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Debate on Ossuary Heats Up After Arrest

August 02, 2003|From Times Wire Services

Experts continue to clash over the authenticity of the James ossuary, a 2,000-year-old limestone burial box purported to be that of James, the brother of Jesus.

The inscription on the ossuary was deemed a forgery by the Israeli Antiquities Authority in June.

The debate is heating up after the arrest of Oded Golan, the Tel Aviv antiquities dealer who has been suspected of systematically counterfeiting relics since Israeli police discovered tools used for inscription and partially inscribed stones in his apartment. Golan has been released on bail and has not been charged.

Despite the mounting evidence against Golan, a number of experts stand by his contention that the Aramaic inscription is ancient.

"I still stand by the fact that it is a genuine ossuary with a genuine inscription," Ed Keall of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where the ossuary was on display for five weeks last winter, told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. television.

Hershel Shanks, editor of the Washington-based Biblical Archaeology Review and a staunch defender of the ossuary, said the final verdict cannot be issued until test results are published.

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