorous warnings of Canfora and Janko most researchers, it seems, incline toward authenticity—but its alleged fabricator, Constantine Simonides, did apparently forge texts on authentically old papyri.