I have received numerous communications from readers regarding the e-mail from Yuval Goren printed in our January/February issue, in which he charges me with “a pivotal role” in the forgeries alleged in the ongoing forgery trial in Jerusalem.e
Let me be clear at the outset: If I had a question regarding the clay in an ancient pot, there is no one I would rather have on my team than Yuval Goren. He is a leading clay petrologist. He has served with distinction as chairman of the archaeology department of Tel Aviv University. He was an officer in the Israel Defense Forces. I enjoyed his gentle humor at a three-hour dinner he and I shared at a recent scholarly conference in San Diego. He was a gracious host when we met in Jerusalem to look at the Inscribed Ivory Pomegranate through his binocular microscope.
Having said all this, it must be added that Professor Goren is out of his field with stone. He is not a stone petrologist. He is a clay petrologist. This can be demonstrated by looking at his publication record (less than a handful of his scores of studies involve stone), but even more painful are his errors in the current forgery dispute.
For starters, take the Yehoash Inscription on a black stone plaque.f Professor Goren mis-identified the type of stone (see “New Study Supports Authenticity of Yehoash Inscription,” in “Strata,” above).
Or take the stone ossuary (bone box) inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Professor Goren identified a film (which he called the “James bond”) on the inscription with which the alleged forger supposedly tried to conceal the marks of his forgery. The film consisted of crushed limestone and hot water, according to Professor Goren. But such a paste would not stick to the stone, even if made with hot water.g So Professor Goren changed his mind and said the forger got the film to stick to the inscription by putting the whole ossuary in the oven. But it turned out this won’t work either. Professor Goren also admitted that his damning film that supposedly exposed the forger could have been the result of “cleaning” the inscription, something antiquities dealers regularly do before offering an inscription for sale.
Even worse, Professor Goren denied that there was any original ancient patina in the ossuary inscription. When he was cross-examined at the trial, however, he was forced to admit that, indeed, there was original ancient patina in the inscription—in the word “Jesus” yet. At this point, you might expect Professor Goren to give up. But he is apparently unaware of that cardinal rule: When you find that you are digging yourself into a hole—STOP DIGGING! He has an explanation as to why there was ancient patina in the ossuary inscription: There were ancient scratches on the ossuary that over time developed patina; according to Professor Goren, the forger used some of these scratches with patina as strokes of the letters in his otherwise forged inscription.
Lastly, the Ivory Pomegranate inscription (“(Belonging) to the Temple of [Yahwe]h; holy to the priests”): If the inscription is authentic, it may be the only relic from Solomon’s Temple.h Everyone, including Professor Goren, agrees that if partial letters of the inscription go into an ancient break in the pomegranate, the inscription is authentic. Several of us got together in Jerusalem to look at the partial letters to see if they went into the break or stopped short of the break (the latter being evidence of forgery). When we looked at the letters through Professor Goren’s microscope, it seemed clear that at least one partial letter clearly went into the ancient break, the Hebrew letter heh. When Professor Goren published his report on this session, he refused to address the letter heh, even though it was specifically called to his attention. If I were permitted to ask only one question at this point, it would be this: “What about the letter heh, Professor Goren?”
Whether the fact that BAR has pointed out these errors lies behind Professor Goren’s charge that I played a pivotal role in the forgery, I do not know. But as to the evidence that demonstrates my participation in the forgery ring or how I participated in the execution of the forgery, I have no idea what Professor Goren is talking about.—H.S.
I have received numerous communications from readers regarding the e-mail from Yuval Goren printed in our January/February issue, in which he charges me with “a pivotal role” in the forgeries alleged in the ongoing forgery trial in Jerusalem.e Let me be clear at the outset: If I had a question regarding the clay in an ancient pot, there is no one I would rather have on my team than Yuval Goren. He is a leading clay petrologist. He has served with distinction as chairman of the archaeology department of Tel Aviv University. He was an officer in the Israel […]
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