Friday, September 09, 2022

Rollston on the new Hebrew scroll fragment

EPIGRAPHER CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON has now weighed in on the newly announced "Ishmael Papyrus": The Old Hebrew Ishmael Papyrus: Tapping the Brakes (Times of Israel Blogs).
At this time, therefore, I simply wish (at this preliminary stage) to mention certain things that need to be considered as part of the totality of the discussion of this find….and things which (therefore) require that we refrain from drawing too many rapid conclusions, or making too many problematic assumptions. In other words, I hope that we can “tap the brakes” a little with regard to this “find.”
He gives his reasons for skepticism in detail. One point is that he finds elements of the script anomalous for the period. I leave that question to him.

He raises many other valid concerns, some of which I have also raised in earlier posts.

Regarding the following, I will repeat a point I have already mentioned:

The press reports seem to suggest that this radiometric dating confirms the antiquity of the inscription itself. However, I would emphasize that the antiquity of the medium of an inscription certainly does not demonstrate that the inscription itself is ancient. After all, ancient potsherds, ancient leather, and ancient papyrus (the last of which is the most relevant in this case) are all available, either on ancient tels (in the case of potsherds) or on the antiquities market (in the case of leather and papyrus). Modern forgers can, have, and still do, use such ancient media to produce forgeries in the modern period (and forged inscriptions have been a constant, for several millennia, believe it or not).
(His italics.) Rollston is correct in principle, of course. My question is, how easy is it to acquire blank leather and papyrus dating as early as the Iron Age II (i.e. c. 700 BCE in this case)? I would think there would be very little of either available. But I could be wrong. Are there specifice examples of such early blank writing materials?

Background here and here.

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