Lead codices are fake

I mentioned a few days ago the find of a stash of lead books, supposedly from the time of Christ, in Jordan. 

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

Elkington, however, may not be a reputable scholar, at least according to blogger Clayboy here.

Today Jim Davila gives a damning email from Peter Thonemann, of Wadham College, Oxford, here.  It turns out that Elkington approached Thonemann last year, asking for information about one of the codices, on copper.  And he got it; clear evidence of forgery.  Unfortunately it seems that Mr. Elkington did not heed the warning.

Key excerpts:

On 15 September 2010, I received the following email out of the blue from a certain David Elkington …

“… one of the copper codices that brings me to you. … It has an inscription in Greek along the top. A putative investigation has failed to find the meaning, dialect or type of Greek used and we are seeking to find an expert who might help in determining what it says. Would you have the time and the knowledge to be able to help?”

I received on the 13 October the following three photographs of this ‘copper codex’ from Mr Elkington … I replied later that same day…

“The text was incised by someone who did not know the Greek language, since he does not distinguish between the letters lambda and alpha: both are simply represented, in each of the texts, by the shape Λ.  The text literally means ‘without grief, farewell! Abgar also known as Eision’. This text, in isolation, is meaningless.  However, this text corresponds precisely to line 2 of the Greek text of a bilingual Aramaic/Greek inscription published by J.T. Milik, …

‘For Selaman, excellent and harmless man, farewell!  Abgar, also known as Eision, son of Monoathos, constructed this tomb for his excellent son (i.e. Selaman), in the third year of the province’. 

This is a stone tombstone from Madaba in Jordan, precisely dated to AD 108/9, on display in the Archaeological Museum in Amman.  

The text on your bronze tablet, therefore, makes no sense in its own right, but has been extracted unintelligently from another longer text …  The longer text from which it derives is a perfectly ordinary tombstone from Madaba in Jordan which happens to have been on display in the Amman museum for the past fifty years or so.  The text on your bronze tablet is repeated, in part, in three different places, meaningless in each case.  

The only possible explanation is that the text on the bronze tablet was copied directly from the inscription in the museum at Amman by someone who did not understand the meaning of the text of the inscription, but was simply looking for a plausible-looking sequence of Greek letters to copy.  He copied that sequence three times, in each case mixing up the letters alpha and lambda.

This particular bronze tablet is, therefore, a modern forgery, produced in Jordan within the last fifty years.  I would stake my career on it. 

And Jim adds:

At least one of David Elkington’s metal codices (a copper one) is a forgery. It seems very unlikely indeed, therefore, that any of them are genuine.

Which sums up my feelings too.


8 thoughts on “Lead codices are fake

  1. Did you listen to Saturday nite’s Coast to Coast AM? A few were fake – not all. Go listen to it. I wish I had found them – WOW!

  2. Coast to Coast AM is not exactly a reputable source, unless you want to stay in touch with the mainstream of UFO, conspiracy, weird fakery thought. Which of course is entertaining to do.

  3. The Books were actually discovered by Hassan Saida’s “partner at the time” Shibli who whilst trading Hay on the Jordanian Border bought them following a chance meeting with a taxi driver he got friendly with. He paid for them fair and square in the same way any one of you or I could have bought something at a garage sale or car boot sale
    He travelled quite freely first back to Israel then to Jericho and Europe.
    Hassan became involved as he is slightly odd and insisted to go back and buy more ( no doubt the fakes!)
    Elkington was paid with several other journalists by the Bedouins to ” help”
    They were even entrusted with the books for a year and not once during that time did they attempt to hand them back!
    Elkington was desperate to write a book but when the Bedouins who had handed over thousands to Elkington Feather and the like no longer wanted to play ball to feed their greed and search for fame
    Elkington went off on his own with all his wild fantasies and claims
    He has no copyright over any images or material and the right ful owner is happy to share with the world. In fact the Bedouins were banging on doors all over Europe but no one was interested even to give them the time of day

  4. I have to cavil at the conclusion; “The only possible explanation is that the text on the bronze tablet was copied directly from the inscription in the museum at Amman by someone who did not understand the meaning of the text of the inscription, but was simply looking for a plausible-looking sequence of Greek letters to copy. He copied that sequence three times, in each case mixing up the letters alpha and lambda.”

    This is emphatically *not* the “only possible conclusion”. The text could have been copied at any time from the original inscription, or could have been a contemporaneous typoed version of a phrase on the lips of some people at the time. The fact that the phrase has been on display in a museum for a fraction of its lifetime is no proof that it was copied during the relatively short time that it has been exhibited. Nor does that disprove that it was simply a badly etched transcription of a phrase that was in vogue among the engravers and artisans of that time, all of whom may have been sharing philosophies and thoughts.

    It is very sloppy thinking to assume that an artefact containing an image or inscription which matches one which is currently on display in a museum must mean that the display item has been copied.

    I am very deeply sceptical of the veracity of these codices, but sloppy assumptions and sloppy thinking will simply not be adequate to disprove their veracity.

    People made typos in those days; a modern faker would likely be far far more tenacious in crafting their forgery. There are, after all, abundant sources available to make them make their work credible. If this things are fakes (and I tend to believe that they are), then the fakers will have pursued far more sophisticated means than merely a bad transcription of an existing inscription on a publicly available exhibit.

    Eitherway, the conclusion is incorrect. There are other plausible explanations for the inscription.

  5. Cavil is certainly the right word.

    Copies are made from available originals, not from unavailable originals. So, assuming it is a copy, and that it is not ancient, it was made in the last 50 years while the original was available.

    There is no particular reason that this phrase would be copied by someone who understood what it meant. That seems to rule out the possibility that the copyist was ancient, or that (in general) the production is ancient.

    The best explanation for such a glaring error as confusing an alpha and a lambda is that the person doesn’t know Greek. This again makes an ancient production unlikely.

    The argument against this being a fake is that the faker would have gone to much greater lengths to conceal the fact of forgery. All that argument really proves is that this is not a particularly clever forgery. On the other hand, the forgery is good enough to trick the average layman into buying it – so perhaps it was clever enough for the forger’s purpose.

  6. Now they are fake?? But don’t reveal what they say to the public or share the fidnings. Publish the contents!

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