Courtesy Mrs. William Brownlee

Camelskin parchment covered with an ancient script. Purchased from a Jerusalem entrepreneur in 1966, these inscriptions were reported to be written in an ancient, previously unknown, “Philistine” language. Closer scrutiny by Professors Joseph Naveh and Frank Moore Cross led to recognition of a forger’s clumsy hand.

On each of the eight parchments in the original cache, the forger copied the Old Hebrew letters of an authentic inscription, the Siloam Inscription. Carved on a wall of Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C., the Siloam Inscription describes the triumphant breakthrough of two teams of tunnel diggers who started at opposite ends.

The Siloam Inscription is of course written from right to left. The forger copied this inscription, but he wrote it left to right. The reader can easily recognize the Siloam letters by comparing the first line of each parchment, starting from the left end, with the first line of the Siloam Inscription.