Biblical Archaeology Review 37:3, May/June 2011

First Person: The Lion and the Flea

By Hershel Shanks

J’accuse! I accuse the television program 60 Minutes of unethical and irresponsible reporting.

As BAR readers know, we have reported extensively on the so-called “forgery trial of the century” in Jerusalem and the artifacts alleged to be forgeries, including a bone box, or ossuary, inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” an ivory pomegranate that may have been a scepter from Solomon’s Temple, and the Yehoash Inscription, which, if authentic, would be the first Israelite royal inscription ever found.

On March 23, 2008, 60 Minutes devoted a segment of the program to the alleged forgeries, focusing on the rumor that an Egyptian jeweler named Marco, who was a friend of Israeli antiquities collector Oded Golan, a leading defendant in the case, had made forgeries for Golan, among them the Yehoash Inscription.

60 Minutes accurately described, in the words of the Israeli police major who was in charge of the investigation, rumors that were swirling about the case: “Golan was not working alone. He had help from academics, [antiquities] dealers and an Egyptian craftsman ... So Golan was the head of the operation, and he had an Egyptian who did the actual forgery.”

60 Minutes set out to confirm these rumors. It sent a team to the serpentine Khan Khalili bazaar in Cairo to find Marco. And they were successful! They found him in his little workshop where he made jewelry for some shops below, as well as for private customers. Like most jewelers in the bazaar, he made replicas of ancient Egyptian jewelry and other artifacts.

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