Biblical Archaeology Review 30:6, November/December 2004

Update—Finds or Fakes?

Biblical Archaeology Review

Fifth-Graders Enter Where Goren Fears to Tread

“He [Tel Aviv University professor Yuval Goren] knew that an imitation of patina—the surface area that is visibly altered by the elements, providing a record of the stone’s interaction with its environment over time—could easily be faked in a lab.”

So reported journalist David Samuels in an April 12, 2004, article in the New Yorker. The question: Why, if it is so easy, did Professor Goren pass up the opportunity to win $10,000?

The May/June 2003 BAR offered $10,000 to anyone who could make a patina-covered inscription that would fool the experts. “It is often confidently asserted that it is easy to fake patina,” we wrote. Among those experts BAR quoted to this effect was Professor Goren: “An experienced artifact faker can sometimes fool the best experts ... True patina can be created in the laboratory by various methods.”

The purpose of the competition was to test this proposition. Professor Goren, however, declined to enter.

Indeed, the only entrant was a creative group of home-schooled fifth graders from New Hampshire, who fashioned a replica of the controversial Jehoash tablet (which describes repairs to Solomon’s Temple).

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