Sunday, April 08, 2018

The metal codices are "forgeries" according to the Jordanian DoA

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: ‘Jordan Codices’ proven fake — DoA (Ahmed Bani Mustafa, The Jordan Times).
In response, the DoA issued a press release on March 9, 2017, in which it confirmed that the items needed further examining to ensure the authenticity of the writings and drawings apart from the materials, said the director.

The department formed a committee of researchers and epigraphists, who examined the books and confirmed that they were not authentic.

In its report, the taskforce concluded that the examination from an archaeological point of view proved that the metal books were false and worthless as they contained “irrelevant old letters and images” and that the manufacturer had no background about ancient inscriptions and their technical details or religious significance.

Also last year, the DoA formed a national team of researchers and specialists that scanned the area of the cave where the codices were allegedly discovered but did not find any relevance between the codices and the cave, particularly as no cavities in the cave’s walls were found.
I noted the 9 March 2017 announcement from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities here. The current story has been in the Arabic press for a while, but this is the first report I've seen on in in English. The news about exploration of the cave is especially interesting.

The current article doesn't give much more detail:
The DoA Director General Monther Jamhawi said that the codices are a kind of “professional” forgery that was executed skillfully.

“This advanced counterfeit has created confusion as ancient materials were used, such as lead and stones, and inscribing them with ancient look-alike texts and drawings that are hard to be tested,” Jamhawi told The Jordan Times on Saturday.
That is more or less what I concluded, with the caveat that the tests on the lead of a couple of the codices pointed toward their being at least a century or two old, and thus not a recent forgery. They could be early modern or perhaps from the Renaissance era. I have difficulty seeing them as any earlier than that. Their inscriptions and iconography are based on some ancient coins and a second-century CE tomb inscription from Madaba, Jordan (corrected: I originally wrote Amman). Someone used their coin collection and one or two other things to create the objects. Superficially they look ancient, but they combine text and iconography from different periods in an oddly anachronistic amalgamation whose texts border on making sense without ever actually doing so. They may be forgeries intended to deceive, in which case they are clumsily executed. Conceivably, they could be artifacts crafted to evoke the ritual power of the past for magical purposes, in which case there may have been no intention to deceive. I don't know who made them or why, but they are not genuinely ancient artifacts.

For my detailed four-part commentary on Samuel Zinner's comprehensive report on the metal codices, start here and follow the links. For my comments on an additional cache of metal codices recovered from smugglers in Turkey in October of 2017, see here.

This is where matters stand now, and they are unlikely to change unless someone starts publishing articles in peer-review venues which compel us to think differently about the codices. Meanwhile, I hope the Jordanian authorities publish their new report.

Who made the codices, when exactly, and for what purpose do remain genuine questions that I hope someone follows up. But they are not of interest for the study of antiquity.

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