Is the new Jerusalem Papyrus Authentic or a Forgery?

The Israel Antiquities Authority recently announced the find of a new papyrus apparently dated to c. 700 BC, which seems to mention the delivery of wine to the king in Jerusalem. While the IAA declared it genuine, I still have my doubts. And leading epigrapher, Christopher Rollston, does too. He has ten points that should make us pause and re-evaluate. You can find his brief blog article HERE.


3 thoughts on “Is the new Jerusalem Papyrus Authentic or a Forgery?

  1. Well I am not so sure and don’t share Rollston’s extreme pessism, let alone his critical views on unprovenanced material. I take the stand that every serious (!) looking inscription (and I see no reason to doubt the new papyrus, even if it mentions Jerusalem, why shouldn’t it do so?) must be carefully scrutinized. Quite frankly, for decades we were being told that we couldn’t trust any unprovenanced seals and bullae as hardly any surfaced in legal excavations (I actually studied them and found no differences between them and the ones from the excavations) while so many turned up on the antiquity market. Since scholars have done their work properly and carefully wet-sifted the dumps, bullae are much harder to get on the market and so many of them surface in excavations. Actually rumours were spread during the old days that these bullae had been found on/in the dumps of the excavations and that Arabs sifted the soil and sold the pieces to dealers. Well, these rumours probably based on real life. Not only that, bullae with the seal impressions of Hezekiah were not initially trusted by several scholars, but then they were found to be genuine in Yuval Goren’s lab (pers. comm with Goren in 2005). Still we were being told not to use this material in any scholarly work. Now one of the bullae with exactly the same impression of the winged sundisk was recently found in an excavation on the Ophel, whilst other bullae have been recently found also in the City of David which show the impressions which were previously attested on unprovenanced bullae. How could faker know all this before the ‘genuine’ pieces were found in the ground? Of course they couldn’t. Let’s face it, unusual script or specific wording cannot be used as evidence of modern forgery, as leat not likely so unless harder evidence can be found to prove they are true forgeries. But often this is much harder to do. So many pieces are found in legal excavations which simply look weird and had they been found on the market they would readily have been considered as fakes. Rollston may think as he pleases (and naturally a certain amount of scepticism is always healthy for all of us), but he is not the epigraphis par excellence and the ultimate authority to be heard. Opinions on the matter differ and let all epigraphists have their go at it, also those (like myself) who take unprovenanced material more seriously than he does. Shabbat shalom!

  2. I don’t know if the Jerusalem papyrus is genuine or not. In addition to Ch. Rollston’s doubts, which he has not yet detailed, Aren Maier raised questions on his blog (and I commented there):
    An Oct. 30 Jerusalem Post article claims “…without presenting any evidence, Maeir alleged that the thieves may have forged the writing on an authentic papyri….” At least in his blog post Maeir did not make this claim. Theoretically, a forger could be a different person than those cave looters. Why would it be from there? The IAA claim that it came from Nahal Hever was made without presenting clear evidence. (Possibly they have more than they revealed.) Did they check for chemical evidence of bat droppings from the cave? Papyrus can come from Egypt.

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