Biblical Archaeology Review 30:5, September/October 2004

Update: Finds or Fakes?

By Ann Byle

Biblical Archaeology Review

A forgery crisis—or a forgery frenzy, depending on how you look at it—is currently facing Israel.

“Estimates are running as high as 30 or 40 percent of all inscribed materials in the Israel Museum [in Jerusalem] have been forged,” said Professor Eric Meyers of Duke University in a lecture sponsored by Cornerstone University’s Center for the Study of Antiquity (CSA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this past May.

“There is no doubt but Israel and its Antiquities Authority is faced with its gravest moral crisis in the history of the State, if not the history of modern archaeology,” Meyers added.

Among the forgeries in the museum collection is an inscribed ivory pomegranate said to be from Solomon’s Temple for which the museum paid $550,000. The ivory pomegranate itself is genuine, but the inscription around the neck of the pomegranate is said to be a forgery. The pomegranate was once the head of a priestly scepter (it has a hole in the bottom for the rod), and the inscription reads, “Holy to the priests ... (Belonging) to the Temple of [Yahwe]h.”a The inscription “is now clearly assessed to be a forgery,” Meyers claimed, although he did not elaborate.

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