Jordan Lead Codices: Palm Tree Iconography

There are two definitive Palm Tree stamps which were used in the production of the iconography on the lead codices.  The first is a 12-branch palm tree (Type A):

Found on these codices, for example:

The second (Type B) is one that has smaller branches (and more of them) which are shaped in a rounded fashion rather than the pyramid-like fashion from the one above:

Found on these codices, for example:

Now onto the analysis of these palm trees, starting with the one with thirteen-branches.  Right away, their authenticity is called into question.  First the number of branches is simply wrong.  Second, the style of the branches are completely inaccurate from what we would expect of iconography from the period in the region.  Palm tree iconography found on coins from the first and second Jewish wars all feature seven branches with the exception being the fourth year prutah during the first Jewish war which features eight branches:

Here are some examples of seven-branch palm trees featured on coins dating to the Bar Kokhba uprising (second Jewish war):

And even those minted by Roman procurators like Antonius Felix also contained similar palm tree iconography:

You can clearly make out the six branches in the image, even with its poor quality.

Marcus Ambivulus’ (prefect of Judea) coin iconography is the closest match one might find to the iconography of Type A found on the lead codices:

As one can see, the branches are in a wave style, that is that each branch–particularly on the top rows–form a wing-shape or a flattened “v” rather than connecting to a central trunk like the other palm tree coin iconography.  It is likely that these coins, found all over Israel and Jordan (and in museums), were the inspiration for the Type A  palm trees on the lead codices.  Although I have also found this ring with a palm tree on it as well:

This ring, said to be a temple offering during the first Jewish war (the iconography is clearly based on the year four, first Jewish war prutah), bears the same number of branches.  The thing is, Joe Zias has told me that this ring is similar to tourist trinkets he has seen in Israel, peddled by workshops as well.  In other words, if this is indeed fake (and I am inclined to believe it might be), it is remarkably similar to the design on the codices.  The difference, again, is the style of the branches.  This ring has the branhces connecting to a central trunk rather than the wave or winged pattern of the Type A palm tree on the codices and the palm tree on the Ambivulus prutah.  So while this is very similar, it is more likely, in this authors opinion, that the palm tree Type A iconography is based on the Ambivulus prutah.  Now on to Type B.

Type B palm trees like very modern in style.  In fact, the palm tree iconography of Type B is unlike anything I’ve seen from antiquity.  Even on Judea Capta coins, where the palm trees look close (but not nearly close enough), the iconography has more differences than similarities:

Clearly not the same iconography.

The only palm tree iconography I could find which resembles the iconography of the Type B palm trees on the lead codices is the Nerva sestertius:

It is this authors opinion that the Type B iconography is loosely based upon this coin, or a modern equivalent.

And just to throw another wrench into the mix, I have included some fake coins in this lot to show that, not only are modern fakes with palm tree iconography are everywhere in our modern world (and the dies easy to come by), but that these dies are extremely close to the real thing.  Fake coins (with their palm tree iconography) are everywhere and more often than not are purchased by a lot of unsuspecting people.  Chances are you probably can’t tell the difference between the real ones and the fake ones, unless you are trained with a keen eye to spot them!

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