Friday, June 20, 2003

Phony Ossuary A while back there was a big splash over an ossuary (a sort of box used to inter the bones of departed family members) that was discovered in Israel. The inscription on the box, written in Aramaic, said "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus". The box received front-page coverage in many newspapers, partly because the box itself was quickly identified as being of the right age, and partly because it would serve as one of the few pieces of extra-Biblical evidence that Jesus even existed.

Well, it's a fake. The inscription that is. According to The New Scientist:

"`The inscription appears new, written in modernity by someone attempting to reproduce ancient written characters,' a statement issued by Israel's Antiquities Authority says. `The inscriptions, possibly inscribed in two separate stages, are not authentic.' "

The article goes on to note:

"Gideon Avri, chairman of the investigating committee, said the most compelling evidence that the inscription was not genuine came from an examination of thin layers of limestone that had built up on the surface of the ossuary since it was created. "`The incisions showed modern elements, indicating it was done by a skilful artist in recent years,' he told New Scientist. The box itself is thought to date from the first century AD. The Israel Antiquities Authority has scores of similar specimens in its vaults."

You can be sure that the media, to the extent that it will cover this story at all, will bury it pretty deep.

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