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First Temple period finding?

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  • Wieland Willker
    HA ARETZ English ed. Tuesday, January 14, 2003 Sensation or forgery? Researchers hail dramatic First Temple period finding By Nadav Shragai An inscription
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2003
      HA'ARETZ English ed.
      Tuesday, January 14, 2003

      Sensation or forgery? Researchers hail dramatic
      First Temple period finding

      By Nadav Shragai

      An inscription attributed to Jehoash, the king of Judea who ruled in
      Jerusalem at the end of the ninth century B.C.E., has been authenticated
      by experts from the National Infrastructure Ministry's Geological Survey
      of Israel following months of examination. The 10-line fragment, which
      was apparently found on the Temple Mount, is written in the first person
      on a black stone tablet in ancient Phoenician script. The inscription's
      description of Temple "house repairs" ordered by King Jehoash strongly
      resembles passages in the Second Book of Kings, chapter 12.

      Dr. Gabriel Barkai, a leading Israeli archaeologist from Bar Ilan
      University's Land of Israel Studies Department, says that if the
      inscription proves to be authentic, the finding is a "sensation" of the
      greatest import. It could be, he says, the most significant
      archaeological finding yet in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. It would
      be a first-of-its kind piece of physical evidence describing events in a
      manner that adheres to the narrative in the Bible.

      According to Dr. Barkai, such a finding, which appears to furnish proof
      of the existence of the Temple, must be made available for examination
      by scholars, and can not be kept a virtual secret.

      Detailed research findings about the inscription are to be disclosed in
      a collection of articles published by the Geology Survey of Israel, a
      government research institute. Research studies have been prepared by
      Dr. Shimon Ilani, Dr. Amnon Rosenfeld and Michael Dvorchik, the
      institute's chief technician who carried out electronic microscope tests
      of the inscription that, the three say, were largely responsible for the
      finding's authentication.

      Apart from noting that the discovery was made in Jerusalem, the
      researchers do not disclose where the inscription was found. But sources
      have indicated that the writing surfaced in the Temple Mount area as a
      result of widescale excavation work done in recent years in the area by
      Muslims, and that Palestinians relayed the fragment to a major collector
      of antiquities in Jerusalem.

      The Jerusalem collector is represented by attorney Isaac Herzog, a
      former cabinet secretary and currently a Knesset candidate on Labor's

      The collector offered to sell the inscription to the Israel Museum, but
      museum curators who examined the fragment cast doubt on its
      authenticity, though they did not state categorically that the writing
      was a forgery.

      Ilani and Rosenfeld refused yesterday to discuss the Israel Museum's
      response with Ha'aretz. But officials from the Geology Survey said that
      results of the battery of examinations that were carried out must be
      taken as conclusive: It's inconceivable that such extensive testing
      would fail to reveal a forgery, they said. The inscription is authentic,
      they insisted, and the finding is an archaeological sensation that could
      have global repercussions and that effectively vindicates Jewish claims
      to the Temple Mount.

      The inscription lauds repairs carried out by King Jehoash in ways
      reminiscent of the description in the Second Book of Kings. It includes
      the king's request that priests collect public money to be used for the
      repair of the First Temple; and there are references to the purchase of
      timber and quarried stones for the carrying out of repairs on the

      The inscription contains fragments from 2 Kings 12:15: "And they did not
      ask an accounting from the men into whose hands they delivered the money
      to pay out to the workmen; for they dealt honestly."

      The researchers believe that the sandstone used for the inscription was
      brought from southern Jordan, or the Dead Sea region. Materials that
      covered the inscription over the years date from 200-400 B.C.E., they

      Ilani and Rosenfeld speculate that during this period, the inscription
      began to be covered up as a buried object. Should this hypothesis be
      correct, it would mean that the inscription was exposed to the elements
      for hundreds of years, before being buried some 500-600 years after it
      was written.

      In his conversation with Ha'aretz, Dr. Barkai noted that "the problem
      here is that circumstances of the finding are not clear... We should
      wait for the official scientific publication, at which time we will be
      able to probe this finding carefully. Right now, of course, we can't
      rule out any possibility. It's too bad that a matter of this sort was
      kept under wraps, apparently due to business concerns."

      Best wishes
      Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany
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