This morning (Wednesday, March 14) the verdict was published in the prosecution’s case – the State of Israel vs. Oded Golan, Robert Deutsch, et alia – Criminal Case 482/04.
In response to the decision by Judge Aharon Farkash of the Jerusalem District Court, the Israel Antiquities Authority announces the following:
The Israel Antiquities Authority respects the court’s decisions. The Israel Antiquities Authority praises the efforts of the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office in the case and is proud of the State’s determination in looking out for the broad public interest in the country and abroad, which states it is forbidden to meddle in the history of the peoples that lived and live in the Land of Israel.
The prosecution’s efforts resulted in the conviction of one defendant in this case in the past, and today the court acquitted Oded Golan of forgery and fraud charges on a basis of reasonable doubt, and found him guilty of three counts of violating the Antiquities Law and possession of suspected stolen property. The charges in some of the offenses were cancelled due to the statue of limitations. According to the judge, “The absolute truth was not a guiding light for Golan”.
During the trial the judge was presented with the conclusions of an expert committee of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the universities, which unequivocally established that the finds are forgeries. The court had to decide professional issues in the field of archaeology, which are not frequently heard in a court of law. Because a person’s guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, Golan was acquitted. However, the judge did emphasize that it was not possible to determine that the finds presented in the trial – including the ossuary and the “Jehoash inscription” – are not forgeries.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the benefits of placing the issue on today’s agenda were immense and have led to a dramatic change in the conduct of archaeological research in Israel and abroad: there has been an almost complete cessation of publishing finds that come from the antiquities market without first knowing their exact place of discovery; the trade in written documents and seals derived from illicit antiquities excavations has almost been entirely halted also. This in turn has led to a dramatic reduction in the scope of antiquities robbery occurring at biblical sites in Israel. In addition, ethical practices concerning research have changed and rules have been formulated regarding the “dos and don’ts” of the publication of finds. Furthermore, new methods have been developed for checking archaeological finds, which rely on research methods drawn from the natural sciences, and many collectors have made their collections available to the State for examination and registration.
The Israel Antiquities Authority will continue in its battle against the robbers and forgers of antiquities in order to ensure that the historical truth of the three religions will be preserved for future generations.
The affair began following the surprising appearance of two archaeological exhibits of historical, religious and political importance, which were exposed to the public through the media and left the archaeological world in a state of consternation.
The first exhibit that was revealed is a standard ossuary (a ceramic coffin) that was used for gathering bones in the Second Temple period. What was unique about this particular ossuary was the inscription engraved on its front, according to which it belonged to “James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”. The ossuary was first displayed in an exhibit in a Canadian museum and garnered world-wide acclaim through the media due to it alleged connection to the family of Jesus of Nazareth.
The second item was a building inscription engraved on a stone in ancient Hebrew script, which was attributed to renovations carried out by King Jehoash on the First Temple in the late ninth century BCE. Hence, this is supposedly the only surviving item of the First Temple ever, thus constituting proof of the First Temple’s existence and authentication of the biblical text appearing in the Book of Chronicles.
The appearance of the two items in late 2002 and early 2003 fired the imaginations of millions of Christians around the world, who received tangible proof of Jesus’ family, and of thousands of Jews who ostensibly now had physical evidence from the First Temple and archeological verification of the biblical stories.
The Israel Antiquities Authority, in its capacity as the governmental agency responsible to treat and manage all matters regarding antiquities in the State of Israel, convened two committees of experts to examine the two exhibits. The committee members were selected from amongst the foremost experts in the fields of archaeology, epigraphy and ancillary sciences from the Israel Antiquities Authority and all of the leading universities in Israel. Several months later the experts published their opinion, which stated that both items are modern forgeries: new and modern lettering had been added to the original ossuary; while the Jehoash inscription is an utter forgery.
In the wake of these findings the Israel Antiquities Authority filed a complaint with the Israel Police on suspicion the items were forged for the purpose of damaging archaeological research, and creating a false impression of the historical evidence, which influenced the belief of millions of people throughout the world – and all of it was done capriciously, in order to achieve financial gain.
The principal suspect was an antiquities collector by the name of Oded Golan, who wa