Home » Epigraphy » Modern Epigraphic Forgeries

Modern Epigraphic Forgeries

5 September 2009

The Crisis of Modern Epigraphic Forgeries and the Antiquities Market: A Palaeographer Reflects on the Problem and Proposes Protocols for the Field [1]

Synopsis of The Problem

The number of Northwest Semitic inscriptions appearing on the antiquities market continues unabated. Some of these epigraphic objects are genuine (i.e., ancient) inscriptions, but have appeared on the market as a result of illicit excavations. [2] Some of these epigraphic objects, however, are modern forgeries.
It should be safe to presume that because of the presence of modern forgeries on the antiquities market, vigilance and caution would be the modus operandi of specialists (and non-specialists) within the field. Sometimes, however, credulousness has actually been regnant of late. This suspension of critical judgment has precipitated at least two crises: (1) The dataset of ancient Northwest Semitic has been corrupted with modern forgeries, and (2) the general public has become suspicious about the capacity of the field to produce and convey reliable information.

The purpose of this article is to discuss various aspects of the forgery crisis, including some of the assumptions that foster it, and to propose various protocols for the field so as to protect the dataset of Northwest Semitic.

The Forger’s Toolbox: Available Resources

The field has sometimes had the a priori assumption that modern forgers cannot produce “good forgeries,” that is, forgeries that “appear ancient.” However, I would argue that forgers have all of the resources necessary to produce superb forgeries that “pass all the tests,” or at least pass them to the satisfaction of many. To elucidate this point, it is useful to list some of the primary and secondary sources that would be most useful for a forger with a knowledge of biblical Hebrew attempting to produce an inscription written in Iron Age Hebrew script and language (i.e., Old Hebrew):

(a) a standard dictionary of biblical Hebrew, Hoftijzer and Jongeling’s Dictionary of the North-West Semitic Inscriptions, and Davies Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions; [3]

(b) Cross and Freedman’s Early Hebrew Orthography; [4]

(c) Waltke and O’Connor’s Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax; [5]

(d) Birnbaum’s The Hebrew Scripts, Naveh’s Early History of the Alphabet, and Cross’s seminal articles on the Iron Age Hebrew script in BASOR;[6]

(e) Donner and Röllig’s Kanaanïsche und aramïsche Inschriften;[7]

(f) Freedman’s Anchor Bible Dictionary; [8]

(g) Pardee’s Ancient Hebrew Letters;[9]

(h) and Avigad and Sass’s Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals. [10]

Using such sources, a deft modern forger has the essentials regarding script, orthography, vocabulary, syntax, language, and culture to produce a fine Old Hebrew forgery. All of these sources are widely considered standard in the field and are readily available; therefore, knowledge of, and access to, the proper resources is not an issue (and such sources are available for all the Northwest Semitic languages, not just Hebrew). Forgers also now have available software programs (e.g., Adobe Photoshop) that can be used to facilitate accurate “script production.”

Some of the remaining requirements would be adequate time; some knowledge of, or expertise in, chemistry or ancient metallurgy (or an associate with such expertise); access to various materials such as potsherds, ancient metals, stone of Levantine quarry, small pieces of ancient papyrus or vellum, some carbonized remains (for the production of “ancient” ink), and sufficient finances. None of these necessities is problematic.

Because non-provenanced epigraphs often sell for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, funding is not a major issue; that is, the sale of one forgery could fund the production of several additional forgeries. Moreover, ancient materials of various sorts are readily available to those participating in, or associated with, excavations or those dealing with the market. In addition, the chemical composition of ancient patinas can be replicated. [11]

Specialists and non-specialists in epigraphy and biblical studies must come to terms with the fact that the production of a good forgery in the contemporary period is not facile, but neither is it now as difficult as specialists and non-specialists within the guild would have affirmed in the past. Forgers have all the tools needed to produce a rather impeccable forgery. Fortunately, of course, forgers often make mistakes (and these can be detected), but it is imprudent to assume that this is always the case. The point is that forgers have ample “means.”

Motivations of Forgers

Some have suggested or assumed that the primary motive for forgers is economic, but I am confident that a variety of motivations can with certainty be posited for the production of forgeries. Of course, venality is certainly a component present in the production and sale of forgeries. Non-provenanced inscriptions routinely sell for four, five, and even six figures. Some recent non-provenanced inscriptions have been valued at seven figures.

Some forgeries are arguably the result of sour grapes (e.g., a student purged from a Northwest Semitic epigraphy program) or professional rivalry, with the forger hoping to “dupe” the “offender.” Naturally, a forgery can sometimes be a prank. For example, the forger of the Hebron Documents was probably a prankster or a dolt, or both. Moreover, there is a certain amount of prestige associated with being the person who “collects,” “vets,” or “finds” a significant “ancient epigraph” from the market. Indeed, the public and even scholars within the field can sometimes lionize such people because of “sensational” non-provenanced epigraphs. For this reason, it is my position that forgers may sometimes produce inscriptions so as to be lauded as the one who “found,” “vetted,” or “owns” a sensational epigraph.[12]

Religion and politics are also strong motives for the production of a forgery. For example, there was arguably a strong religious motivation for the production of the Shapira Fragments and the initial aura surrounding them. [13] The fact that the Jehoash Inscription was reported to have been found in the region of the Temple Mount has political and religious overtones. Ultimately, forgers are probably motivated by a combination of such factors, and, of course, with each success, hubris is fostered. The main point is that forgers have substantial “motive.” [14]

Fabrications of Forgers: Selected Modern Forgeries

We should note that forgeries of Northwest Semitic inscriptions have been produced for more than a century. For example, during the late nineteenth century, a Phoenician inscription surfaced purporting to be an account of Sidonians from the region of biblical Ezion-geber, who circled the “land belonging to Ham” (i.e., Africa) during the reign of King Hirom (r. 552-532 B.C.E.), but were blown far off course to a “distant shore.” This inscription was reported to have been found at a place called Pauso Alto near the Paraíba River in Brazil. Although many were jubilant about the inscription’s contents, Lidzbarski declared it a definite forgery, and the inscription was forgotten. [15] Gordon, however, published an article in the late 1960s discussing this inscription, and argued that it was definitely genuine.[16] Cross was not convinced and demonstrated decisively that it was a forgery, based on the fundamental problems with the script, orthography, and lexicon. [17]

During December of 1970, non-provenanced documents reported to have been found in the region of Hebron were announced. Brownlee and Mendenhall considered them ancient, presented them at the 1971 Society of Biblical Literature meeting, and argued that they were “Philistine.”[18] Although Cross declared that the documents were forgeries, noting parallels between the Siloam Tunnel Inscription and the “Hebron Documents,” Mendenhall persisted in affirming the authenticity of the “Hebron Documents.”

During the early 1980s, Naveh did a detailed analysis of one of the “Hebron Documents,” demonstrating at length that it was a modern forgery. In fact, he demonstrated that the forger had in essence simply copied large portions of the Siloam Tunnel Inscription, but had done so (essentially) from left to right, that is “backwards.” [19]

During the late 1990s, Naveh and Eph’al argued that the contents of the non-provenanced “Moussaieff Ostraca” were suspicious, but did not state definitively that they were modern forgeries.[20] I subjected these Moussaieff Ostraca to extensive palaeographic analysis, and the results demonstrated that the script of these ostraca reflected numerous features that deviated in fundamental ways from all provenanced Old Hebrew inscriptions, with some tell-tale features revealing the forger’s mistakes with the script. I concluded that these two ostraca were definitive modern forgeries and the results of my research were presented at annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2001 and 2002, with the formal publication appearing in 2003. [21]

During early 2003, the “Jehoash Inscription” surfaced, allegedly having been found in the region of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and purchased on the antiquities market. Although the first line is not extant, it is readily apparent that the inscription purports to have been commissioned by the late ninth century Judean King Jehoash (Joash). Naveh, McCarter, Cross, and I analyzed this inscription independently and concluded that it was a definite modern forgery. Some scholars, however, concluded that it might indeed be authentic. [22]

Cross published a detailed analysis of the Jehoash inscription, noting some of the severe problems with its orthography and contents, and Eph’al wrote a brief but compelling article detailing the striking similarities between the Jehoash Inscription and the material in Kings and Chronicles about the reforms of Jehoash. [23] Moreover, I marshaled palaeographic evidence against it, demonstrating that the script was a “script mélange” with some letters being Phoenician, some Old Hebrew, and some Aramaic. The conclusion was readily apparent: it is a definitive modern forgery.

I also noted that there are some striking parallels between the Moussaieff Ostraca and the Jehoash Inscription:

(1)Moussaieff Ostracon 1 and the Jehoash Inscription both refer to donations to the temple of Yahweh, under the auspices of the monarchy.

(2) Moussaieff Ostracon 1 and the Jehoash Inscription both arguably refer to the same monarch (Jehoash of Judah).

(3) The Moussaieff Ostraca and the Jehoash Inscription both share certain palaeographic “anomalies”: (e.g., with the Old Hebrew letters šin and samek).

(4) Cumulatively, these are striking connections; therefore, in my opinion, there is a distinct possibility that the same forger produced the Moussaieff Ostraca and the Jehoash Inscription.[24] Thus, history demonstrates that forgers have seized the “opportunity” at times. Moreover, there is every reason to assume that this will continue to be the case.[25]

The Epigrapher’s Toolbox I: Knowledge of the Methods and Mistakes of Forgers

Several methodological points regarding forgeries and forgery detection can be articulated at this juncture. Modern forgeries are often reported to have come from specific locations to increase the credibility of the objects’ authenticity (e.g., Hebron Documents, Jehoash Inscription, Brazilian Phoenician Inscription).[26] Therefore, epigraphers must not consider information about purported sites of discovery for non-provenanced inscriptions to be useful, in and of itself, for making determinations regarding authenticity.
For a number of reasons, modern forgers have traditionally relied heavily upon provenanced epigraphic and biblical materials. Sometimes this information is damning (“Hebron Documents”), but sometimes (“Moussaieff Ostraca”) this information is more suggestive or even of no absolutely necessary consequence. Also of significance in this connection is the fact that although forgers have been predisposed intentionally to use attested words and phrases, they are sometimes ignorant of the semantic evolution of these words (Jehoash Inscription).

Forgers often produce inscriptions with sensational contents (e.g., Moussaieff Ostraca, Jehoash Inscription, Ivory Pomegranate), perhaps because these create enormous interest (and irrational exuberance) and yield high selling prices. Forgers are beginning to produce patinas that appear ancient (Jehoash Inscription, Moussaieff Ostraca). This fact, combined with the fact that some lab testing of epigraphic materials has reflected incompetence and collusion, has created problems. The point is that even lab tests must be scrutinized, and protocols for lab testing must be put in place. [27]

Modern forgers often commit serious palaeographic and orthographic errors (e.g., Phoenician Inscription from Brazil, Moussaieff Ostraca, Jehoash Inscription). Palaeographic and orthographic anomalies and anachronisms are of fundamental importance, and in my opinion egregious violations of attested ancient orthography and palaeography provide sufficient basis for complete rejection of a non-provenanced epigraph. Red flags should be noted, and not easily dismissed, even with the”sample size” argument. [28] The end result is that the field of epigraphy should be capable of eradicating many, but not all forgeries from the dataset.

The Epigrapher’s Toolbox II: Protocols for Treatments of Non-Provenanced Inscriptions

Some specialists might suggest that non-provenanced epigraphs should be eliminated in toto from the Northwest Semitic dataset. I would suggest that such materials can sometimes be used, but (1) they must normally be subjected to the most rigorous epigraphic and laboratory analyses in order to determine with substantial reliability that they are ancient, and (2) they should be separated from the provenanced corpus and also flagged as non-provenanced.

Non-Provenanced Epigraphs in Handbooks and Collections: The Principle of Separation

First and foremost, it is readily apparent that those discussing a specific non-provenanced epigraph should articulate the fact that the source of such an epigraph was not a controlled archaeological excavation. In the past, scholars have sometimes been remiss in this regard. [29] This practice is particularly problematic because readers might reasonably conclude that such inscriptions are definitively provenanced and ancient. Ultimately, I would suggest that those discussing an epigraph should clearly refer to the “circumstances of discovery and recent history” in a precise manner so as to avoid causing readers to make erroneous conclusions about the actual or putative origins.

For some time, there has been a tradition of including non-provenanced epigraphs side-by-side with provenanced materials. For example, the fine collection of Northwest Semitic seals, bullae, and jar sealings published by Avigad and Sass contains numerous divisions (e.g., “Hebrew Seals,” “Hebrew Bullae and other Sealings,” “Hebrew Jar-Handle Impressions,” “Phoenician Seals,” “Aramaic Seals,” etc.); however, provenanced and non-provenanced epigraphs are not separated. [30]

Lindenberger’s superb collection of Northwest Semitic epistolary epigraphs also fails to separate provenanced and non-provenanced epigraphs.[31] Not separating provenanced and non-provenanced materials was a convenient, utilitarian practice in the past, but I would posit that combining the data in this fashion is problematic: it implicitly and erroneously suggests to many readers that the data from non-provenanced materials and provenanced materials are on a par. Therefore, I would argue that at this juncture, for methodological reasons, provenanced and non-provenanced epigraphs should be separated, placed in distinct sections of handbooks and collections, and be given descriptive labels such as “Provenanced Epigraphs” and “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs.” In short, the field must become very intentional about presentation in handbooks and collections.

The Principle of “Flagging”

Within certain types of works (e.g., lexica), it may not be practical to present the provenanced and non-provenanced materials separately (i.e., with completely separate entries of some sort for the provenanced and non-provenanced evidence). Therefore, I would suggest that non-provenanced epigraphs cited in the entry be marked or flagged in some fashion so as to signify their status as non-provenanced. This system will allow the reader to understand immediately that this non-provenanced epigraphic data may need to be weighted differently (i.e., it is not necessarily of the most pristine sort).
Several potential methods of marking are possible. For example, the reference could be preceded (or followed) by the mathematical symbol Ø, signifying in this case the absence of provenance. Hence, “ØMoussaieff Ostracon 1” would convey to the reader that this particular ostracon is non-provenanced, as would something such as “[non-prov]Moussaieff Ostracon 1.” The section on sigla or abbreviations within the volume or article could be used to communicate the author’s system of flagging. [32]

The Principle of Relegation

It is readily apparent that epigraphic materials without secure provenance and without certain antiquity are normally compromised, problematic, and precarious bases for reconstructing the past. Nevertheless, scholars sometimes do continue to base certain conclusions about various aspects of antiquity on non-provenanced materials. For example, Heltzer authored a recent article about property rights of women in ancient Israel, but his article is based predominantly on non-provenanced epigraphic materials, and one of the epigraphs he mines heavily for ancient data is actually a modern forgery. [33] Because the potential for forgery is consistently present, scholars must begin to relegate non-provenanced data to a secondary or tertiary position at the very least and must be disinclined to base conclusions regarding history, religion, language, epigraphy, etc., upon such data. The result will be more accurate constructs of antiquity.

The Principle of Categorization

Although several caveats and provisos must be present, I would suggest that specialists begin to be more intentional about categorizing non-provenanced inscriptions: although it is not pragmatic to ignore non-provenanced inscriptions, neither is it prudent to assume that all non-provenanced inscriptions are of equal status in terms of possible authenticity.

I would propose the following categories of assessment regarding the antiquity or modernity of an inscription:

1. Modern Forgery
2. Probable Modern Forgery
3. Possible Modern Forgery
4. Probable Ancient

Ancient Inscriptions that reflect no real aberrations (in terms of script, orthography, etc.), and for which it is certain that laboratory anomalies are absent, can be considered probable ancient or ancient inscriptions. Inscriptions that reflect serious or egregious problems or deviations from the provenanced corpus are to be considered modern forgeries or probable modern forgeries.

Of course, palaeographers will sometimes differ about the authenticity of an inscription. Regarding this issue, I would note the following: (1) Substantial disagreement of palaeographers in print is not nearly as common as is agreement.

(2) Genuine disagreement in print, when it does occur, can often be attributed to the high quality of a forgery or a genuine inscription with modest aberrations; moreover, it can also be due to the relative competency of a palaeographer with the relevant script series.

(3) Palaeographers are sometimes misled by problematic or erroneous laboratory tests, causing a palaeographer to assume the inscription is genuine and then to account for the anomalies with tenuous or strained arguments.

(4) Sometimes a sensational epigraph will cause such exuberance that critical judgment becomes impaired and declarations of authenticity are made on the basis of tenuous evidence. In any case, the views of specialists should be cited, and an assessment of the possible or probable antiquity should be made. [34]
In sum, modern forgeries have been produced for some time. Forgers have means, motive, and opportunity; however, epigraphers and palaeographers also have a substantial counter-arsenal. At this juncture, methodological doubt and rigorous protocols are desiderata. Caveat Eruditus.


1. This article is a much-condensed version of the following detailed articles: Christopher A. Rollston, “Non- Provenanced Epigraphs I: Pillaged Antiquities, Northwest Semitic Forgeries, and Protocols for Laboratory Tests,” Maarav 10 (2003): 135-193; Christopher A. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs II: The Status of Non-Provenanced Epigraphs within the Broader Corpus of Northwest Semitic,” Maarav 11 (2004) 57-79. I am grateful to my research assistants, Heather Dana Davis Parker and Alan Dyson, for their conscientious work.

2. Although it is readily apparent that ancient (i.e., “genuine”) non-provenanced inscriptions often contain valuable data, significant amounts of data are eradicated because of the absence of secure contexts (i.e., provenance, stratum, locus, etc.). For example, discussions of the history, administrative apparatus, and personnel at specific sites require precise data about provenance. Moreover, the fields of dialect geography and palaeography also require reliable data about provenance. The point is that it is indubitable that non-provenanced epigraphs are (with rare exceptions) compromised, and of diminished significance. For a lengthy analysis of the limitations of non-provenanced inscriptions and the superiority of provenanced inscriptions, see Christopher A. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Inscriptions II.”, (59-70)

3. J. Hoftijzer and K. Jongeling, Dictionary of the North-West Semitic Inscriptions (Leiden: Brill, 1995). G. I. Davies, Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions: Corpus and Concordance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

4. F. M. Cross, Jr., and D. N. Freedman, Early Hebrew Orthography: A Study of the Epigraphic Evidence, AOS 35 (New Haven: AOS, 1952).

5. B. K. Waltke and M. O’ Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990). For epigraphic Hebrew, see especially S. L. Gogel, A Grammar of Epigraphic Hebrew, SBLRBS 23 (Atlanta: Scholars, 1998).

6. S. Birnbaum, The Hebrew Scripts: Vol 1-2 (London: 1954-1971); J. Naveh, Early History of the Alphabet: An Introduction to West Semitic Epigraphy and Palaeography, 2d ed. (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1987); Cross’s articles have been republished by Cross in a volume entitled Leaves From an Epigrapher’s Notebook: Collected Papers in Hebrew and West Semitic Palaeography and Epigraphy, HSS 51 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 114-128. For the Old Hebrew script, see also Christopher A. Rollston, “The Script of Hebrew Ostraca of the Iron Age: Eighth – Sixth Centuries B.C.E.” (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1999). This volume will be published in a revised and augmented form as The Art of the Scribe in Israel and Judah: The Script of Ancient Hebrew Ostraca.

7. H. Donner and W. Röllig, Kanaanïsche und aramïsche Inschriften, 5th ed. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2002).

8. D. N. Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992).

9. D. Pardee, Handbook of Ancient Hebrew Letters, SBLRBS 15 (Chico: Scholars, 1982).

10. N. Avigad, with revisions by B. Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1997).

11. This is something that I have argued for some time, but Goren, an archaeologist who uses various geological methods, recently demonstrated this conclusively. See Y. Goren’s, “An Alternative Interpretation of the Stone Tablet with Ancient Hebrew Inscription Attributed to Jehoash King of Judah,” http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/alternative_interpretation.htm.

12. Moses Wilhelm Shapira was of course a Jerusalem antiquities dealer, but he also fancied himself a “scholar” and “archaeologist.” He gained much prominence during the late nineteenth century because of his “finds,” and this resulted in his elevation in various social circles. Naturally, however, with the exposure of the “Moabite Potteries” (often with inscriptions) and the “Shapira Fragments” as forgeries, his status plummeted, and he ultimately committed suicide. It is my opinion that Shapira himself forged the “Shapira Fragments.”

13. On this point, see P. K. McCarter, “Shapira Fragments,” BAR 23 (May/June, 1997): 40.

14. For discussion of, and bibliographic references for, the forgeries referred to in this paragraph, see especially, Christopher A. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I,” passim.

15. For an early analysis, see K. Schlottmann, “Die sogenannte Inschrift von Parahyba,” ZDMG 28 (1874): 481-487, with the plate published on page 481 (and reproduced in my article). For Lidabarski’s assessment, see M. Lidzbarski, Handbuch der Nordsemitischen Epigraphik (Weimar: Verlag von Emil Felber, 1898), 132.

16. C. H. Gordon, “The Authenticity of the Phoenician Text from Parahyba,” Orientalia 37 (1968): 75-80.

17. F. M. Cross, “The Phoenician Inscription from Brazil: A Nineteenth-Century Forgery,” Orientalia NS 37 (1968): 437-460. This article was republished in Leaves from an Epigrapher’s Notebook, 238-249.

18. See W. H. Brownlee and G. E. Mendenhall, “An Announcement Published by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and the Archaeologists Dr. William H. Brownlee and Dr. George E. Mendenhall regarding the Decipherment of Carian Leather Manuscripts,” ADAJ 15 (1970): 39-40; G. E. Mendenhall, “The ‘Philistine’ Documents from the Hebron Area: A Supplementary Note,” ADAJ 16 (1971): 99.

19. J. Naveh, “Some Recently Forged Inscriptions,” BASOR 247 (1982): 53-58.

20. I. Eph’al and J. Naveh, “Remarks on the Recently Published Moussaieff Ostraca,” IEJ 48 (1998): 269-273. For the original publication of these ostraca, see P. Bordreuil, F. Israel, and D. Pardee, “Deux Ostraca paléo-hébreux de la collection Sh. Moussaïeff,” Semitica 46 (1996): 49-76; Bordreuil, Israel, and Pardee, “King’s Command and Widow’s Plea: Two New Hebrew Ostraca of the Biblical Period,” NEA 61 (1998): 2-13. Cf. D. Pardee, “Hebrew Letters,” in The Context of Scripture III: Archival Documents from the Biblical World, ed. W. W. Hallo and K. L. Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 86.

21. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I,” 158-173.

22. H. Shanks, “King Jehoash Inscription Captivates the Archaeological World,” BARev 29 (March/April 2003): 22-23.

23. F. M. Cross, “Notes on the Forged Plaque Recording Repairs to the Temple,” IEJ 53 (2003): 119-123. I. Eph’al, “The ‘Jehoash Inscription’: A Forgery,” IEJ 53 (2003): 126.

24. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I,” 175-180.

25. It should be noted that at this juncture, the Israeli Special Commission has analyzed various inscriptions, including the Moussaieff Ostraca, the Jehoash Inscription, and the Ivory Pomegranate (inscriptions that I argued some time ago were forgeries) and concluded that they are indeed all modern forgeries.

26. It should also be remembered that the Shapira Scrolls were reported to have been found in the region of the Wadi Arnon in Jordan. For a fine analysis of the Shapira Scrolls, see N. A. Silberman, Digging for God and Country: Exploration, Archaeology, and the Secret Struggle for the Holy Land: 1799-1917 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 131-146. See also, F. Reiner, “Tracking the Shapira Case: A Biblical Scandal Revisited,” BAR 23 (May/June 1997): 32-41; 66-67.

27. See Christopher A. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I,” 182-191.

28. For discussion of the assessment of anomalies and the sample size argument, see Christopher A. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I,” 180-182.

29. For example, in a recent reference work of superb caliber, there is a brief synopsis of the Ivory Pomegranate, reference to the readings, and a “palaeographic” date; however, there is no clear statement about the fact that this epigraph is non-provenanced. Furthermore, the title of the entry clearly suggests that the provenance was Jerusalem. See, namely, K. L. Younger, Jr., “The Jerusalem Pomegranate,” in The Context of Scripture: Volume II, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, ed. W.W. Hallo and K. L. Younger, Jr., (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 173. Based on various factors, especially palaeographic issues, Frank M. Cross has considered the Ivory Pomegranate to be a probable forgery for some time, as have I. See Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I,” 182, n. 115.

30. N. Avigad and B. Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1997). However, it is imperative to note that the discussion of each epigraph in this volume contains sufficient data to allow the user to determine whether or not the epigraph is provenanced. Furthermore, this volume also contains a list (p. 548) of the provenanced epigraphs published in the corpus as well as a discussion of those epigraphs considered probable forgeries (pp. 453-460).

31. J. M. Lindenberger, Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters, 2nd edition, WAW 14 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003). Note, for example, that the Moussaieff Ostraca are treated together with the Yavneh-Yam Ostracon (pp. 109-112). However, it is again important to state that Lindenberger is careful to affirm that the Moussaieff Ostraca are non-provenanced and that some epigraphers consider them to be modern forgeries.

32. Obviously, for large corpora of non-provenanced materials, it might be more practical just to discuss the issue on an ad hoc basis in the prologue of the volume (e.g., lexicon), rather than appending a siglum to each separate entry throughout the volume.

33. M. Heltzer, “About the Property Rights of Women in Ancient Israel,” in Shlomo: Studies in Epigraphy, Iconography, History and Archaeology in Honor of Shlomo Moussaieff (ed. R. Deutsch; Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications, 2003), 133-138. For his broader discussion of “women” in the epigraphic corpus, see M. Heltzer, “The Women in the Hebrew Epigraphy of Biblical Times,” Revue Internationale des Droits de l’Antiquité 43 (1996): 11-35. Nevertheless, even with this article, many of his conclusions are based on non-provenanced data, placing this material on a par with the provenanced data. The forgery that I refer to above is Moussaieff Ostracon 2. See C. A. Rollston, “Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I,” 145-146; 158-173 for a discussion of the numerous palaeographic problems and aberrations with this ostracon. See pages 183-184 of my article for a discussion of the serious problems with the laboratory tests performed.

34. It is significant that J. M. Lindenberger is careful to make such a notation. See his Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters, 111-112.

Citation: Christopher A. Rollston, ” The Crisis of Modern Epigraphic Forgeries and the Antiquities Market: A Palaeographer Reflects on the Problem and Proposes Protocols for the Field [1],” SBL Forum , n.p. [cited March 2005]. Online:http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=370


No Comments to “Modern Epigraphic Forgeries”

Leave a Reply