Monday, January 03, 2005

The Moussaieff Ostraca, Bibliographic Notes

I wish to correct an error that I made in an earlier post, when I said that Robert Deutsch was the first to publish the Moussaieff Ostraca. That is not correct. Deutsch was apparently involved in the sale of the ostraca to Shlomo Moussaieff, but was not involved in their publication.

Having gotten that confession off my chest, I will give here a short chronological bibliography of such items as I have been able to gather about the two ostraca in question.

The first publication was by P. Bordreuil, F. Israel, D. Pardee, "Deux ostraca paléo-hébreux de la collection Sh. Moussaieff," Semitica 46, 1996, pp. 49-76.

Shanks, H. "Three Shekels for the Lord, ancient inscription records gift to Solomon's Temple." Biblical Archaeology Review Nov./Dec. 1997, pp. 28-32.

P. Bordreuil, F. Israel, D. Pardee, "King's Command and Widow's Plea: Two New Hebrew Ostraca of the Biblical Period," Near Eastern Archaeology 61, 1998, pp. 2-13.

The authenticity of the ostraca is questioned and a debate begins:

Israel Eph‘al and Joseph Naveh, “Remarks on the Recently Published Moussaieff Ostraca,” Israel Exploration Journal 48 (1998).

Angelika Berlejung and Andreas Schüle, “Erwägungen zu den neuen Ostraka aus der Sammlung Moussaieff,” Zeitschrift für Althebräistik 11 (1998), pp. 68–73.

Elisha Qimron, “New Hebrew Inscriptions: Their Linguistic Origin,” Leshonenu 61 (1998).

Shanks, H. "The Three Shekels and Widow's Plea ostraca: real or fake?" Biblical Archaeology Review May/June 2003, pp. 40-45.

Christopher Rollston, "Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I: Pillaged Antiquities, Northwest Semitic Forgeries, and Protocols for Laboratory Tests," Maarav 10 (2003), discusses the Moussaieff Ostraca on pp. 145-146, 158-173, and concludes, "I am confident beyond a reasonable doubt that both of the Moussaieff Ostraca were indeed written by the same person, and that both are modern forgeries."

A jumbo-size drawing by Rollston of the "3-shekel" ostracon can be found here.

UPDATE (1/3, 6:45 pm): Jim West links to this report in which the fifth suspect in the forgery scandal has been named: Rafael Braun. This is undoubtedly the "Raffi Brown" mentioned in an earlier post, who was involved with the acquisition of the ivory pomegranate. With respect to the Moussaieff Ostraca, the following paragraph is interesting:
The indictment accused Braun and antiquities collector Shlomo Cohen of attempting to forge an inscription on an ostracon - a fragment of limestone pottery - from the period of the kingdoms of Judea, which lasted from the 10th to sixth century B.C.

"During or close to 1995 the two accused men formed a conspiracy to forge an ostracon with the purpose that it would constitute an ostracon with an inscription from the period of the Judean kingdoms," the indictment said. "The accused did this for financial benefit."
In view of Braun's indictment, this quotation from BAR becomes all the more significant:
The former head of the Israel Museum’s laboratories, Rafi Braun, is now a leading Jerusalem antiquities dealer. Braun claims that it is impossible to stop illegal digging. According to him, the better antiquities dealers in Israel perform a service by advising the government of unusual pieces that come on the market and by directing these pieces to museums.
The article quoted is Hershel Shanks, "The Verdict on Advertisements for Near Eastern Antiquities—Dubitante," BAR 10.6 (Nov./Dec.) 1984.

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