Matthew Kalman has another report with more information and opinion in the wake of the verdict in The Chronicle of Higher Education including those asserting the authenticity of the inscriptions (in the middle of the essay) followed by those who don’t (at the end). We pick up with the latter –
Across the Tel Aviv University campus, Yuval Goren, a prosecution witness and professor in the department of archaeology and ancient Near Eastern civilizations, was equally insistent in the opposite direction.
“I examined the materials covering the ossuary and the inscription, and we found out that the materials covering the inscription were not created in the natural processes typical of the Judean mountains area over the last 2,000 years,” said Mr. Goren.
“Since the verdict is not guilty, it means the accused had, first of all, very good lawyers but also there was no legal way to connect between them and the fraud. But it doesn’t really change much about the scientific conclusions because they are unrelated,” he insisted. “I think the scientific data still stands for itself.”
His view is supported by James E. West, adjunct professor of biblical studies at the Quartz Hill School of Theology and moderator of an influential online forum on biblical archaeology.
“Golan has harmed the field of archaeology in incalculable ways,” said Mr. West. “Whenever real, and important, discoveries are made, the public will view them with skepticism because now there will always underlie them the potential that they too are fakes. It may have been a good verdict for Golan personally—but for the field of ‘biblical archaeology’, this is a sad day, a bad day, and in truth, a tragic day.”
Israel Finkelstein, another professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, was also a prosecution witness. He continues to believe the items are fakes and says archaeologists should avoid any item not found in a supervised excavation.
“A judicial procedure is one thing and an academic investigation—and debate—is another,” said Mr. Finkelstein. “As far as I can judge, there is enough evidence against the authenticity of the inscription on the ossuary and the Jehoash inscription.”
Eric M. Meyers, director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Duke University, said the failure to prove the items were forged “in no way means that they are authentic. The burden of proof that falls on the prosecution in a criminal case must rise to a high level of proof beyond reasonable doubt. The fact that the defendants have been acquitted thus does not end the matter of the quest to decide authenticity. This leaves much opportunity for academic opinion to continue to believe that these artifacts are not authentic and to question their provenance.”
Antonio Lombatti, an Italian church historian, said he expected the debate to continue. “If the carbon dating of the Turin shroud in 1988 didn’t put the word ‘end’ to the debate, I won’t expect a trial verdict to have the last word on a Jewish ossuary,” he said.