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Sunday 10 November 2013

Scientific vandalism

How the IAA and Israeli Police wrecked the James ossuary 

Stain of stupidity: The red smear left by the application of silicon by the Israel Police Forensics Laboratory in their fruitless attempt to prove forgery has contaminated the word "Yeshua" (Jesus) inscribed on the ossuary and destroyed much of the little patina that remained


Tel Aviv

It could be the earliest inscription of the word “Jesus” ever found, but we may never know. In their fruitless zeal to prove that the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” was forged by Oded Golan or an Egyptian craftsman working under his direction, the Israel Antiquities Authority permitted a series of destructive tests that proved nothing and may have destroyed the chances of ever knowing the truth.
The worst contamination can be seen in the reddish stain now smeared across the word “Yeshua” (Jesus) in the photograph above.
The Israel Police Forensics Laboratory applied red silicon to the inscription to create a mold that might show it was a modern addition. The procedure proved nothing, but it left reddish stains in the grooves of the letters and ripped out the ancient patina that covers archaeological items and helps determine their authenticity.

“In the summer of 2004 the Israeli police, with permission of the IAA, made a red silicon mold of the inscription destroying the 'letter patina' by pulling out this 'soft' patina which cannot be observed anymore, thus, destroying evidence. Consequently, the alleged small amount of masking letter patina is absent now and cannot be studied further,” observed Amnon Rosenfeld and Shimon Ilani, the geologists who first studied the ossuary before it was revealed to the public in 2002.

I believe that the casting of the silicon affected Golan’s defense so he was deprived in such a way that it strengthens the reasonable doubt regarding his guilty charge - Judge Aharon Farkash

Superintendent Yehudah Novoslaski, deputy for signs and material in the Forensic Department of the Israeli Police, told the Jerusalem District Court that he produced a silicon mold and photographed it. “I found differences in the engraving tools between the first part of the inscription ‘Ya’akov Bar Yosef’ and the second part ‘brother of Yeshua’,” he told the court. But the judge was not convinced.

“There is no dispute that the casting of the silicon by the forensics people changed the physical condition of the inscription of the ossuary,” said Judge Farkash.
There was some confusion as to how the silicon mold came to be made. Jonathan Pagis, the police officer who led the investigation, told the court he asked the forensics laboratory to “examine” the ossuary, not to carry out invasive tests. Pagis said he gave no orders for the mold to be taken.
The silicon casting “polluted” the ossuary, said Orna Cohen, a member of the IAA committee of experts that ruled the ossuary was a fake, but ended up testifying for the defense.
“I saw a picture of what happened to the ossuary. What trauma it had. In fact when using the casting silicon for taking a mold you have to put some substance that separates the object from the silicon, because the silicon sticks to everything and pulls it out,” she told the court. “Even if there was a patina I guess that the patina was drawn out.”
She said the inscription was now “contaminated. It will be hard to say anything about the ossuary itself.”

Judge Farkash concluded that, far from assisting the prosecution, the forensic damage had hampered the defense case to such an extent that it actually worked to the advantage of Golan.

“There is a possibility of a high degree of confidence that the casting of the silicon removed other materials that were in the inscription of the ossuary. This damage prevented Golan from examining the ossuary itself with the help of experts on his behalf in order to review counter opinion to contradict the opinion of the prosecution," said Judge Farkash. “We are dealing with a criminal case... we have to determine the accuracy of the evidence. In this situation, in light of the principles of the case law cited above regarding the failings of the investigation, and considering the entirety of the evidences for this charge, I believe that the casting of the silicon affected Golan’s defense so he was deprived in such a way that it strengthens the reasonable doubt regarding his guilty charge.”
Oded Golan said he would check the damage to the ossuary and see if can be restored.

“It’s not in the same condition as before the trial. The inscription was defaced, contaminated. They poured red silicon into the inscription and they let it dry and when they took it out they took the patina. It’s ruined. I have to evaluate the damage, see if it can be restored and if there is the possibility of carrying out further tests on the inscription in future that will allow us to show its authenticity. The government said the second half of the inscription was forged – the words “brother of Jesus” – and that’s where the major damage has been done,” Golan said.


  1. If they used the silicon to prove there case of fraud about the age of the patina why wasn't he charged. Or was it used to destroy what they found, just as they repute all evidence of David and Solomon. I believe the later.

    1. He was charged. He was on trial for 7 years. The judge found the prosecution case unconvincing, as did the Israeli court of appeals. He was acquitted on all forgery charges.

  2. Not that this damage isn't a sort of crime against humanity but, didn't I read in one of Tabor's books that they already tested the patina in this inscription and actually found it to be a match with the ossuaries in the Talpiot tomb?