A Statement By the Faculty of Tel Aviv University Concerning an Advert in Biblical Archaeology Review

Oded Lipschits has sent along this public statement:

Statement by faculty members of the Marco and Sonia Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, regarding the alleged use of mechanical excavator at Tel Socoh

A defamatory, anonymous paid advertisement, alleging that Prof. Yuval Goren of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University has used a mechanical excavator to “pillage stratigraphy” in the excavation of Tel Socoh in the Shephelah, has again been published in the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). Those who read BAR should note that:

1. There was no use of a mechanical excavator on Tel Socoh.

2. The slide shown in the ad illustrates work carried out in a wadi near the mound, as a sequel to a systematic manual excavation from surface to natural soil nearby. The sounding was aimed at detecting pottery and slag in the vicinity of the site. This method is authorized (and endorsed) by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

3. This is a common method in archaeology. Most seasoned archaeologists – regardless of period of research, location on the globe, and institutional affiliation – use mechanical excavators in certain, closely controlled circumstances.

Signed: Oded Lipschits, Erez Ben Yosef, Shlomo Bunimovitz, Yoram Cohen, Alexander Fantalkin, Israel Finkelstein, Moshe Fischer, Yuval Gadot, Amir Gilan, Raphael Greenberg, Zeev Herzog, Dafna Langgut, Nadav Na’aman, Benjamin Sass, Deborah Sweeney, Oren Tal

Frankly, and personally, I think BAR has crossed the line with this egregious and defamatory advert.  They may not be responsible for its content, but they stand morally indicted for publishing it.

For the backstory of this public statement- see here.

Simcha’s Lawsuit Against Joe Zias Hits Ha’Aretz

Journalist and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici is suing anthropologist Joe Zias, who in recent years has been doing his utmost to disprove his provocative theories on early Christianity.

Further on

Jacobovici’s suit states that following Zias’ accusations, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic canceled the broadcast of his films, which cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also says Zias is not an expert in archaeology as he presents himself, and never formally studied the subject.

“Let him say what he wants, I’m not arguing with him. Let him find 100 professors who say I’m talking foolishness. He said I am a forger, that I planted discoveries, that I invent Holocaust stories. I am a son of Holocaust survivors! So I’m invoking my right to defend myself. Let him prove that I am a forger or let him pay,” Jacobovici told Haaretz.

Zias and his attorney, Yehonatan Zvi, want the dispute moved to the academic arena. In the defense brief submitted to the court, Zvi compares the current suit to the 1925 “monkey trial” in which a teacher, John Scopes, was tried in Tennessee for teaching evolution. According to Zvi, his client, like Scopes, is fighting to protect scientific research.

And further

Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University, one of the two senior archaeologists who submitted their opinions, compared Jacobovici’s films to the “Indiana Jones” movies – “although this image does great injustice to the latter,” Goren noted. “Steven Spielberg never tried to claim that the discoveries of Dr. ‘Indy’ Jones were scientific truth or had any factual basis” Goren wrote. He added that he felt the suit was intended to “silence legitimate scientific criticism.”

Prof. Amos Kloner, a former Jerusalem district archaeologist for the antiquities authority who took part in some of the excavations that appear in Jacobovici’s films, attacked the latter’s methods in the opinion he submitted to the court. “These films do not present all the findings or the whole story with the accepted detail required and essential in critical research.”

I’ve said all along, and I will continue to say, that suing someone for an academic opinion is unacceptable.  Many, many have criticized Simcha’s work with good reason.  And though Simcha asserts that he’s suing Zias because Zias suggested he planted things and forged stuff, I’m not buying it.  If all the stuff Simcha has filmed is the real deal, scholars would have supported him and his findings.  That those findings were weighed in the academic balances and found wanting isn’t Zias’ fault.  He doesn’t have that much influence.  Nor does he have, in my opinion, sufficient influence to get tv channels to pull Simcha’s work.  Simcha’s work was pulled for reasons known only to the networks he’s worked with and if he sues anyone it should be them.

I sincerely believe (though I don’t know it for a fact because I can’t read minds) that Simcha is suing Zias out of spite.

LCM Newsletter

Via Yuval Goren, the latest LCM Newsletter from Tel Aviv University.  It includes

An International Congress in Timna in Memory of Professor Beno Rothenberg, First Notice. — The Graduate Program in Archaeology and Archaeomaterials, together with the Dead Sea and Aravah Science Center, the Timna Park, and the Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies (IAMS) on behalf of the University College London (UCL)2, will carry-out an international congress in the copper mining sites of Timna and Feinan in April 2013.

And many other items of interest! Enjoy!

Yuval Goren Audio

Via Jack Sasson-

English: Y. Goren examining ancient cuneiform ...

Science in the field and lab is changing the accuracy and range of archaeology. Professor Yuval Goren’s Tel Aviv University’s Laboratory for Comparative Archaeology and Metal Conservation (headed together with Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef) is now launching the first-ever lab-initiated excavation. Dovid and Barnea sit between test tubes and microscopes to bring you into the scene.

The first-ever excavation of ancient Tel Socho in the Elah Valley will seek the factory which made the famous lamelekh jugs – it is going to make and change history real soon! Prof. Goren shares his personal path, leading him to create a department attracting students from around the world to trailblaze a new kind of research and career.

Now that the trial is over, he is at liberty to note details and implications of the recent James ossuary case in which he was a star witness, and explains the academic concerns about forgeries. You will enjoy listening to Yuval’s easygoing, deeply thoughtful manner – with scientific accuracy throughout, and a knack for making you understand and care. Around two hours of great listening and learning.

Part I: http://www.foundationstone.org/LandMinds10/LM%202012-a/files/LM-7May2012a.mp3

Part II: http://www.foundationstone.org/LandMinds10/LM%202012-a/files/LM-7May2012b.mp3

Nina Burleigh on the Trial of the Century: Golan, Shanks, A Smear Campaign and Money

Nina, who famously wrote a book on the trial, has an op-ed in the LA Times this morning.  She observes

Israeli prosecutors were badly underfunded (the nation has its eye on bigger problems than relic forgery), and its investigators never mounted the kind of international, follow-the-money detective work that would have bolstered their case by showing a pattern of criminality involving a number of lesser-known objects that were also part of the case — allegedly ancient lamps and Old Testament-era royal seal impressions that scientists said were fakes.

Prosecutors relied on a parade of archaeologists and other scholars. These men and women were accustomed to addressing respectful colleagues and students. They had no experience defending their conclusions against the highest-paid lawyers in Tel Aviv.

Like scholars and scientists everywhere, their work doesn’t reach a level of precision that can withstand legal cross-examination. They acknowledge doubts. Their opinions don’t always agree in the particulars, even when they arrive at a consensus.

And while the scientists for the state conducted their investigations and testified for free, the defense paid for-hire scientists, who were willing to say the objects at issue were entirely authentic.

And of course she’s on the money too when she observes

Supporters of the ossuary and the other objects that had been discredited by the state’s investigation hailed the acquittal as a legal stamp of approval.

The ossuary’s loudest supporter is American lawyer and publisher Hershel Shanks, whose magazine Biblical Archaeology Review first revealed the object. Shanks has spent the last seven years attacking the “pack of scholars” at the Israel Antiquities Authority and one in particular, an archaeologist named Yuval Goren who found modern silicone glue in the carved ossuary inscription.

Goren, a vice dean of the faculty of humanities at Tel Aviv University, is a mild-mannered expert in materials that ancient craftsmen used to make pottery and art. He testified that a simulated patina had been applied over the inscription, a substance containing powdered calcite and limestone, charcoal and corroded bronze particles and adhered with modern glue he dubbed “James Bond.” That testimony was discredited partly because the test Goren carried out removed the substance from the surface of the box.

Goren’s findings were hardly the only evidence against Golan. Eventually an Israeli police officer tracked down an Egyptian who admitted having worked for Golan, creating objects that were meant to look ancient.

And brilliantly

Despite widespread knowledge of that stunning transcript and the damning workroom evidence reported by police, Golan’s supporters made Goren a whipping boy at the courthouse and in biblical archaeology websites. Because he dared to cast doubt on the ossuary — and therefore on the literal truth of the Bible — his professionalism was trashed and he was variously called a religion-hating atheist, a hater of Israel and a self-hating Jew.

Attacking scientists is increasingly common as religious and ideological zealots flatly reject data that offend their creeds. Recently a pro-mining consortium threatened legal action against academic journals about to publish studies linking mining-related air pollution and lung cancer. Climate scientists whose work indicates that global warming is caused by humans’ burning of fossil fuels now routinely receive hate mail and have had their emails systematically hacked by those who disagree, mostly on faith.

The methods used to discredit the best archaeologists in Israel — by seizing on minor data points or a minority of dissenters who deviate from the consensus — is exactly what happens in the debate about climate science. The non-expert public is then forced to choose which view makes the most sense.

For those who seek to prove that the Bible is literally true, the particulars of science matter little. They want tangible artifacts, and the details be damned. Israel Finkelstein, dean of archaeology at Tel Aviv University (whose work in Solomonic-era archaeology does not fit with Bible stories about Solomon) told me that if the state lost the ossuary case, we should expect a bumper crop of shady Bible-proving finds: “Inscriptions from the time of Solomon, from the time of David, the T-shirt of Moses, the crown of King Solomon, the sandals of Abraham. That’s the future, if there is an acquittal.”

Indeed.  So read her whole essay. She’s right.

Golan and his team bought acquittal the same way OJ did.  Make no mistake about it.

Support Yuval Goren

Sign the petition (the reason for it can be found here).

115 Signatories as of 3:41 p.m., November 27, 2011

Jim West,Petros,TN,37845,USA,10/17/2011
Emanuel Pfoh,La Plata,,1900,Argentina,10/17/2011
Oded Lipschits,Tel Aviv,,69978,Israel,10/17/2011
Thomas Römer,Lausanne,,1004,Switzerland,10/17/2011
Jonathan Stokl,London,,WC1E 6BT,United Kingdom,10/17/2011
James Bos,Ann Arbor,MI,48104,USA,10/17/2011
yoav tzur,Tel Aviv,,11211,Israel,10/17/2011
Antonio Lombatti,parma,,43125,Italy,10/17/2011
Bob Becking,Woerden,,NL-3448 XH,Netherlands,10/17/2011
Stefan Muenger,Bern,,3013,Switzerland,10/17/2011
Nadav Na’aman,Tel Aviv,,69101,Israel,10/17/2011
John Richard Young,Norristown,PA,19401-1531,USA,10/17/2011
Ido Koch,Tel Aviv,,65231,Israel,10/17/2011
Christoph Uehlinger,Zurich,,CH-8001,Switzerland,10/17/2011
Ehud Ben Zvi,Edmonton,,T6G2H4,Canada,10/17/2011
Dr Philippe Guillaume,Grub AR,,9035,Switzerland,10/17/2011
Boaz Gross,Tel Aviv,,99999,Israel,10/17/2011
Christophe Nihan,Lausanne,,1004,Switzerland,10/17/2011
William Fulco,Los Angeles,CA,90045,USA,10/17/2011
Aharon Oppenheimer,Tel Aviv,,62996,Israel,10/17/2011
Zeev Herzog,TEL AVIV,,69978,Israel,10/17/2011
Jacob Wright,Atlanta,GA,30322,USA,10/17/2011
Robert Miller,Washington,DC,20064,USA,10/17/2011
Owen Chesnut,Petoskey,MI,49770,USA,10/17/2011
Manfred Oeming,Heidelberg,,68117,Germany,10/17/2011
Bryan D. Freehling,Lahaska,PA,18931,USA,10/17/2011
Joe zias,Jerusalem,,6202,Israel,10/17/2011
Deane Galbraith,Dunedin,,9010,New Zealand,10/17/2011
Thomas L. Thompson,Espergaerde,,DK-3060,Denmark,10/18/2011
Hanspeter Schaudig,Heidelberg,,”D-69115, German”,USA,10/18/2011
Stefan Jakob,Heidelberg,,D-69117,Germany,10/18/2011
Lester Grabbe,Hull,,HU6 7RX,United Kingdom,10/18/2011
Lilian Maul-Balensiefen,Heidelberg,,69117,Germany,10/18/2011
Juan Manuel Tebes,Paris,,75014,France,10/18/2011
Roxana Flammini,Buenos Aires,,1107,Argentina,10/18/2011
Madhavi Nevader,Glasgow,,G12 8QQ,United Kingdom,10/18/2011
Raymond Person,Pandora,OH,45877,USA,10/18/2011
Ernst Axel Knauf,Bern,,3012,Switzerland,10/18/2011
Gunnar Lehmann,Beer Sheva,,84105,Israel,10/18/2011
Yuval Gadot,Modiin,,71702,Israel,10/18/2011
Frank Polak,Ramath Aviv,,69978,Israel,10/18/2011
William Tooman,St Andrews,,KY16 9JU,United Kingdom,10/18/2011
Sanna Aro,Espoo,,02320,Finland,10/18/2011
Thomas Verenna,Easton,PA,18042,USA,10/18/2011
Amos Kloner,Ramat Gan,,52900,Israel,10/18/2011
arik yaron,tlv,,69186,Israel,10/18/2011
Louise hitchcock,”parkville, Vic”,,3010,Australia,10/18/2011
Petr Slema,Prague,,CZ-115 55,Czech Republic,10/18/2011
Israel Finkelstein,Tel Aviv University,,69978,Israel,10/18/2011
Idan Jonish,Kiryat Ono,,55424,Israel,10/18/2011
Jona Lendering,Amsterdam,,1001 EP,Netherlands,10/18/2011
Rick Tonsing,Fair Oaks,CA,95628,USA,10/18/2011
Rick Bonnie,Leuven,,3000,Belgium,10/19/2011
Yairah Amit,Tel Aviv,,69978,Israel,10/19/2011
YARDENA REGEV,KIRYAT-ONO,,55451,Israel,10/19/2011
james m nordlund,Fargo,ND,58102,USA,10/19/2011
Stephen Savage,Tempe,AZ,85287-2402,USA,10/19/2011
david meadows,winona,,L8E5Y3,Canada,10/19/2011
Mark Elliott,Cheyenne,WY,82009,USA,10/19/2011
David Eitam,Hararit,,20182,Israel,10/19/2011
Ingrid Hjelm,Espergaerde,,DK-3060,Denmark,10/20/2011
Gilbert Ramirez,Tyler,TX,75701,USA,10/20/2011
Niels Peter Lemche, Copenhagen, Denmark 10/23/2011
Diamantis Panagiotopoulos,Heidelberg,,D-69117,Germany,10/28/2011
David Stacey,Saffron Walden,,CB11 4BS,United Kingdom,10/29/2011
Ticia Verveer,Rotterdam,,3068 GN,Netherlands,10/30/2011
Douglas Mangum,Bellingham,WA,98226,United States,11/04/2011
Rachel West,Oliver Springs,TN,37845,United States,11/05/2011
Norma Franklin,Tel Aviv,,62591,Israel,11/08/2011
Willem Smelik,Royston,,Sg8 7sl,United Kingdom,11/09/2011
Andrew Davies,Birmingham,,B15 2TT,United Kingdom,11/09/2011
Joel Watts,Charleston,WV,25301,United States,11/12/2011
shuka dorfman,Jerusalem,,IAA Director Ge,Israel,11/15/2011
Leticia Barda,Jerusalem,,97774,Israel,11/15/2011
Sharon Gal,Alon,,84965,Israel,11/15/2011
hamoudi khalaily,jerusalem,,93145,Israel,11/15/2011
Ruthy Tov,,,,United States,11/15/2011
Arieh Rochman-Halperin,Jerusalem,IL,91004,United States,11/15/2011
Gilad Cinamon,Beit HaKerem,,POB 20106,Israel,11/15/2011
Ayelet Dayan,Tel Aviv,,972,Israel,11/15/2011
Gregory Seriy,Beer Sheva,,84965,Israel,11/15/2011
Inbal Bezalel,Jerusalem,,93719,Israel,11/15/2011
Shai Bar-Tura,Jerusalem,NY,90900,United States,11/16/2011
zohar Yaakoby,jerusalem,,99999,Israel,11/16/2011
Uzi Dahari,Mevaseret-Zion,,90805,Israel,11/16/2011
Anna Eirikh-Rose,Maale Adumim,,07,Israel,11/16/2011
Evvgeny Ivanovsky,Maaleh Adumim,IL,99050,United States,11/16/2011
Ruby Markovits,Petach Tikva,,49720,Israel,11/16/2011
Alon De Groot,mevaseret zion,,90805,Israel,11/16/2011
carla vivanti valpiana,doar na haella,,99870,Israel,11/16/2011
eli Yannai,Kfar-Yona,,40300,Israel,11/16/2011
Jacques Neguer,Holon,,58276,Israel,11/16/2011
dor golan,rishon lezion,IL,75555,United States,11/16/2011
Robert Schillaci,Surprise,AZ,85379,United States,11/16/2011
Robert Gardenhire,La Mesa,CA,91941,United States,11/16/2011
Hagit Torge,Herzlia,,46382,IL,11/17/2011
Philip Maertens,Parchal,,8400-619,PT,11/17/2011
Keith Whitelam,Sheffield,,S10 1DH,GB,11/17/2011
Amir Gorzalczany,Tel Aviv,,69121,IL,11/17/2011
Graciela Gestoso Singer,Holon,,58353,Israel,11/17/2011
Tim Bulkeley,Auckland,,1042,New Zealand,11/17/2011
Christian Salafia,Mesa,AZ,85206,United States,11/17/2011
DAPHNA ZUCKERMAN,JERUSALEM,IL,96544,United States,11/17/2011
Carl Sweatman,Cheltenham,,GL51 9HZ,GB,11/17/2011
Adam Kaplan,Tel Aviv,,9000,IL,11/18/2011
Timothy Michael Law,Oxford,,OX1 2LE,GB,11/19/2011
yuval gur,yaad,,20155,IL,11/20/2011
Christopher Sacks,San Francisco,CA,94132-1047,United States,11/20/2011
Aaron Macks,Cambridge,MA,02139,United States,11/20/2011
James Linville,Lethbridge,,T1K3M4,CA,11/23/2011
Anastasia Shapiro,Q. Motskin,,26337,IL,11/27/2011