Saturday, April 01, 2006

LMLK News: Happy MLK Day 2005!

[This post is from an archive; the original message was sent Mon 1/17/2005 11:27 PM.]

Here in America, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day! Since the last mailinglist message was sent, winter seemed to force LMLK developments to snowball... Here are the headlines:

1) Royal review of the new 5-volume set of books by David Ussishkin, "The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at LACHISH (1973-1994) Volume IV"

2) Royal cover-up of "Ziph" stamp excavated from Hebron?

3) Royal snacks: wine, oil, grain = pizza, burgers, sodas?

4) Royal corrections to IAA database

5) Royal indictment against Robert Deutsch

6) Royal stempels for sale

7) Royal postage stamps

8) Royal Internet tools


1) Royal review of RAELv4:

I resisted adding any subjective opinions of my own to the website for 3 years, but felt that the subject matter of this review was important enough to break my protocol. This is dedicated to everyone who can't get enough of fun history like Sennacherib vs. King Hezekiah, Royal vs. Religious, Emergency vs. Long-term, Private vs. Official, Minimalists vs. Maximalists, etc.:

In addition to the link you'll find on that page to my other review of it on the Eisenbrauns website, they also published my review of Andy Vaughn's book:


2) Royal cover-up of "Ziph" stamp excavated from Hebron?

In my RAEL review, I reiterated that nobody has conclusively demonstrated that the H-, M-, S-, & Z-words on the LMLK seals represent geographic names. Riding that same train of thought, right now there are photos of 74 different Z2D stamps on the LMLK Research website, & in December I found another one online at the following 2 links reportedly excavated at Hebron (Tell Rumeide):

Even though the pages say it has a "Hevron" inscription, it's obviously a "ZF" inscription, the Zayin in the bottom-right register plain as day, & the icon's Head is characteristic of the Eagle illusion shown in Fig. 4 (p. 22) of my LMLK book.

The obvious implication is that it brings into question whether the H-word on LMLK seals represented the famous place named Hebron, & that in & of itself is newsflash-worthy! Obviously the publisher didn't realize the bottom register actually says "ZF". After bringing this to the attention of Jeff Chadwick (who has written about the walls of Hebron in recent years), I sent a message to Emanuel Eisenberg at the IAA, the excavator who has not yet published photos of the handles he excavated, & he responded via Raz Kletter (who published the most recent statistics for excavations at Hebron in 2002 [ZDPV vol. 118 #2]) that the image seen on the Hebron Dot-org website is not affiliated with the IAA, & not a scientific publication, & reaffirmed that none of the ones found by Eisenberg had a ZF inscription.

I'm digging into the details of each of the 60 LMLK sites in preparation for volume 2 of my LMLK book series, & know that there have been 3 significant projects at the site: one by Hammond in the 1960s (known as the American Expedition to Hebron [AEH]), one by Avi Ofer in the 1980s (which reported 5 LMLK handles), & the one by Eisenberg in the late 1990s (which reported 8 LMLK handles).

So I queried the manager of the website, David Wilder, who responded that to the best of his memory, he captured those images from an Israeli TV report filmed at the site while the Eisenberg excavations were in progress along with Alla Nagorsky & Yechiel Zellinger. Naturally, this is subject to speculation since I have not yet been able to obtain a copy of the film, which may have referenced artifacts from other sites (it would seem highly unlikely though--why would an impartial, ignorant film crew visit an excavation site while the work is in progress to report its artifacts & then go to a museum or private collector to find one to show?), but if this Z2D was not found at Hebron, then we are left wondering where it was found, & it piques our curiosity towards the 7 handles excavated from Hebron listed in the scientific reports as unclassifiable due to messy stamps. Could it be that this Z2D was misread as having an HBRN inscription, or could it be that one of the unreadable stamps has one or more of the M-, S-, & Z-words? We won't know until photos of every single one of the 13 handles excavated has been scientifically published. But I would contend that a film on the spot is more scientific than a book that gets written years/decades after the excavation.

Even though the Hebron Dot-org pages say, "All pictures on this site are curtesy [sic] of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Archeologist Emanuel Eisenberg," since he & Raz deny that it's from Hebron I have to assume that nobody can prove where this Z2D handle is, & who owns the copyright to it, so I'm planning to publish a copy of it on the LMLK Research website in due time in conjunction with a rare H2T that is also shown on another page of Hebron Dot-org obviously from the same "unscientific" TV program:


3) Royal snacks: Wine, oil, grain = pizza, burgers, sodas?

Speaking of Hebron, many of you are probably aware of the wonderful project being conducted by the IsraelVisit website. They've organized safe-surprise visits (sponsored by charitable donations) to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) throughout the land with fun food such as pizza & burgers as well as ice cream in the summer & hot soup in the winter, even seasonal treats such as jelly-filled Hanukkah donuts. Here's a page with photos of troops enjoying treats at the most famous site in Hebron:
While none of us can help King Hezekiah build up military supplies against Sennacherib's army, & enable us to help preserve stability in the land of Israel 2,700 years later!


4) Royal corrections to IAA database:

Speaking of handles at the IAA, I forgot to mention in the previous mailing that I recently submitted a 10-page report to the IAA classifying their inventory of LMLK handle photos, about half of which have never been published. Here are the overall stats:

Summary of LMLK stamps by inscriptions & icons:
32 Z(Y)P
2 Generic
9 Can't Classify

104 Two-winged
39 Four-winged

143 Total

Summary of LMLK handles at each site represented:
1 Arad
1 Ashdod
2 Beersheba
6 Beth Shemesh
1 'En Shoqef
3 Gezer
1 H. Sirta
56 Jerusalem
16 Lachish
5 Mizpah
36 Ramat Rahel
2 Tel Goded
1 Tel Halif
12 unknown

(Note that there are no handles from Hebron in their inventory. Debi Ben-Ami at the IAA confirmed that their Negatives database is in the process of being updated, so these stats may be revised in the near future.)

Summary of LMLK seal types:
2 G2T
23 H2D
1 H2T
15 H2U
5 H4C
19 H4L
12 M2D
zero M2T
9 M2U
zero M4C
zero M4L
zero S2DR
5 S2DW
4 S2U
7 S4L
7 x2x
2 x4x
21 Z2D
1 Z2T
4 Z2U
2 Z4CI
1 Z4CY
3 Z4L

I was able to purchase the right to publish 2 very important ones, but alas, cannot afford to do them all. Look for them to be online by the end of the month; they're the ones with deep Central Circular Objects I based Fig. 3 on p. 21 of my book upon that blow "sun disc/disk" terminology out of the water! And kudos to Noga Z'evi at the IAA for helping me to resolve some of the discrepancies I found.


5) Royal indictment against Robert Deutsch

Speaking of the IAA, probably everyone on this mailinglist has by now heard about their investigation into an antiquities forgery ring, so I would like to offer my opinion that Robert Deutsch is absolutely ***GUILTY*** ... of being very generous & helpful to me over the past 5 years, & especially when I became involved in LMLK research 3 years ago. Indeed, as I related at the beginning & end of my LMLK book, he is one of the people who deserves joint credit for the LMLK research that I've done even though he & I disagree on several of the theories surrounding the subject (but then again, almost everybody disagrees with me on one or more facets of this engrossing subject). I did not see an actual list of the specific indictments the Israel police made against him, so I have no comments related to that matter (aside from saying that I disagree with his paleographic analysis of the Jehoash tablet, but I'll elaborate on that subject when I post details on his own website where he has invited comments from his readers). As with any criminal case, I hope that justice is served, & that anybody convicted of a crime gets his/her just reward.

At this point, I am confident that all LMLK stamps are genuine. The only one that I know of that is fake (which I do not have photos of & have never seen in person) was described to me as a genuine ancient handle with a genuine 2-winged LMLK stamp (a typically very poor, weak one), but somebody artificially engraved an exceptionally perfect 2-line Personal stamp near it to increase its value (similar to the charges made against the ivory pomegranate & James ossuary). According to the anonymous dealer who refused to buy it from the unreliable person attempting to sell it, it was an obvious forgery. Only one other anonymous dealer has told me to beware of some genuine LMLK handles that had been tampered with in a similar manner. Every antiquities dealer I've ever spoken with has told me they've never seen a totally fake LMLK handle on the market. Note that I, myself, am the only person selling fake LMLK handles at the LMLK Dotcom shop--plastic replicas that look terrific, but I would feel very sorry for anybody who couldn't tell the difference between soft plastic & vitrified pottery! But since I don't want to even take a chance on somebody not knowing the difference, I write "" on the back of them in indelible ink. If only all fakes were so easy to discern!

It's very unlikely that any of the LMLK handles are fake because it would require a great deal of work/effort/risk for someone to manufacture a complete, large storage jar (a tremendous task in itself considering the kiln size required), then apply a fake patina to the jar, then smash it, then apply a secondary fake patina to the handles, & then market only its handles for only a few hundred dollars each at the most. And on top of all that, hope that watchdogs like Michael Welch & I (who scrutinize every aspect of every handle that crosses our paths) don't discover any errors or suspicious characteristics. Considering that there are only about a thousand unprovenanced LMLK handles in the world, this has not been a profitable commodity. It is much more profitable to manufacture fake coins by the tens of thousands, & cuneiform tablets & Egyptian ushabtis by the tens of thousands; I'm sure it is much more convenient for opportunists to find genuine artifacts littering the territory of ancient Judah & pawn them for some quick cash.

The present indictments involve the painstaking forgeries of only the rarest, unique types of artifacts such as the ossuary, tablet, pomegranate, seal jewels, bullae, & possibly some inked ostraca--each worth tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for tremendous profit. If any of the unprovenanced LMLK handles are completely fake, then all unprovenanced artifacts are fake. And if that were the case, then why all the uproar over ancient sites being looted? If anyone is guilty, it is the government of Israel for not protecting its sites from looters, or for not establishing a sensible policy of allowing/encouraging finders to report their finds so they can be properly documented & sold for profit to benefit the finder & taxed to benefit the government. But how can Israel justify spending the resources to do that while they are busy defending themselves from Arab/Palestinian/Muslim terrorists?

Though I can't prove scientifically the authenticity of any artifacts I own, I can give one example of why I believe that the most valuable handle in my Redondo Beach collection is authentic. It is the famous double-stamped M4L whose inscription is featured on the cover of my LMLK book & the splash page of LMLK Dotcom (also published in BAR magazine, Jan/Feb 2004, vol. 30 #1, p. 62). When I acquired it in February of 2003, only one other indisputable M4L had been published--the famous one excavated at Lachish in the 1930s published by Diringer in 1941 (presently kept at the British Museum). That stamp was weak in the bottom-left register, yet mine was stamped very deep displaying an oddly-placed divider dot. Very suspicious. I thought it was strange that the ancient engraver would place it there since the dots on other LMLK seals appear more to the left of the final letter. When I visited the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology (UPMA) in May of 2003, I searched through James Pritchard's field notes to see if he had made a drawing of a second rare M4C (not M4L) retained by Amman following his excavations at Gibeon; I was hoping to find additional details on this, the most rare of all LMLK seals. The UPMA archivist told me not to get my hopes up because Pritchard's records were not very good, & the curator had told me that the handles were not locatable in the Amman museum. Yet lo & behold, I found not only his original drawings but photos of the stamps retained in Amman & lost in transit to the U.S. Imagine my elation & the huge smile across my face when for the first time since the 1950s I beheld, not another M4C, but an M4L showing the same huge divider dot in the exact same place as on my specimen! Pritchard had made a mistake in his famous 1959 publication, "Hebrew Inscriptions & Stamps from Gibeon", that nobody else was aware of for half a century! The IAA-licensed antiquities dealer who had sold my suspicious-looking M4L handle to me half a year earlier: Robert Deutsch.




6) Royal stempels for sale

Speaking of rare things from half a century ago (the 100th anniversary of Warren's original 1868-9 LMLK discovery to be more precise), I recently acquired several copies of Peter Welten's famous German book, "Die Königs-Stempel" ("The King's Stamps")--the first book devoted exclusively to the LMLK subject. I had thought they were out of print, but found out that less than 10 copies remain, & they are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the LMLK Dotcom shop for those of who can read German, or would just like to have one to supplement your LMLK collection:


7) Royal postage stamps

Hey to all my correspondents in Israel--especially those of you over the age of 57--why didn't any of you tell me that the LMLK seals were featured by the Israel Postal Authority for the first Rosh Hashanah of statehood??? Shame on you!!! Collector Herb Stearns turned me on to this wonderful little facet of LMLK history for which I am grateful & excited! I added a page for the Research website replete with details:

And I'll soon be adding specimens of various quality & configurations to the LMLK Dotcom Shop for collectors to purchase after I stock up--let me know if you want to be notified when they're available (I ordered samples from 3 online dealers a week ago hoping to be ready for MLK day, but unfortunately none of them have arrived yet). Or I'm sure some of you will raid your nearest neighborhood philatelic dealer...


8) Royal Internet tools:

Here's a site that allows you to monitor any page on the Web, & it'll send you an E-mail when it changes. I'd recommend setting it to the LMLK Updates page!


Here's a site that began taking snapshots of web pages a few years ago, & now it has a catalog of more than 10 billion sites! The feature is called "The Wayback Machine", & it will allow you to view the LMLK Research Website as far back as the summer of 2002 even while it was located on my AT&T domain before I purchased the URL:


Happy MLK day!
G.M. Grena

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