Thursday, March 8, 2007

James Tabor on the 10th ossuary

I posted earlier on the shifting fortunes of the so-called "James ossuary." Apart from its role in the on-going antiquities fraud trial of Oded Golan, the issue garnering attention on the blogs is whether or not it might have come from the Talpiot tomb. Even if someone forged brother of Jesus, the first half of the inscription--James, son of Joseph--could be significant in its own right. Two recent blog entries by James Tabor are sure to add fuel to this debate.

In the first, from March 6, 2007, Tabor takes issue with the story (recounted, e.g., here) that Joe Zias claims the 10th Talpiot ossuary was plain, un-inscribed, and thus relegated to the lowly courtyard of the IAA warehouse where it cannot now be located. According to Tabor, Zias acknowledged to him on June 30, 2006, that
he had no idea what might have happened to it but it was possible, in those days, that it was put back in the courtyard and just left and forgotten. He also suggested it might have just been misplaced in the IAA warehouse and gave me examples of other things that had just gone missing, or were just misshelved and could not be found.
So we have two versions of what happened back in 1980, both attributed to the same source: Joe Zias. Curious.

In the second post, dated Mary 7, 2007, Tabor explains that the designation "missing," as applied to the 10th ossuary, was not coined by him or Jacobovici for dramatic effect. Rather, it was used by the curator of the IAA warehouse in Bet Shemesh, when Tabor and Shimon Gibson inquired about the 10th bone box in 2005. And in response to suggestions that the 10th box was placed outside because it was plain, Tabor observes:
the other “plain” ossuary (80.506), of the four listed “uninscribed,” is not much to look at, yet it was retained and is on the shelves today, and there is a photo and description of it in the files. In contrast there is no photo nor description of the “10th.”
Why would some plain boxes be catalogued and photographed while others are not?

I'm struck by three things in reading Tabor's latest posts. One, he knows more than he is telling. Two, back in the 70s and 80s the IAA may have had difficulty handling the influx of archaeological artifacts. And three, Tabor (at least in print) is remaining remarkably gracious, irenic and non-combative, in the face of harsh criticism. If only the rest of us were as well-behaved.

No comments: