Monday, January 03, 2005

Forged Inscriptions

There is now much controversy in the Land of Israel. The IAA (The Reshut HaAtikot, or Israel Archaeological Authority) claims that five men lead an operation to forge inscriptions on relics and pass them off as real. These relics are some of the most notable ever found and include the Jehoash inscription, James' ossuary and the Solomonic pomegranate.
I was so happy with the news. Hershel Shanks, my least favorite man in archeology has used his magazine BAR (Biblical Archaeology Review) to promote these artifacts which are obviously fakes (esp. the ossuary) and continue the debate surrounding these items long after the archaeological community has proclaimed these items inauthentic. Now he looks like a total fool.
I told my former boss at the IAA of my enthusiasm and he told me, "An indictment doesn't mean a conviction. Lets see who looks like fools in the end." In light of this he showed me today's posting on the ANE listhost (great listhost, BTW for anyone interesting in archaeology you get to keep up on all the current discourse for free) on behalf of Robert Deutch which is certainly interesting, and to be considered. You can also check out this thread from today's postings which are abound with discussion of the matter.
Which leads me to another matter. What does the ROM insist on still showing the relic of the ossuary? If reputable collection will pay good money for these artifacts it will create a market for forgeries (duh). These museums seem to care more about grabbing headlines than presenting real works. Not to broach the discussion concerning how relevant relics are (theologically, etc), but (in as much as it is important) it is not fair to be honest with patrons as you are their only source for objectivity. It is sort of like a judge saying "Well this is a small torts case, it doesn't really matter who I award the money to." Economically it will not set of fireworks if small claims courts were somehow arbitrary, but we need faith in the system, at all levels. Here at the highest levels museums seem not to care that objects which they present the public are highly controversial at best.

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