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Five indicted for massive antiquities scam

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=indictments+relics&itemNo=521682 or http://tinyurl.com/3jzpg Sat., January 01, 2005 Tevet 20, 5765 Five
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2005
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      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=indictments+relics&itemNo=521682
      or
      http://tinyurl.com/3jzpg

      Sat., January 01, 2005 Tevet 20, 5765

      Five indicted for massive antiquities scam
      By Amiram Barkat
      Last Update: 31/12/2004 16:21

      The forged treasures include an ivory pomegranate touted by scholars as the
      only relic from Solomon's Temple, an ossuary that reputedly held the bones
      of James, Jesus' brother, and the "Yehoash inscription."

      "During the last 20 years many archaeological items were sold, or an
      attempt was made to sell them, in Israel and in the world, that were not
      actually antiques," the indictment said. "These items, many of them of
      great scientific, religious, sentimental, political and economic value,
      were created specifically with intent to defraud."

      The forgers not only defrauded buyers of millions of dollars, said Israel
      Antiquities Authority officials, but also damaged the science of
      archaeology, casting doubt on the authenticity of every artifact not
      uncovered in an authorized dig.

      The 27-page indictment, based on a two-year investigation, charged five
      people - Oded Golan, Robert Deutsch, Shlomo Cohen, a fourth Israeli whose
      name cannot be published, since he has not yet received a copy of the
      indictment, and Faiz al-Amaleh, a Palestinian - with 18 counts including
      forgery, receiving fraudulent goods and damaging antiquities.

      Golan, an Israeli collector whom the indictment termed the ringleader of
      the group, denied the accusations as a campaign of lies and rumors spread
      by Israel's archaeological authorities to destroy the local antiquities
      trade. "There is not one grain of truth in the fantastic allegations
      related to me," he said in a statement.

      According to the indictment, the ring took genuine artifacts and added
      inscriptions to them, falsely increasing their importance and greatly
      inflating their value. After forging the inscriptions, they would paint the
      items with a coating designed to emulate the patina that would accumulate
      on the object over thousands of years.

      The work was so sophisticated that it fooled top antiquities experts, and
      some of the fake artifacts sold for huge sums.

      "We only discovered the tip of the iceberg," said Antiquities Authority
      head Shuka Dorfman. "This spans the globe. It generated millions of dollars."

      Shaul Naim, the top police investigator on the case, said, "We have reason
      to believe that many more forged antiquities which we haven't uncovered yet
      are being held by private collectors in Israel and abroad, and in museums
      in Israel and abroad."

      Among the other objects that police tagged as forgeries were two of Golan's
      possessions, the James ossuary and the "Yehoash inscription," a
      shoebox-sized tablet from about the ninth century B.C.E. inscribed with 15
      lines of ancient Hebrew that echo the Biblical account of King Yehoash's
      repairs to the Temple in Jerusalem.

      The ossuary, with the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," had
      been touted as a major archaeological discovery - the oldest physical link
      to Jesus. Antiquities Authority experts said last year that while the
      ossuary, a 2,000-year-old limestone box, was indeed ancient, parts of the
      inscription were added recently. Other experts, however, have disputed this
      finding.

      Five people were charged in Jerusalem District Court this week with running
      a sophisticated antiquities forgery ring that created hundreds of fake
      biblical artifacts, including some that were hailed as among the most
      important archaeological objects ever uncovered in the region.
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