James Ossuary and Yehoash Tablet to be Returned
Last year we saw the trial of Oded Golan and others on the charge that they had forged the inscription on the James “brother of Jesus” ossuary and a tablet that purported to be a text of King Yehoash repairing the Temple. The charge was brought by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and was finally dismissed by the court. However the IAA claimed that the IAA should be allowed to retain the items, but it has now been decided by the Supreme Court, on appeal, that both the Yehoash Tablet and the Ossuary shall be returned to their original owner, Oded Golan, who claims that he will now put both items on public display. Although the court found in favour of Golan, the provenance of the items is still in doubt, and the whole case is an ignominious defeat for the IAA and a blow against those that are trying to stop the illegal trade in archaeological artifacts.
Desecration of Graves in the Syrian Conflict
It has been reported by an Iranian news agency that ancient Jewish mausolea have been destroyed in the historical city of Tedef-al-Yahud, some 30 km. east of Aleppo, by terrorists belonging to the al-Nusra Front, backed by al-Qaida. There is supposed to be a tomb ascribed to Ezra Hasopher (the scribe) in the town but there is no mention as to whether that has been affected.
Serious Dig for School Kids
The University of Haifa is organising a professional excavation at Tel Esur, the site of an ancient fortress south of Haifa on the coast, with the help of 150 local children and 20 staff members. The children come from four different schools, Arab as well as Jewish, and spend three weeks on site, supervised by Shay Bar, an archaeologist of the Iron and Bronze Age periods, based on an initial survey conducted by Adam Zertal, the Haifa professor of archaeology. Shay Bar says that children “open like a flower, they are flourishing” and some of them are making significant finds, including a tiny Egyptian scarab of the 13th century BCE, depicting the god Amun with two other figures, uncovered by a 13-year old Arab girl. For the archaeologists the progress on site is painfully slow, as they show the kids how to work and record their findings but, they say, “it’s a project of the community and for the community, and for the education of the children of the community”, which makes it all worthwhile.
Ancient Tablet of Vengeance Found in Jerusalem
In a structure of the third century CE, destroyed by an earthquake in the fourth, was found a small rolled-up lead tablet containing the curse, originally in Greek, “I strike down and nail down the tongue, the eyes, the wrath, the anger, the procrastination, the opposition of Iennys” made by a certain Kyrilla, presumably against her legal opponent, according to Dr. Robert Daniel of University of Cologne, who deciphered it. He thinks she might have used the declaration while striking an image of her opponent in a kind of magical ritual, and that it was probably written by a hired sorcerer.
The excavators, Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, working on behalf of the IAA, found the tablet inside the building on the old Givati car park opposite the City of David site in Jerusalem, and conjecture that it was hidden there before the earthquake by Kyrilla to work its potent magic on her opponent.
The ‘Book of Books’ Exhibition
This exhibition of Bibles has recently opened at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. It is an amazing collection of dozens of valuable Bible texts, ranging from the Dead Sea Scrolls to 19th century translations into Chinese and Japanese. The range is enormous and includes, amongst many others, the King James Bible of 1611, the Manuel of Discipline and the Habakuk Pesher (in facsimile) from Qumran and fragments of the 3rd century BCE Septuagint. There are early coins of Biblical subjects and a complete model of the 15th century Gutenberg press, with a young man in attendance who will demonstrate how Gutenberg produced a lead plate, inked it and then printed it onto fine paper with a strong pull on the timber press. Gutenberg printed his work in columns of 42 lines, in accordance with the Sifrei Torah that he examined, and whose format he was loath to change. The exhibition will be in Jerusalem until May 24th 2014 and will then go to the Vatican before being moved permanently to Washington DC.
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg,
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem