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Ossuary Dethroned July 24, 2003
by Kristin M. Romey

[image] [image] [image]
The James Ossuary, from left, making its world debut on the cover of the November/December 2002 Biblical Archaeology Review; before an audience of nearly 100,000 at the Royal Ontario Museum last fall (Corbis); and in a filthy Tel Aviv toilet, July 2003 (Israel Antiquities Authority).

The once-celebrated James Ossuary, heralded by the international press last fall as the first physical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, was found Monday, July 21, in a filthy rooftop bathroom during a police raid on ossuary owner Oded Golan's Tel Aviv apartment building.

The ossuary was returned to Golan after the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) tested it in March 2003 and determined its inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," to be a forgery.

The IAA today released a photograph of the lidless ossuary, insured by Golan for $1 million, sitting on a plank atop a toilet seat. The damage incurred by the "artifact" during its shipment to the Royal Ontario Museum in November 2002 is clearly visible. The ossuary has been confiscated by the police, along with other materials collected from an alleged rooftop forgery lab owned by Golan. The 51-year-old engineer is being held on a four-day detention order at a Jerusalem police lockup and is not available for comment.

In a press release posted after Golan's arrest, the Royal Ontario Museum [ROM] stated: "Until the ROM receives convincing evidence to the contrary, we stand by our opinion that the James Ossuary is not a forgery."

* For the events and issues behind the arrest of Oded Golan, see "Faking Biblical History," by Neil Asher Silberman and Yuval Goren in our September/October issue.

© 2003 by the Archaeological Institute of America