Friday, February 11, 2005

The Forgery Scandals in "The Jerusalem Report"

The magazine Jerusalem Report has come out with an article entitled "Making History," by David Green, about the forgery scandal in Israel. Since online access is available only to subscribers, I'll give a few quotes here.

There is not much news in the article that has not seen the light of day before. But here are a few tidbits:

Golan's Next Project:
[Golan] says that some statuettes he shows me originally stood on either side of the entrance to the sanctuaries, which he bought "for thousands" several weeks ago from a Jordanian dealer. Golan theorizes that they symbolize Boaz and Yakhin, the names given to the two giant bronze pillars that flanked the entrance to Solomon's Temple.
This falls into line with the evidence-for-the-temple meme that characterizes several of the artifacts that Golan is associated with.

In the case of the Joash Tablet, ... Golan says he was hoping to make a profit, and continues with the line he has taken almost since the beginning of the affair, that the stone is the property of a (now-deceased) antiquities dealer named Abu-Yasser Awada, who asked for Golan's help in selling it. According to Golan, the sandstone tablet came into Awada's possession after it turned up during the 1999 excavations on the Temple Mount's south-east corner, when the Waqf was building a monumental new entrance to the underground Al-Marwani mosque. Awada thought that being publicly associated with an item that had the potential to strengthen the Jews' historic claim to the mount might be fatal for him in Palestinian circles, and also feared that as a West Bank resident, he was likely to have the treasure confiscated by authorities when he attempted to sell it.

"He gave it to me on consignment," says Golan. "We made an agreement. Up to a certain amount, he would have received 100 percent of whatever was paid. After that amount, I would actually get more than him." Golan doesn't mention any numbers, but does deny a report that he offered the tablet to the Israel Museum for $4.5 million.
According the indictment, the asking price was in the neighborhood of $1 million.

[Robert] Deutsch ... finds it insulting that [Amir] Ganor's department relates to all members of his profession as potential criminals.... "It's a disgrace. They think I'm another Arab from Balata [refugee camp] in Shkhem. They've murdered my good name, which I've built up over 25 years. They questioned me, and told me that I would be an expert witness, and then suddenly they hit me with a hammer in the head: I'm the forger! I asked Amir Ganor: After one and a half years you concluded that I'm the forger? He said that he didn't write the indictment, and that he has no control over it."
The indictment never states that Deutsch himself was the actual forger, but that he was the middleman in the sale of forged artifacts.

Lenny Wolfe, a Jerusalem antiquities dealer whose expertise is in seals and bullae, their impressions — and who has no doubt that the bullae connected with Golan are forgeries — suggests that the appearance of great fakes "always coincides with a period of atmosphere of highly charged emotion..."

"After 1967 ... there was a renewal of messianic-nationalistic fervor in Israel, one justification for which was artifacts. There was a ready market [for pieces with a connection to the Biblical era]: the collector Reuben Hecht, who bought 25 or 50 or so fake seals, and later, Shlomo Moussaieff, for whom an entire industry was set up to satisfy his fantasies."

It is true that at times the indictment suggests, without stating, that the forgeries were overall an elaborate scheme to cheat Shlomo Moussaieff.

The final paragraph is just journalistic crapola:
The unexpected and mysterious are part of the natural allure of archaeology and, without a doubt, of the antiquities trade. One can hardly fault the professionals who are confident that their tests and their black-and-white language are sufficient to debunk the most spectacular of finds. But at least in the case of the bone box and the tablet, the uncertainty still lingers, and mystery dies hard.
Now what, exactly, does that mean? That the narrow-minded archaeologists are out to spoil our fun? That there are no standards or protocols sufficient to test the authenticity of ancient finds? That some will never be convinced by any kind of scientific proof? Personally, I think Green was looking for some snappy way to wind up his article without drawing any actual conclusions, and took refuge in "mystery."

BIBLIOGRAPHY: David Green, "Making History," The Jerusalem Report, Feb. 21, 2005, pp. 34-38.

No comments: