Haaretz: Golan and Reich on the Forgery Case

The Haaretz Weekend Magazine has two interesting articles related to the forgery trial of Oded Golan. I think they express well some of the arguments of the defense. I agree with Golan (and archaeologists who are not usually mentioned in the news) that the Jehoash Inscription is too sophisticated to be a forgery. The photograph from the 1970s showing the James Ossuary with the full inscription is significant testimony that the prosecution could not counter.

I don’t think there’s any question that the motivation of many of those claiming forgery here is a desire to eliminate the antiquities trade. As noble as that may be, it does not overturn the weight of the evidence that the primary artifacts in question (including also the ivory pomegranate) are authentic.

According to Golan, contrary to the argument of the IAA, the world of antiquities forgeries in Israel is very small and makes no economic sense: “In order to make the Jehoash tablet, you would have to work on it for at least a year and keep a team of experts on writing and on biology and geochemistry and archaeology, among others, and in the end you wouldn’t be able to sell it. You have to do everything in secret and you’ll always get someone who will say it is a fake.
“If you can do all that,” he continues, “you might as well go and print yourself dollars.”
According to Golan, the community of antiquities collectors constitutes a very limited group of knowledgeable individuals, all of whom are experts, to whom it is not easy to sell fakes. He also mentions the absence of any logic in the forgery of which he was accused in the case of the Jehoash tablet.
“I said during the investigation that even if I had intended to make forgeries, I definitely wouldn’t have written 200 letters [of the alphabet], in which you can make mistakes in syntax and shape, and all this on stone that’s going to break,” he asserts. “If I were to forge, I’d make do with writing: ‘The Temple, entrance here.’ And if I’ve already written ‘brother of Jesus,’ wouldn’t it have been logical to add ‘of Nazareth’? Without that, it all remains in the realm of fantasy.”

The prosecution claims that Golan is a “genius” who is able to convince scholars of all different fields that his creations are authentic. Golan doesn’t give himself so much credit.

The full article is worth reading, as is the sidebar about Ronny Reich who says, “It’s hard for me to believe that a forger ‏(or group of forgers‏) could be so knowledgeable in all aspects of the inscription − that is, the physical, paleographic, linguistic and biblical ones − that they could produce such an object.”

It would be nice if the Jehoash Inscription went on public display in a museum. For previous posts about the Jehoash Inscription, see the following:

Jehoash Inscription: Five Scholars Claim Authentic

Jehoash Inscription: Geologists Think Authentic

Forgery Conference Report

HT: Joseph Lauer


5 thoughts on “Haaretz: Golan and Reich on the Forgery Case

  1. I stand by my belief that the Joash inscription is a forgery (per my March 12, 2005 analysis). Paleography problems, layout problems (a prominent, gold-covered plaque wouldn't be so sloppy, especially one so small compared to monumental stelae), gold problems (Temple would've been stripped of significant gold prior to its destruction).

  2. Line 9 of the inscription refers to "copper of Edom". II Chronicles 24: 12 mentions copper , but does not specify its origin. The author of the inscription knew that Edom was an ancient source of copper but that information was still unknown at the time of the alleged forgery. The inscription first came to broad public attention in January of 2003. Oded Golan was arrested on July 22nd 2003. It wasn't untill years later that it became clear that Edom was active in metallurgical work and trade as far back as the 10th century BC, so how did the "forger" know about copper from Edom before anyone else did?

  3. G.M. – you have a right to be wrong every once in a while :-). I wonder if everything in the ancient past happened the way it "should have." And why a brilliant forger would make such "obvious" mistakes.

  4. A.B., back in the 1930s when he surveyed the region, Nelson Glueck asserted that there were mines in Edom ("The Civilization of the Edomites" in The Biblical Archaeologist vol. 10 #4, Dec. 1947). Levy began digging at Khirbat en-Nahas in 2002 (coincidence?). I still believe this tablet is a forgery, that the forger was crafty but not "brilliant", & that Todd has the right to be wrong along with me every once is a while.

  5. G.M. – I think it's reasonable to conclude based upon Golan's strenuous assertion that the tablet could not have been forged (along with the fact that he owns it) that if it was forged, Golan is complicit. I can't imagine a scenario in which he was (and remains) duped.

    There is an interesting paradox in this tablet in that some scholars believe that it is authentic and others believe that it is "brilliant" (but forged), yet the mistakes are so obvious. Wouldn't a forger with such skill in so many areas have taken the care to avoid sloppy mistakes? Or is it possible that there are some things we just don't know and wouldn't expect from the ancient world. Maybe there was more than one fire on the temple complex. Maybe they used some words in ways not yet attested. The forger was very smart but not smart enough to avoid taking great risks which he should have known would have caused guys like you to doubt.

    I think I'll let you be wrong by yourself this time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *