photo of James ossuary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On March 14, a Jerusalem
judge acquitted a man accused of forging an inscription on a small stone coffin. The writing, on what's known as the James Ossuary
, reads "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus." Its promoters claim that it's the first archaeological evidence of Jesus Christ's
existence and that the box once held the bones of Jesus' brother James. Its detractors, including most scholars, say the last two words of the inscription are faked, modern additions to a genuinely ancient limestone casket.
The box was first brought to public attention in 2002. Tens of thousands lined up in freezing Canadian
weather to see it go on exhibit -- with a sly caveat about its authenticity -- at the Royal Ontario Museum
in January 2003.
The box was seized on by believers as proof of the Bible. But Israeli
authorities, who eventually found what appeared to be a forgery workshop in the apartment of the box's owner, Tel Aviv
industrial designer and antiquities collector Oded Golan
, called it a fraud. The workshop contained half-made "antiquities," plans for others and even labeled baggies of silt from different archaeological sites around the Holy Land
. The state would later assert that the silt was used to create a paste to coat the objects and fool scholars.
A trial commenced in 2005 against Golan, accused of "the fraud of the century" for creating objects meant to both make money and headlines. In effect, the lengthy trial put science in the dock. Science lost.
Read the full article at the LA Times here