Steve Caruso Clarifies the Function of the Lead Codices

Steve Caruso responds to a blog comment which asks “if these are fakes, what is the original object they are making facsimiles of?”  The question is one that has been asked before so their function deserves to be highlighted and exposed.  Steve writes:

Whoever fabricated these is not making copies of a genuine artifact, more than producing fake “antiquities” to sell at a significant profit. As we saw on eBay, one was being offered to the tune of $13,000. That’s not a bad markup for $5 worth of ancient Roman lead.

I have seen the same pattern like this before several times only in “golden letters on leather” where a pastiche of re-used iconography is assembled in a pattern that seems authentic enough to someone who doesn’t know what to look for.

When I’ve been approached by individuals trying to fence fakes it was always a matter of presenting something with enough intrigue to make the sale, and then threatening that time is short to complete the transaction.

Within this method, the sealed book angle, given the Apocalyptic reference, is the icing on the proverbial cake, and what seals (no pun intended) the deal for a potential buyer.

via Blogger: The Aramaic Blog – Post a Comment.


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!

Bible and Interpretation – Update on the Jordan Lead Codices

My new article on Bible and Interpretation is up!  It is a brief update on the status of the investigation into the Jordan lead codices.  Here is a snippet:

None of the codices that have been released thus far for the public have proven to be authentic (including those which Elkington has supported as authentic) and none have shown to be more than the products of workshops, skilled in peddling fakes to tourists at a hefty price. It is also true that the iconography and even some of the script has roots in actual artifacts but these qualities were repurposed, out of context, from items found in museums in Jordan.

Update _Codices4.pdf (application/pdf Object).

Jordan Lead Codices: Exposing the Fakes [Updated]

As of today, the following blogs have posted this video and made very important comments.  Please check them all out and see what they have to say.  Don’t take my word for it!

  • James McGrath
  • Dan McClellan (with further explanations on the manipulated metallurgical report and pictures of the censorship!)
  • Jim Davila
  • David Meadows
  • Jim West
  • Mark Goodacre
  • Fr. Stephen
  • Steve Caruso, who notes:In a bit, I’ll have another post that actually goes over some clarifications that have been made to one of the metallurgical reports by the researcher who compiled it.
  • Joel Watts
  • Dorothy Lobel King also has brought up an excellent point.  According to BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY, LTD. v. COREL CORP., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), Elkington cannot claim copyright on the photos by law!  Unless the photos are of fakes (and if he wishes to pursue the claim that I am stealing copyrighted material, he would have to admit to this), in which case the codices are indeed the property of the workshop and the photos would be his.  However, if these are the real thing, as he is alleging, then pictures of the lead codices, which would be considered artifacts and already in public domain, cannot be copyrighted.  So by attempting to copyright the photos, he has already admitted to guilt!
  • Kerry
  • Bob Cargill has very interesting things to say.  Bob, unlike David Elkington, is a real archaeologist (as is Dorothy Lobel King) and notes:
    Like most unprovenanced “discoveries,” the Jordan Lead Codices are continuing to be exposed for what they are: a book-selling, documentary-pitching, money making, religious profiteering scheme, which uses a hungry media to prey on the faithful and the public, and employs the tried-and-true formula of 1) a sensational press release (without academic peer-review or scholarly evaluation), followed by 2) a pseudoscientific data dump that attempts to dilute and drown out the logic and actual science put forth by scholars responding to and debunking the claim (at least until the book gets released).

    This formula to misuse archaeology to make religious claims for ideological and/or money making purposes works regardless of the faith of the huckster making the claim: Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim – peddlers representing all faiths and even some “alien enthusiasts” (usually amateurs with no formal training in scholarship or archaeology) have used the formula to sell books, sell tickets, pitch documentaries, and attempt to proselytize the public and/or take its money. And, by the time actual scholars respond and debunk the story, the media has usually moved on (and if the media do publish a follow-up story, it is usually no longer a headline). Let’s face it: archaeological hucksters keep using the formula because it works (or at least always has), and it will continue to work in the future as long as scholars fail to respond to the false claims immediately and publicly.

  • Dan McClellan also adds a few more comments on his blog, like this gem:

    As the manipulative nature of this kind of campaign is exposed, “archaeological hucksters” tend to react by appealing to argumentum ad hominem and a sense among laypersons of distrust for putative academic elitism and bias…

Lead Codices Updates: Evidence of Lifted Script from coins and Additional Updates from Dan McClellan

Steve Caruso made a breakthrough today with this image:

He writes:

Going on the coin inscription lead, I came across a sequence of characters lifted nonsensically from the prutot of John Hyrcanus I (135-104 BC).

via The Aramaic Blog: Lead Codices: Sequence Lifted From John Hyrcanus I Prutah.

Also Dan McClellan made this note as well:

It reads as follows with the Facebook admin’s reading:

. . . לגלשאגתלאלגלגבשאגתל . . .
. . . מבתבלאגתלגשבתבלאגתבב . . .
. . . מסרשאלגבבמסרשאלגת . . .

A small collection of letters are simply being nonsensically repeated (with the occasional accidental word appearing). It is difficult to make out in the photo above because of the blurring, but the first roughly half of the bottom three lines are repeated in exactly the same shape and orientation in the second half of the text. Whatever mold or die was used to create the first half of each of the three lines was simply used again for the second half. Philip Davies’ recent PEQ editorial, available for free here, mentions this repetition and calls the lettering “mostly purely decorative.” This rather conflicts with Elkington’s claim to have the world’s top paleo-Hebrew mind reaching a breakthrough in translation (unless, of course, Elkington doesn’t think Davies is one of the five who can read it!).

via A Preliminary Translation of the Jordan Codices is Offered « Daniel O. McClellan.

He also notes earlier today of the dishonesty of the Elkingtons on their Facebook page:

The admin in charge of the Jordan Codices Facebook group has posted four pictures from what it claims are forensic tests of the codices. He states:

This set of photographs are some examples we took during our forensic work on the codices.

It’s my contention that the photos show no such thing. These are publicity photos taken by Elkington himself (or associates) and passed off as scientific.

In the first photo, the vast majority of the codex has been obscured by the portion of torn-off loose leaf notebook paper. What value does this photo have for a researcher? Absolutely none. In the lower picture a smaller piece of loose leaf notebook paper has been torn off to allow for the visibility of the tree image (and the numbering system is different). This is simply not how artifacts are photographed by professionals. Elkington is obscuring those parts of the codices that have text on them so that people who have the ability to analyze the texts for themselves cannot do so. He wants you to see the tree, though, since it’s pretty and it cannot be shown to be unintelligible.

If there is anyone out there who believes these to be authentic or genuinely ancient, they are either deluding themselves or in on the scam.

A Preliminary Translation of the Jordan Codices is Offered « Daniel O. McClellan

Dan McClellan offers us a very important clue in the discussion of the lead codices.  Here is a snippet:

A small collection of letters are simply being nonsensically repeated (with the occasional accidental word appearing). It is difficult to make out in the photo above because of the blurring, but the first roughly half of the bottom three lines are repeated in exactly the same shape and orientation in the second half of the text. Whatever mold or die was used to create the first half of each of the three lines was simply used again for the second half. Philip Davies’ recent PEQ editorial, available for free here, mentions this repetition and calls the lettering “mostly purely decorative.” This rather conflicts with Elkington’s claim to have the world’s top paleo-Hebrew mind reaching a breakthrough in translation (unless, of course, Elkington doesn’t think Davies is one of the five who can read it!).

via A Preliminary Translation of the Jordan Codices is Offered « Daniel O. McClellan.

Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History

I have a new article published at Bible and Interpretation.  Here are some snippets:

Two months ago an article hit the media streams hard and fast, announcing that new artifacts had been discovered by a Bedouin containing the earliest known Christian writings, possibly even the words of the figure of Jesus himself.1 With a headline like that, anyone with even a modicum of academic interest in the historicity of the figure of Jesus would have looked over the article for any mention of a peer reviewed journal where they could read about the discovery, any translations of the script, or any dating methods used. To their dismay, they would have found nothing of the sort.

More scandalous is the complete lack of journalistic integrity, honest research, and thorough fact-checking. These codices might never have been heard of if the authors of the reports for BBC and Fox News (among others) had just checked with the academic community before publishing the “find”. At the very least, the journalists might have used less authoritative language, expressed more caution, and exposed the controversy rather than simply stating, as if doing so made it fact, that these codices were “the earliest Christian texts” and that they held “early images of Jesus.”

via The Bible and Interpretation – Artifacts and the Media: Lead Codices and the Public Portrayal of History.

Many thanks to those involved in the email group for their useful contributions not only to this article but to the investigation into these lead codices as well.  Everyone dedicated a lot of time and effort over the past few months and it has definitely paid off.

The Inscription from Madaba, Lead Codices, and the Mona Lisa of Galilee

Several new pieces of data have been brought to the attention of the listserv.  One was sent along by David Meadows.  Here (Google translated, since I don’t know Chinese) a blog analyzes the similarities of the Madaba inscription and compares it to the script on the tablet Thonemann looked at.

Dan McClellan takes it a step further and compares the script from that inscription to those Elkington recently has passed around and the inscription from the Madaba tombstone and he has determined that they are indeed by the same hand (and clearly, they are).  Here are some of his comparisons along with those from the Chinese blog:

He also compares the (backwards) yod here (from the lead tablets and the one sent to Thonemann now universally accepted as modern):

And these from the inscription on the tombstone (notice its direction; and Dan also links to a discussion here at Aramaic Designs):

He writes:

It seems the “paleo-Hebrew” script from the codices was also lifted from the tombstone inscription on display in Jordan. There are other letters that clearly share a relationship as well, which I will discuss a bit later. I am hoping to have a photograph of the Madaba inscription itself up shortly. Stay tuned.

The Lead Codices and the Inscription from Madaba « Daniel O. McClellan.

In addition to these, compares the so-called (sensationalized) ‘image of Jesus’ face on one of the tablets to the Mona Lisa of Galilee mosaic.

He does an excellent job comparing the facial features on the cast impression with those of the mosaic.  His case is strong, though I am still not certain it is not from a coin. It is definitely worth pursuing either way.

And one final bit of news, Jim West shares with us another example of why these images and iconography are indeed modern.  Robert Deutsch posted that the image of the chariot and rider in the Thonemann-analyzed tablet (part of the same corpus) was lifted from a modern fake sold to tourists.  Here are the images (click to enlarge).

I had originally thought it was from an ancient chariot on the back of a Tetradrachm (see here) but I now have to admit the fake is a much better analog.

Philip Davies responded yesterday to some comments by Thonemann about the codices.  He reinforces what I’ve known all along, but others have previously fought me on; he writes “I do love a good story and there is one here – not about early Christians, though.”  Anyone who feels he is arguing for their ‘genuineness’ is just not listening (or reading, what have you).  I would argue that this is precisely what the media is guilty of, and we need to be careful that we don’t fall into similar traps.

And perhaps that last comment segues nicely into the tone of a comment I posted yesterday; I think it should be required reading for everyone who is interested in the codices from a lay perspective (so click the link above).

Jim Davila take’s stock:

The Greek is lifted nonsensically from an inscription published in 1958. The forger couldn’t tell the difference between the Greek letters alpha and lambda. The Hebrew script is taken from the same inscription. The Hebrew text is in “code,” i.e., is gibberish. The “Jesus” face is taken from a well-known mosaic. The charioteer is taken from a fake coin. The crocodile has a suspicious resemblance to a plastic toy.

That’s all for this roundup.  More as the information keeps coming in.

Previous Roundups:

Comment About Lead Codices and Media

Someone commented on my blog today about the status of the codices.  I want to highlight this post because I’m sure many laypeople out there are just as confused about the status of these codices as this commenter was.  This is the comment:

On the face of it an extraordinary find – the more reason we should approach with scepticism and ensure only when all possible forensic and academic tests have been satisfied should the lead `codices’ be proclaimed and published as genuine Christian relics.
If genuine they certainly contain extremely controversial content with the possibility of producing profound repercussions throughout Christianity

My response is thus.

  • First, what do you mean by “genuine”? “Genuine” in regards to what, exactly? Compared to which extant artifacts?
  • Second, what “controversial content”? The tablets are in “code” (in reality, they are simply random letters from ancient coins and sections of ancient text taken off tombstones in museums in Amman) and haven’t yet been deciphered into any coherent content whatsoever, so I am not sure to what content you refer.
  • Third, what profound repercussions exactly? There is nothing known about the content of the tablets yet (if there is anything at all to be found); the only repercussions these tablets will produce is to show how easily the media, and the dilettante, fall prey to fake artifacts and conmen looking to make a quick buck off of people’s gullibility and ignorance.

Were the Lead Codices Just Sold to an Israeli Antiquities Dealer?

According to this source (I am uncertain about the accuracy of the account; it’s as of now unconfirmed–h/t to Dave Meadows for the link) the lead codices might have been sold to an Israeli antiquities dealer.

Jordanian Official: Ancient Manuscripts Discovered In Jordan Sold On Black Market To Israel Dealer

Dr. Ziyad Al-Sa’d, director-general of Jordan’s antiquities authority, yesterday told a press conference that the Jordanian government had information that first-century BC manuscripts discovered in a cave in the north of the country were several years ago sold on the black market to an Israeli antiquities dealer.

The Israeli then showed them to a British archeologist from Cambridge, who notified the Jordanian antiquity authorities.

Al-Sa’d noted that the manuscripts were vitally important, and could shed new light on the source of Christianity and the New Testament. He added that the Jordanian antiquities authority would take all steps to regain its stolen property.

Source: Factjo,com, April 3, 2011; Al-Dustour, Jordan, April 4, 2011

via The MEMRI Blog – Full Blog Entry.

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