Biblical Archaeology Review 37:1, January/February 2011

Strata: Forgery Trial Now in Hands of Judge

Closing arguments in the Jerusalem trial to determine whether or not the James Ossuary, the Yehoash tablet and other ancient artifacts were forged by two defendants finally wrapped up in October. After five years of proceedings, all that remains is for trial judge Aharon Farkash to pore through the evidence and deliver his verdict.

According to journalist Matthew Kalman in the Jerusalem Post, the judge’s final deliberation could still take months. During the trial’s 116 sessions, more than 130 witnesses were called to the stand, producing nearly 12,000 pages of testimony for Farkash to work through.

The judge will be deciding whether the case’s two remaining defendants, Tel Aviv collector Oded Golan and antiquities dealer and scholar Robert Deutsch, are guilty of creating and selling forged antiquities, most notably the now-famous first-century C.E. bone box (or ossuary) inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” and the Yehoash tablet, which, if authentic, would be the first royal inscription of an Israelite king ever found.

As the trial wore on, it became increasingly clear to trial observers and even to Judge Farkash that the prosecution simply had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.a

In October 2008, Judge Farkash urged the prosecution to drop its case, noting that the scores of scientists and experts who had given testimony in the trial “disagreed among themselves” about the authenticity of the artifacts. As reported by Kalman, the judge several times asked aloud how the court could be expected to decide a scientific question that even the experts themselves could not resolve.

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