Saturday, May 20, 2006

Royal Trash of King Joash

The big news this week was that a report by a highly respected professor of Geomicrobiology (Wolfgang E. Krumbein) argued that the royal inscription commemorating repairs made to Solomon's Temple by King Joash (a.k.a., the Joash tablet) was inscribed "several/many decades or centuries ago." Furthermore, Carbon-14 tests dated the microscopic gold balls to "ancient origin". According to the report, "There is no known technology that enables the manufacture of microscopic gold globules & their insertion of the globules & carbon particles into patina (either ancient or recent)."

Back on March 12, 2005, I made a web page showing & comparing all the letters on the tablet to paleographic statements made by Robert Deutsch in January of 2003. We both agree that the inscription was probably forged, but arrive at that belief for different reasons.

Here's what I wrote:

Out of 200 letters analyzed, the overwhelming majority are normal/typical. No ancient inscription with a large quantity of letters like this was perfect--they were written by hand using a chisel or scribing device on a rough surface, so we should expect a few anomalies. When considering whether an ancient inscription is authentic, one could argue that it is so well executed that it must have been copied in modern times based on an ancient prototype; or one could argue that it is so well executed that it must be ancient & authentic. We know for a fact that this ancient alphabetic script varied as it evolved over the centuries; however, at some points in time, individuals may have made mistakes or developed unique penmanship that eventually became normal. So one could adopt a counter position when studying paleography & believe that anomalies indicate forgeries, or anomalies indicate authentic ancient inscriptions--for example, it would seem nonsensical for a forger to market an obvious error after spending so much time doing the necessary research to forge such a large, complicated inscription.

Having said all of that, the inscription on this Joash tablet appears to be a modern forgery. The surface reportedly contained microscopic bits of gold; if it were in the real Temple, it would have been scribed with greater care. An expert scribe would have been employed for such an important project, & that person would have done a better job of laying out the text on a practice surface, then scribed it on the real tablet from right to left properly spaced & sized. Here are some specific spacing anomalies:

* There is no reason for the first Zayin in the first line to be so narrow, & the Shin in the third line to be so wide.

* The letters in the last line appear crowded.

* The letters on the right side of the last line migrate upward to avoid the fracture, which indicates it was scribed by a forger from left to right on the fragmented tablet rather than right to left on a complete tablet in ancient times.

Furthermore, the second Qof (7th line from top, 2nd letter from the right) was obviously written over the fissure, & a fractured tablet would not have been chosen to carry the important message this forgery purports to preserve.

Finally, the microscopic gold contributes to the authentic appearance, but the real Temple would have been more carefully stripped of its gold prior to its destruction by the ancient Babylonians.

Song of the week: "Shiny Disco Balls" by Who Da Funk (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 24-second sample; 299kb).
G.M. Grena

No comments: