Monday, December 20, 2004

"Sixty Minutes" and the James Ossuary

CBS News program "Sixty Minutes" had a feature on the James ossuary Sunday night; see the story here. There is little in the story that is not already familiar to scholars who have been following the tale of the ossuary.

This remark of Oded Golan's is not reassuring:
"The police are talking to us also about earth and charcoal samples from a specific period that they say you would have used to make something appear to be much older than it is," says Simon.

"This is just a wrong allegation. It's a false allegation, that's all what I can tell you," says Golan. "Because all the materials that I had, which are some soils, different color soils. It's in order to give when you restore an ancient piece you would like to give a feeling to the viewer that it looks old."

He admits that he has restored some of the artifacts that he has found.
When I wrote this essay a year ago, I was uncertain about the authenticity of the ossuary. I stand by the analysis of the language; but it seems to me that the evidence now points to forgery.

UPDATE: Jim Davila discusses the online article here; for those who were unable to see the show I can report that the online article is virtually a transcript of the broadcast.

Further on Oded Golan: I haven't seen any reference in Biblioblogdom to the article by David Samuels called "Written in Stone" in the April 12, 2004 issue of the New Yorker. I don't think it's available online, but it's worth digging up. Samuels discusses archaeological fakes, Oded Golan, the ossuary and the Jehoash tablet. In the article, Oded Golan is quoted as knowing altogether too much about how to fake a patina:
"Of course, it's much easier to fake patina in a small item than in a big one. The field in which you have to create patina -- if you can -- is very small. It's millimetres. You have complete control over it. You can work under -- I don't know what -- a microscope or something, which you cannot do with any other item." He explained, "Normally, there is either a picture or a very simple inscription that you can just copy from another place. ... And if somebody's experienced for years to work on it -- in say, Lebanon -- he might do it, you know. It's not so complicated..."
Samuels also refers to a documentary on Golan aired on Israeli television:
On the program, viewers heard a tape recording in which an Egyptian artist purportedly discussed a method for creating bullae with Golan.... [Amir] Ganor showed me a series of what he called skitzot -- blueprints -- for making bullae, which he said had belonged to Golan.
It's not looking good for the James Ossuary; and in fact, any seals, ostraca, or bullae which can be traced back to Golan are now under a big, black cloud.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: David Samuels, "Written in Stone," The New Yorker, April 12, 2004, pp. 48-59.

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