Biblical Archaeology Review 29:3, May/June 2003

First Person: Create a Fake and Win $10,000

Biblical Archaeology Society announces new competition

By Hershel Shanks

BAR’s Create a Fake contest—with a $10,000 prize—will bring the controversial issue of forgery detection from the realm of theory to reality.

The occasion is one of the most explosive debates in the history of Biblical archaeology: Is the recently surfaced Jehoash Inscription authentic or a fake? World-class linguists and paleographers (experts in the development of ancient Semitic script) are absolutely confident that it is a fake. Three leading geologists with the Geological Survey of Israel who studied the patina on the inscription are just as confident that it is authentic.

Patina is a film that develops on stone (or other materials like clay or metal) over hundreds, or thousands, of years. It is often described as an encrustation or coating, or simply weathering. Can modern forgers with sophisticated techniques create patina that would get past the equally sophisticated detection methods of expert geologists?

It would be difficult to imagine a more important case study than The Jehoash Inscription. If it is authentic, it would be the first royal Israelite inscription ever discovered. Jehoash (also called Joash, Yehoash and Yoash) was king of Judah from about 835 to 801 B.C.E.

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