I’ve taken a number out of the Steve Caruso book and came up with a simple analysis sheet. These images come from the new pictures which Jim West put up on his blog. Click to enlarge.
Steve Caruso chimed into the discussion with some interesting insights (as usual), and he posits that some of the script on the lead codices (recently supplied by Jim West) might be Coptic. So I took a look (Caveat: I am not proficient in Coptic, but I’ve studied enough Coptic to have an amateurish grasp of it). I leave it to the experts to tell me how I did (Marvin Meyer, if you’re reading, or April DeConick, leave a note or two) and offer any additional comments.
(Edit: Steve Caruso alerted me to this file [shown below] examining Coptic script in earlier pictures of the faux codices)
I had noted to myself some similarities to Coptic before but dismissed it when it became clear the tablet iconography were but modern casts. Returning to Jim’s posted pictures I did see some similarities to Coptic. Of course there is the shai (Ϣ) and ti (t), and also what might be a fai (Ϥ), but they are all backwards…that is, they are facing the wrong direction. And this is among other characters I am not familiar with. I am not sure if this represents an additional instance where the inscriber/forger was simply unfamiliar with Coptic and because of his method of copying, copied them backwards or if this is due to something else. Either way, there is one important thing to remember: These are also on the same tablet with images which appear to be taken directly from the coins provided by Robert Deutsch (via Jim West’s blog)…
And of course, I share Steve’s frustration and curiosity, and what better way than this?
Filed under: Archaeology, Blog Memes, Early Christianity, Minimalism, Scholarship | Tagged: April DeConick, Coptic, Jim West, lead, lead codices, lead tablets, Marvin Meyer, Steven Caruso | 3 Comments »
There is yet more coming out on the Lead Codices. Jim West highlights, with the help of Robert Deutsch, more photos of the lead codices, just released, with the coins the images were forged from (yes, more coin iconography!). And yesterday a new article from the JT came out about the 14C dating:
Preliminary lab results indicate that a collection of metal books unearthed in northern Jordan may indeed represent the earliest Christian texts ever discovered, according to experts.
According to the Department of Antiquities (DoA), initial carbon tests to determine the authenticity of lead-sealed metal books billed as the greatest find in biblical archaeology since the Dead Sea scrolls have been “encouraging”.
“We really believe that we have evidence from this analysis to prove that these materials are authentic,” DoA Director Ziad Saad told The Jordan Times.
The tests, carried out at the Royal Scientific Society labs, indicate that the texts may date back to the early first century AD, at a time when Christians took refuge from persecution on the east bank of the Jordan River.
But as I’ve said time and time again, along with others, old lead is common and doesn’t prove the iconography is ancient–just the metal. The evidence against their authenticity is pretty daunting. But there are problems with this which again establish quite clearly the lie behind the veil…as Jona makes it quite clear, 14C testing is done on organics (re: biological), not inorganics (like lead). Even Wikipedia gets it right:
Carbon-14, 14C, or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with a nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons. Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues (1949), to date archaeological, geological, and hydrogeological samples.
For additional information on dating techniques, though there might be errors (because its on Wikipedia) so consult an actual archaeologist, you can get a quick overview of archaeological dating methods here. You can also check out this article on dating methods in archaeology from about.com. From the about.com page:
Although I am hardly a chemist or a physicist, and so will leave the detailed explanations to those who are better at it than I (for example, Anne Marie Helmenstine’s page in About Chemistry), essentially radiocarbon dating uses the amount of carbon 14 available in living creatures as a measuring stick. All living things maintain a content of carbon 14 in equilibrium with that available in the atmosphere, right up to the moment of death. When an organism dies, the amount of C14 available within it begins to decay at a half life rate of 5730 years; i.e., it takes 5730 years for 1/2 of the C14 available in the organism to decay. Comparing the amount of C14 in a dead organism to available levels in the atmosphere, produces an estimate of when that organism died. So, for example, if a tree was used as a support for a structure, the date that tree stopped living (i.e., when it was cut down) can be used to date the building’s construction date.
And any number of books could be accessed to prove this point over and over. Here are just two:
- Robert L. Kelly and David Hurst Thomas, Archaeology (Cengage Learning, 2009), 133-136.
- Herbert D. G. Maschner and Christopher Chippindale (eds.), Handbook of Archaeological Methods (Rowman Altamira, 2005), 307-336
Finally I get to use the background in inorganic chemistry I’ve gained from working in a lab for the past year and a half. The thing with archaeology is you’re digging it up, so there are bound to be organic traces (contaminants, actually) in everything. But this really comes down to, say, the actual inorganic metals (like those excavated from a mine). So you could theoretically test the organic contaminants for 14C but you’re not going to get an accurate reading since it is, after all, contaminants and there is simply no way to now where those contaminants came from and it is only possible (again theoretically–not practically) to test if someone perhaps held it with their hands or scraped off skin cells or something, and even then you’d have to test relatively quickly and the longer something is in the ground, the more improbable it is that you could adequately test it. And again, these are contaminants on the metal itself and could have come from anywhere. Since the provenance of these codices are unknown and sketchy it muddies the issue even more.
And testing the metal itself will do absolutely nothing since inorganics can’t contain 14C (it has to, after all, be something that contains carbon). Now it might be possible to date the lead using other methods and lead does contain different isotopes than other inorganics (so testing for Uranium decay in the lead might actually be useful), but that wouldn’t validate the ‘authenticity’ (whatever that might mean) of the codices as a whole (iconography, status as ‘relics’ for example), it would only validate the age of the lead itself. And we already know that the ones we’ve seen are modern fabrications.
Jim Davila also weighs in on this new article by the JT (snippet here):
1. The claim is that the new metal codices in the hands of the Jordanian Government are part of the same cache as those announced back in March. I take them at their word, but no proof has yet been advanced.
2. What’s this about “carbon tests” and “carbon dating” on metal plates? Carbon-14 dating is applied to organic material. Is there organic material, such as leather scroll, associated with these plates? Or, more likely, has someone made a careless mistake here?
3. Assuming the latter, it appears that the current tests indicate that the metal of the plates is ancient. It has been known for a long time that the fake metal codices may be made of genuinely ancient metal. The first report, on 3 March, in the Jewish Chronicle (cf. here), reported this:
Undeterred, Mr Feather instead cites the findings of Peter Northover, a metals analyst at Oxford University. Conducting tests on two samples of metal from one book, Dr Northover concluded that their composition was “consistent with a range of ancient lead,” and that it was clear from the surface corrosion that the book was “not a recent production”.
The IAA remains unconvinced, arguing that the metal could have been taken from an ancient coffin while the messages could have been fabricated later.
This test was done privately and has not been published. The IAA has replied adequately: such ancient metal is available and could be used for such forgeries, so the new test does not tell us anything very interesting.