Bones of Contention
The press conference of the Israeli Antiquities Authority was announced with much fanfare, and headlines went out around the world—JAMES OSSUARY DECLARED HOAX, INSCRIPTION SAID TO BE CERTAINLY A MODERN FORGERY. Of course, it was not possible in June to critique this finding since the scientific reports that were said to be the basis of it were not released. Two months later, as I am writing this, only a summary of the findings has been released (though it is called a "final report"). One must wonder why the IAA is holding back the data, when the commission finished its work nearly three months ago.
As it is, the summary of findings of the various committees reveals major problems. If the scientific reports that are the basis of these summaries are not more substantial than the summaries, then certainly the headlines were not merely premature, but probably inaccurate as well.
Let us start with a few facts. First, only a few weeks after the IAA's much ballyhooed press conference, careful scholars from Toronto published more of their findings. They concluded that the inscription on the James ossuary is certainly not a modern forgery. Toronto Museum curator Ed Keall could hardly have been clearer in his article that appeared in the July/August Biblical Archaeology Review. Thus, at a minimum, we have a divided scholarly house in regard to this ossuary, and the attempt by the IAA to close the case on the James ossuary files has failed.
Second, Simcha Jacobovici, the producer of the Discovery Channel's special on the James ossuary, also held a news conference near the end of June. In it he pointed out various of the problems underlying the IAA's report and the way IAA proceeded with its examination. For example, the head ...