A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The Geological Survey of Israel (GSI), today publicly clarified its position regarding the authenticity of the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Inscription. In a letter sent to Uzi Dahari, deputy director of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), GSI director Amos Bein states that its representative to the IAA's committee established to determine the authenticity of the objects, Avner Ayalon, determined that the patina covering both the letters and surface of the Jehoash Inscription, as well as the inscription on the James Ossuary, "could not have formed under natural climactic conditions...that prevailed in the Judea Mountains during the last 2000 years." Furthermore, the patina contained in the inscription on the James Ossuary is "significantly different from the oxygen isotopic composition in the surface patina of [the ossuary] and of patina of authentic ossuaries stored in [Jerusalem's] Rockefeller Museum." An internal GSI committee reviewed and approved Dr. Ayalon's conclusions.
In Fall 2002, GSI scientists Amnon Rosenfeld and Shimon Ilani confirmed that the James Ossuary was made of local stone, and identified the presence of a single patina characteristic of a type that develops in cave environments.
In Spring 2003, Rosenfeld, Ilani, and GSI scientist Michael Dvoracheck misidentified the Jehoash Inscription as carved from local sandstone (found in formations exposed in southern Israel, east of the Dead Sea, and in southwestern Jordan), with a naturally occurring patina. The stone was later identified by the IAA committee as a metamorphic rock originating from Cyprus and points west.
The patina of the James Ossuary inscription was tested independently by IAA scientific committee members Yuval Goren (micromorphology) and Ayalon (mass spectrometry). Both tests independently support the IAA's conclusion that the Jehoash Inscription and the inscription on the James Ossuary are forgeries.
ARCHAEOLOGY received a faxed copy of the letter, on Geological Survey letterhead, dated June 22, 2003. The body of the letter is as follows:
Jerusalem, June 22nd, 2003
Dr. Uzi Dahari
Dear Dr. Dahari,
Following the press conference of June 18, 2003 in which the Antiquity Authority announced that the inscriptions known as "James Ossuary" and "Jeoash Tablet" were fake, we wish to clarify the following:
1. The Geological Survey of Israel (GSI) was part of the Scientific Committee established by the Antiquity Authority to determine the authenticity of the two items.
2. The Geological Survey appointed Dr. Avner Ayalon as its representative in the committee.
3. Dr. Ayalon studied the oxygen isotopic composition of the patina covering the letters and surface of the two items, as well as that of authentic ossuaries provided by the Antiquity Authority.
4. The patina covering the letters and surface of the "Jeoash Tablet," as well as the patina in the letters of "James Ossuary," is significantly different from the oxygen isotopic composition on the surface patina of "James Ossuary," and of patina of authentic ossuaries stored in Rockefeller Museum.
5. The carbonate oxygen isotopic composition of "Jeoash Tablet" patina and the "letters patina" of "James Ossuary" reveals that the patina could not have formed under natural climatic conditions (temperature and water composition) that prevailed in the Judea Mountains during the last 2000 years.
6. The above conclusions represents the official and unbiased view of the scientific advisory committee in the GSI that reviewed Dr. Ayalon's work, and as such is the official view of the GSI.
For the latest on these forgeries and their scholarly and political ramifications, see the September/October issue of ARCHAEOLOGY.