biblical 'discoveries' are exposed as fakes

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    The Australian newspaper. 6/01/'05

    Biblical 'discoveries' are exposed as fakes

    December 31, 2004
    JERUSALEM: Experts are advising world museums to re-examine their biblical relics after Israel charged four collectors and dealers with forging some of the most important artefacts of recent decades.

    The indictments issued on Wednesday condemned as fakes the two biggest biblical discoveries in the Holy Land - the purported burial box of Jesus's brother James, and a stone tablet with written instructions by King Yoash on maintenance work at the Jewish Temple - as well as other works.

    "The forgers were trying to change history," said the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman. The counterfeiting ring had been operating for more than 20 years, he said.

    Scholars said the forgers were exploiting the emotional need of many Jews and Christians to find physical evidence to reinforce their faith.

    The announcement of the charges capped a two-year investment. The indictment lists 124 witnesses, including antiquities collectors, archaeologists, officials from Sotheby's auction house in Israel and representatives of the British Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.

    Mr Dorfman said the Israeli investigators had limited resources. "We discovered only the tip of the iceberg," he said. "This spans the globe. It generated millions of dollars."

    The gang often used authentic but relatively mundane artefacts, such as a plain burial box, decanter or shard, and boosted their value enormously by adding inscriptions. Once the words were engraved, the forgers tried to recreate patina, or ancient grime, over the carvings, the indictment says.

    The investigation began after the Yoash tablet was offered for sale to the Israel Museum for $US4.5 million ($5.8 million) two years ago.


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