I've looked at the photographs really carefully. The name Jonah is simply not there. It's really ridiculous. They are etchings that are part of the amphora. There are no letters.I am not an epigrapher myself and so have to defer to experts like Rollston, but I would add that what he says here strikes me as self-evidently the case. There are so many lines in question here that one could make them spell all sorts of things. I might just as plausibly see YONAH written in the lines on the palm of my hand.
But there is another issue relating to this "breaking news" item. In order to get "YONAH" spelt out in the "head" of the "fish", the "letters" have to be distinguished from "the stick figure". In James Tabor's post on the topic, he shows three pictures, the first a photograph, the second a coloured inking-in of the "stick figure" and the third a coloured-inking in of "YONAH".
There is a problem here. Take a look at the stick figure in the new picture:
|"Stick figure", new version, Taborblog|
|"Stick figure", original version (cropped), Taborblog|
It can be difficult to focus on these pictures given their orientation, so I have rotated them 180 degrees and placed them side by side for the purposes of comparison:
|The changing lines of the stick man Jonah (left: original; right: new version)|
In the new version, he looks a bit more like a three-legged man with one arm. Now the non-connecting left arm is no longer part of the man, and a new front right leg has been added, oddly enough also part of what James Tabor and James Charlesworth claim also to be the letter Hey (H), seen in blue on the original image.
If it is so difficult to decide which of the random lines constitute the "stick figure" of Jonah, it is surely time to acknowledge that this is not a stick figure at all, not of Jonah, not of anyone else, still less a "stick figure . . . ingeniously made into the name as well" (Tabor).
This might be the weakest element in the story so far, a story that is already beset with problems. I may have to revise my Top Ten.
Thanks again to Stephen Goranson for pointing this out. For more on the problems over the attempt to read "YONAH" in the head of the vessel, see Jim Davila on Paleojudaica, Antonio Lombatti and Robert Cargill (who finds Yo Yo Ma!).
Update (20.45): See now two excellent posts on the topic from Steve Caruso, "Yonah" ON the Ossuary? - No. Simply: No. and Jonah Inscription Problems & Other "Possibilities".
Update (17 May): See now Jason Staples, Stick Man Jonah More Unprecedented Than Previously Realized (includes comments from Simcha Jacobovici).