Ever Wanted To Be An Archaeologist?

PomegranateThe picture related to this post is of one of the most famous archaeological pieces of all time.  It is believed to be a small pomegranate piece which may be the only known surviving object from Solomon’s Temple.  Many scholars believe that it has the following insription on the top of the rounded portion of the piece – “Holy to the priests, belonging to the Temple of Yahweh.”  Isn’t that amazing?!

When this ivory pomegranate was first discovered in 1979 some of the world’s leading examiners deemed that this was an authentic piece.  Recently however, there has been some revisions to this decision.  In 2004 a special panel concluded that in fact the insciption was a forgery.  Soon after this a top epigrapher, Andre Lemaire examined the pomegranate and determined it was authentic.  As recently as May 2007 more leaders in this field have looked over this special find and have gone back and forth on their decisions.  In the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (Sept/Oct 2007) the editors offer up a unique challenge to their readers to be involved in the discussion to whether or not this item is authentic.  From their website, they write:

“This report is designed to enable readers to make their own decision about whether the famous Ivory Pomegranate Inscription is authentic or a forgery. For more than a decade the pomegranate had been on display in the Israel Museum and was widely believed to be the only surviving relic from Solomon’s Temple. The inscription on the shoulder of the pomegranate reads: “(Belonging) to the Temple (literally, house) of Yahweh, Holy to the Priests.” In the bottom of the thumb-size pomegranate is a hole, presumably for a rod on which the pomegranate could be set, forming a kind of wand or scepter.

In 2005 a committee of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Museum found the inscription to be a forgery, claiming that the forger artificially stopped short of an ancient break in the pomegranate when he engraved the letters. If that is true, the inscription is a forgery. But if the letters do go into the ancient break, the inscription must have been engraved before the break occurred and the inscription is authentic. This report presents photographs of these controversial letters taken through a microscope. You don’t have to know Hebrew or be an expert in ancient Hebrew epigraphy to look at the pictures and see whether the letters stop short of the break or go into the break.”

So, what do you think?  Take a look here at BAR’s website for detailed photo’s of the pomegranate and see if you can tell if it looks like the cut letters do or do not go into the broken part of the unique find.  There are a good amount of picture as well as more information about this study.  Let me know what you think, and have fun.

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