Archaeology

Papyrus with earliest Hebrew mention of Jerusalem likely fake

Scholars are questioning the authenticity of what the Israel Antiquities Authority says is a 2,800-year-old papyrus document bearing the word “Jerusalem” in Hebrew. The papyrus was found 4 years ago while pursuing antiquities thieves in the Judean Desert and dates to the seventh century BC, according to the antiquities authority. That would make it the earliest known mention of Jerusalem in Hebrew outside the Bible. The fragment appears to be a document concerning a wine shipment from Na’arat, in the Jordan Valley, to the king in Jerusalem.

It’s not certain where the thieves found the document, though it appears to have come from a cave along the Hever Stream in the Judean Desert. Archaeologists are usually wary of any finds not discovered in a supervised dig. But in this case, the scholars who studied it – Prof. Shmuel Ahituv of the Hebrew University and Dr. Eitan Klein and Amir Ganor of the antiquities authority – are convinced that it is authentic. Carbon-14 dating showed that the papyrus was made 2,500 to 2,800 years ago, and an epigraphic examination concluded the letters are typical of the Hebrew writing of the seventh century BC.

However, archaeologist Prof. Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan cast doubt on the document’s authenticity, saying there were too many unanswered questions about the papyrus. Prof. Christopher Rollston of George Washington University also voiced skepticism, writing on his blog that he believed the document was a forgery.

Disputed Maya manuscript turns out to be the real deal

A mysterious and long-disputed document purported to be America’s oldest surviving manuscript is genuine.

That’s the conclusion of a new review of research on the Grolier Codex, a fragmentary 13th Century Maya text whose unlikely provenance ― it was reportedly found by looters in a Mexican cave in the 1960s ― had led some to conclude that it was likely a forgery.

“With this review, which examines information that a forger in the early 1960s could not possibly have known, it becomes crystal clear that this is the earliest surviving book in the New World,” Dr. Stephen Houston, a Brown University archaeologist and a member of the team that conducted the review.

As described recently in a paper published in Maya Archaeology, the team reached their conclusion after an exhaustive analysis of existing research on the codex (the term is used to describe a manuscript in book form).

Stolen artefacts stashed by British art dealer are returned to Italy

Italian and Swiss police have recovered priceless archaeological artefacts stolen from Italy and stored by a notorious British antiquities dealer, Italy’s culture ministry has said.

The haul, worth €9m (£7.1m), was discovered in 2014 in a storage unit at the Geneva Freeport warehouse complex in Switzerland rented by the disgraced art dealer Robin Symes, a giant in the illegal antiquities trade with ties to Italian tomb raiders.