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27 March 2004
First Temple relic may be forged

Investigators for the Israel Antiquities Authority have been informed that a precious Ivory Pomegranate, on display at the Israel Museum since 1988, is a forgery. On the basis of an inscription it had been dated from the period of the First Temple, 10th century BCE. However, it is information on the origin of the inscription that has raised doubts about the authenticity of the item. The Antiquities Authority refused to reveal the origins and nature of the information it holds.
     The inscription, completed by archaeologists, is translated as "Belonging to the Temp[le of Yahweh, holy to the priests." The expert who confirmed the authenticity of the inscription is Andre Lemaire, who also recently asserted the authenticity of the "James Ossuary" - which proved to have been a forgery.
     The Ivory Pomegranate was bought in 1988 for $600,000 from a contribution made by a Swiss donor. The sum spent and the circumstances of the find resulted in severe criticism, rejected by the museum that argued that the find is unique.
     Current director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Shuka Dorfman, asked the Israel Museum recently to deliver the item for examinations by experts of the Antiquities Authority. Sources at the Israel Museum expressed confidence in the item's authenticity. The Pomegranate is the final and most important of a number of items whose authenticity is doubted by the Antiquities Authority.
     According to the investigators, for the past 15 years a group of forgers has been identified as running a "factory" for forgeries. Amir Ginor, head of the Theft Prevention team at the Antiquities Authority, say that the forgeries were systematic.

Source: Haaretz.com (26 March 2004)

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