Sunday, April 3, 2011

Codex hoax

Since my post on Wednesday about the lead codices found in Jordan, word has surfaced that these beautifully crafted little books are likely a hoax. With museums and auction houses declining to handle the artifacts because of concerns over their provenance, they remain in the hands of a Bedouin trucker (photo here) who inherited some and collected others. Oxford scholar Peter Thonemann was asked to assess one of the codices last year, based on photographs (including the 1st and 2nd images). His firm opinion is that it is a forgery executed within the last 50 years. That is the length of time a tombstone with a Greek inscription has been on display at the Archaeological Museum in Amman. Thonemann points out that it is this text that has been copied onto the metal plate - and, based on the lack of distinction between the characters of lambda and alpha, by someone unfamiliar with the language. The inscription itself - "without grief, farewell! Abgar also known as Eision" - is meaningless in isolation and is repeated in more than one place in the codex. "This particular bronze tablet is, therefore, a modern forgery, produced in Jordan within the last fifty years. I would stake my career on it," declares Thonemann.

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