Lest we forget, scholars have been duped a number of times – falling for clever forgeries foisted off on them through ‘anonymous’ donors and ‘antiquities dealers’. Remember the ‘Ivory Pomegranate’? The ‘James Ossuary Inscription’? The ‘Jehoash Inscription’? The ‘Lead Codices’? The ‘Secret Gospel of Mark’?
It’s past time, again, I would insist, for us to accept as legitimate anything, anything at all, that doesn’t come from a controlled dig. I think, further, that ASOR is right, as a matter of policy, to refuse to publish such things. Harvard should refuse to as well. As should the Biblical Archaeology Review (but of course that won’t happen).
Every time an unprovenanced artifact is published, an angel loses its wings and becomes a homeless beggar on the streets of Calcutta. If the present trend continues, heaven will be emptied of those poor benighted creatures due to the human quest for novelty and notoriety.
Now if Dr. King has an artifact from a controlled dig, cool. If not, then why has it become public?
Viv Rowett, the Secretary of SOTS, sends along this word from Prof. B. on the recent interest of some in the Society on the ‘Lead Codices’
“On the subject of the lead codices: some members interested in these artifacts may not have seen the report of the exchange between David Elkington, who claims to have discovered them (either in Jordan or Egypt is not quite clear) and Peter Thonemann, an Oxford classicist from whom he solicited an opinion on their authenticity. It took Thonemann only half an hour to establish that a Greek inscription on the copper tablet was copied from a second century AD tombstone from Madaba in Jordan on view in the Archaeological Museum in Amman, and copied in a way which suggested that the copier did not know Greek. Thonemann’s verdict was that it probably originated in an Amman workshop some time over the last fifity years. The report is published in Times Literary Supplement April 8, 2011 and can be seen by googling Thonemann. The same conclusion was reached by The Jewish Chronicle but I do not have the reference. I have no opinion of my own on the issue.”
Naturally all of this is old news to readers here. The Codices are modern trinkets and everyone but those with a financial interest in pimping them realizes this. Nevertheless, since they, like a continuously returning bad penny, have arisen again, like a piece of excrement that just won’t flush, I thought it fitting to pass along Blenkinsopp’s remarks.
I have to agree with Jim. Had I been at SOTS this Summer I would have declined to sign the letter to the Times as well. Read his post, it’s quite good. Here’s the core of the matter
I see two issues here. The first is the silence of the Jordanian Government about the metal codices. Since they were quitevocal about the importance of the finds initially, their subsequent silence is indeed noteworthy. My guess is that they have figured out that the codices are fakes and are just keeping quiet and hoping the whole issue goes away and spares them further embarrassment. If I am wrong, it would be helpful to hear what they do think and what they are currently doing about the codices, and to that extent I can support the central point of the letter. But I am not optimistic about the Jordanian authorities providing any important new information.
The second issue is the final sentence of the first paragraph of the letter: “There are many indications that these finds are not modern forgeries, but [that] possibility cannot as yet be definitively excluded.”* I know of no such “many indications that these finds are not modern forgeries.” Many of the codices, including the copper one first shown by Mr. Elkington to Classicist Peter Thonemann, are crude and obvious fakes. At least one of the lead ones seems to have been made of ancient lead, but the Oxford metallurgical report that says this (which was initially incorrectly quoted on the Jordan Codices Facebook page) also doubts that the inscribed areas on the lead went through a period of burial. In other words the evidence is consistent with old lead, which is not hard to come by, having been inscribed much more recently to make the codices. (For the report see the video here, especially from about 8:00 on. I make no judgment about how the incorrect quotation came about. See also here.)
Again, do read it all.
Bob has some salient observations of his own worth reading.
via XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargill