A Committee of One: Yuval Goren
Full disclosure: Yuval Goren has accused the BAR editor of having a “pivotal role” in fraud and the forgery. For the text of Goren’s accusation, see the January/February 2009 BAR.
In September 2004 a committee was appointed jointly, according to the committee report, by “the director of the Israel Museum and the Israel Antiquities Authority [IAA]” to consider the authenticity of the Ivory Pomegranate Inscription.
According to the report, the committee unanimously found the inscription to be a forgery.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that one member of the committee, Professor Yuval Goren, found the inscription to be a forgery.
First of all, it was not a joint committee. According to the Israel Museum curator supposedly on the committee, Michal Dayagi-Mendels, the purported “joint committee” was “determined and led” by the IAA.
Next, Dayagi-Mendels was not really a member of the committee. She was only there “as an observer,” she reports. Yet she is listed in the report as a member.
Dayagi-Mendels is also listed as one of the authors of the committee report published in the Israel Exploration Journal1. She now states that “my name was added without my knowledge.” And she “did not participate in writing the article.”
Moreover, only Goren had any expertise in looking through a microscope to detect forgeries. The only two members who were epigraphists (Shmuel Ahituv and Aaron Demsky) had barely looked through a microscope before, and surely never to attempt to detect a forgery. The other “members” of the “committee” were even further afield from the expertise required to detect a forgery by examining letters through a microscope.
Goren was in fact an old hand at “creating” a committee. He had previously led the IAA committee that found the James Ossuary Inscription (“James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”) to be a forgery. Several members of this “committee” did not express themselves regarding the inscription’s authenticity, but they were counted in the “unanimous” committee decision. Others either found original patina in some of the letters or said they were “forced” to change their mind regarding authenticity based on Yuval Goren’s scientific expertise.
In fact, the decision that the James Ossuary Inscription is a forgery is based on an oxygen isotope study that was analyzed by Yuval Goren (and performed by Avner Ayalon) but in which no one else on the committee had any expertise whatever. When analyzed by other experts, Goren’s oxygen isotope test (never before used for this purpose) turned out to be badly flawed.
One final point: In the report of the BAR meeting at the Israel Museum in May 2007, those attending (on both sides of the issue) devoted themselves to the partial letters of the inscription that either stop before an ancient break (proving forgery) or go into the break (proving authenticity).Only three letters are determinative. In their report, the “Israel Museum/IAA committee members admit that as to one of the letters, they were mistaken: they now admit that it does go into the break.” As for the second letter, “it is difficult to tell.” The third letter (a heh) they simply ignore! They just don’t discuss it, and yet it is the critical letter.
Will someone ask Yuval Goren why he ignored the heh? Why did he fail to discuss it? Does he now admit it goes into the break?
1 Yuval Goren, Shmuel Avituv, Avner Ayalon, Miyam Bar-Matthews, Uzi Dahari, Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Aaron Demsky, Nadav Levin, “A Re-Examination of the Inscribed Ivory Pomegranate from the Israel Museum,” Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 55, p.3 (2005)
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