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Jordan Lead Codices

The Jordan Lead Codices, (sometimes called simply the Jordanian Codices), are a collection of codices said to have been found in a cave in Jordan and first publicized in March 2011. Several scholars have pronounced them fakes. In November 2012, A regional BBC News investigation also pronounced the codices to be fake.

Press reports and comment

On 3 March 2011 the Jewish Chronicle ran an article interviewing a metallurgist named Robert Feather, who it stated was trying to authenticate a collection of 20 metal books which, it said, could be linked to the Kabbalah and were in the possession of an Israeli Bedouin farmer named Hassan Saeda, who claimed that they had been found by his great-grandfather in a cave a century ago. It added that a piece of leather from the find had already been carbon dated to 2,000 years ago. The article reported that the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) "absolutely doubted their authenticity," saying the books are a "mixture of incompatible periods and styles without any connection or logic. Such forged motifs can be found in their thousands in the antiquities markets of Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East". It added that Professor André Lemaire, an epigraphist and director of studies at the École pratique des hautes études, said the inscriptions he has seen make no sense and that it was "a question apparently of sophisticated fakes".

On 22 March 2011 David Elkington issued a press release stating that a hoard of ancient books made of lead and copper, together with other artefacts, probably dating from the 1st century AD, had been found in Jordan, and that they might predate the writings of St. Paul and that "leading academics" believed they might be as important as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Elkington also stated that the items were discovered 5 years ago in a cave by a Jordanian Bedouin and smuggled into Israel, where they were at risk of sale on the black market or destruction. The story was quickly picked up by the BBC, the Daily Mail and other media outlets.

Elkington stated that the find was of "up to 70 ring-bound books (codices) made of lead and copper. Many of them are sealed on all sides. Scrolls, tablets and other artefacts, including an incense bowl, were also found at the same site. Some of the lead pages are written in a form of archaic Hebrew script with ancient messianic symbols. Some of the writing appears to be in a form of code." In the press release he stated that his team included biblical scholars Margaret Barker and Philip R. Davies.

The BBC version of the story stated that the codices had been found in a cave in Jordan, sometime between 2005 and 2007.

The Daily Telegraph added that metallurgical analysis on the books, and carbon dating on a piece of leather found with the collection, suggested that the books could be about 2,000 years old, although it also questioned whether the find was authentic. Elkington, described as a "scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum" claimed that they could be "the major discovery of Christian history", and the director of the Jordan's Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, said that the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

The BBC article said that the books consist of between 5-15 leaves or plates each, about the size of a credit card, made of lead and copper, and bound together with lead rings on one side. Many of the books are also sealed with rings on the remaining three sides. Elkington reported that "In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah", and the text is said to be in archaic Hebrew script (Paleo Hebrew), and some in "code".

Davies is reported as noting the presence of a cross, tomb, and city of Jerusalem depicted in the books.

A news report described Barker as believing that if the artefacts are genuine, they could be Christian texts from as early as 33 AD. A BBC report stated that a line has been translated from the text as "I shall walk uprightly".

The press release and the BBC report on 29 March 2011 indicated that the Jordanian government would make a claim for the ownership of the collection under the treasure trove statutes of Jordanian law.

Further developments

A number of experts urged skepticism until further investigation could be conducted.

On 31 March 2011, a letter was published online by Daniel C. Peterson which had been written in 2010 by Elkington. The letter was to Oxford academic Peter Thonemann, sending images of a "copper tablet" and asking for information on Greek text on it. Thonemann replied that the item was a modern forgery, created during the last 50 years in Jordan, because the text copied a truncated tombstone inscription (AD 108/9) from the Archaeological Museum of Amman.[11] Thonemann said that he "would stake [his] career" on his belief that the material had been faked.[12]Professor Jim Davila also published Elkington's letter and Thonemann's reply. In his letter to Thonemann in 2010, Elkington said that he had been told that the codices were from Egypt, not that the material was from Jordan as stated in his press release.

On 3 April, The Mail on Sunday published an interview with Hassan Saeda, whom it described as a Bedouin trucker, aged 37, including extra images from the material and a story of how they came into his possession. The paper made a claim that a face on one plate "could be" the face of Jesus, but gave no authority for it. On the same day the Sunday Telegraph published an interview with Elkington.

Also on 3 April 2011, historian William J. Hamblin called into question the Jesus image on the tablet, stating it looked a great deal like images of Helios also found on ancient coins.

An article in the Daily Telegraph on 3 April 2011 stated that David Elkington was also known as Paul Elkington, and had a book on the codices which literary agent Curtis Brown would be trying to market to publishers at the London Book Fair on 11 April.

On 4 April 2011, Philip R. Davies posted a statement on Sheffield's Biblical Studies blog suggesting that, while he recognized that the images were modern, the codices were probably not a hoax nor "forgeries".

On 4 April 2011 an unconfirmed report appeared, dated to 3 April, on the MEMRI Web site quoting Ziyad Al-Sa'd, director-general of Jordan's antiquities authority, as saying that the items were found in Jordan and sold on the black market to an "Israeli antiquities dealer". There was no indication of whether Hassan Saeda was meant here. Questions were also raised by an Aramaic blogger about the authenticity of the script used on the plates.

Robert Deutsch weighed in on 5 April, arguing that the tablets lacked patina and corrosion and, along with others, he noted that all the iconography and script appeared to come directly from coins dating to multiple periods (Hellenistic, Hasmonean, and Bar Kokhba) in antiquity.

On 6 April 2011 Peter Thonemann repeated his statements about a letter from Elkington in 2010 in the Times Literary Supplement,.

On 6 April the Jordan Times published an article describing the codices as a collection of 2,000-year-old manuscripts.

On 6 April Dr. James E. Deitrick suggested that the image on one of the lead plates is a replica of a 3rd-century mosaic portrait dubbed "The Mona Lisa of the Galilee."

On 9 April Prof. Jim Davila published the following summary on his PaleoJudaica blog:

The Greek is lifted nonsensically from an inscription published in 1958. The forger couldn't tell the difference between the Greek letters alpha and lambda. The Hebrew script is taken from the same inscription. The Hebrew text is in "code," i.e., is gibberish. The "Jesus" face is taken from a well-known mosaic. The charioteer is taken from a fake coin. The crocodile has a suspicious resemblance to a plastic toy. This forger was not Professor Moriarty. This forger was a careless bumbler. That makes it all the more galling how readily the media fell for the scam.
On 11 April the Daily Express reported Thonemann's comments together with a response by David Elkington that Thonemann was not a biblical scholar but a Greek scholar.

Also on 11 April, Live Science reported that the letter forms were a mixture of old Aramaic and much younger scripts, and that the mixture indicated a modern forgery.

On 27 April a report appeared on Yahoo via Associated Press that the Jordanian police had seized seven metal codices.[28] Further details appeared in the Jordan Times, with further claims.

In the July issue of Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Philip R. Davies published an editorial surveying some of the information surrounding the tablets, urging caution and the need for further investigation.

On 23 August, Prof. Jim Davila noted an anonymous Facebook post purporting to be from "the team" working on the codices alleging that their discoverer has claimed to have produced 500 forgeries in imitation of the "real" artifacts.

On 26 November 2012. BBC News conducted a short investigation about the authenticity of the codices. This was conducted as a short 13 minute segment of Inside Out West (26/11/12) accompanied by a written BBC News Article entitled "Jordan Codices 'expert' David Elkington's claims queried". The program initially focused on the codices authenticity with Dr Peter Thonemann again affirming that "I'm as certain as it is possible to be that this entire body of codices are modern fakes. I would stake my academic reputation on it" adding that "all of the codices that have appeared in the media in the past year or so are products of the same modern workshop — they’ve all sorts of similarities in style, fabric, and content it seems absolutely clear that every single one of these documents is a modern fake". A spokesman for the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) noted "They were shown to experts on the period; all the experts absolutely doubted their authenticity." Author and metals expert Robert Feather was also skeptical.

The BBC Inside out program shifted focus onto whether David Elkington was the right person to be testing the authenticity of the codices analysing the true intentions, history and qualifications of "self styled" academic. It emerged that David Elkington is not an academic and has "No recognised qualifications in the field" although previously using the title of Professor. It also emerged that Elkington is "using the codices to raise money to support him in his work" from supporters including Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia who has donated tens of thousands of pounds to Elkington. It also stated that Elkington plans to release a book and create a film based upon the codices and that "over the years he’s taken thousands of pounds as investment to make a film based on his theories".

[link to en.wikipedia.org]
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