Saturday, March 17, 2012

Questioning the Identity of Ossuary 4 in Talpiot Tomb B

When looking at pictures of the photographs of the Talpiot Tomb B ossuaries, I found a number of anomalies.  I wrote these up in the form of questions in a post headed Anomalies in the Talpiot Tomb B Photographs.  The difficulty with that post is that it was over-technical, over-detailed and un-illustrated.  So I decided to focus on just one of the issues, the question of the identity of ossuary 5, and was able to demonstrate successfully that the photograph below, found in Tabor's Preliminary Report, p. 37, fig. 7, was actually of ossuary 4 (now corrected in that report, though without acknowledgement).  I would now like to move on to a related issue, the question of the correlation between these 2011 photographs and the 1981 photographs from the initial Amos Kloner investigation.

Take a look again at the photograph of the inside of Ossuary 4, below.  I have highlighted a crack in the top right hand corner:

Inside Ossuary 4, kokh 2, 2011, Preliminary Report, p. 32, fig. 7, annotated to draw attention to the crack at the back of the ossuary.

Now, according to James Tabor, this ossuary is the same one that was photographed in 1981.  He explains (Preliminary Report, 14) that:
This ossuary is in its original position. It is ornamented but due to its distance in the niche and its closeness to the wall we were not able to examine its façade closely. Its far end has a name inscribed in Greek but unfortunately even our snake camera probe could not reach far enough inside the niche to shoot back at that end and get a clear wide shot of the letters. All we have is the 1981 enhanced photo in which the Greek letters are faintly visible but remain undeciphered.
 It is featured on the right in the picture below:

"1981 Photo of Ossuary 4 (right) with faint inscription in Greek", Jesus Discovery Website

In this picture, the façade is facing to the left, towards ossuary 5.  The panel with the faint inscription is facing towards us.  Although the ossuary is apparently in its original location in kokh 2, it is clearly not "in its original position".  If this is the same ossuary, it is now switched around, with the façade facing the wall and the inscription panel on the far side.  Now, if this is the case, then we have an anomaly.  Look again at the photograph above that is taken inside ossuary 4.  There is a crack at the back, on the top right.  The same area in the 1981 photograph ought to be the top left as we look at it now, but there is no crack:

1981 Photo of Ossuary 4 (right), top left highlighted to the lack of a crack

There are two possibilities here.  It could be that the crack was caused in 1981, but this seems unlikely given that only "scratches" are mentioned (Preliminary Report, 5) and not major damage.  It seems more likely that we are not looking at the same ossuary.

There is a related question.  Ossuary 4 is described in the Complete Findings as "Plain (Not fully explored)", which conflicts with the idea that it is "ornamented" ("Preliminary Report", 14).  If the 1981 photo above is of Ossuary 4, there is no question that it is ornamented.  Here is the detail of the façade as we see it above:

Close-up of ornamented facade on ossuary 4 (1981)

In summary, there are conflicts between ossuary 4 as it is apparently represented in the picture from 1981 and as it is represented in the recent investigations.  In one it has a big crack and in the other it does not.  And while it is described as "plain" in one place, it is described as "ornamented" in another.

I am grateful also to David Meadows for useful discussion of the issues here -- see his Pinterest page on this topic.


James D. Tabor said...

Mark, thanks for you continued diligence in these comparisons. Forgive me as I thought I had acknowledged your help in correcting my mistaken identification of the inside 'bones" shot of present ossuary 4. When we publish our final report, first on my blog, and then in an academic journal, we will surely give you credit, and anyone else who has assisted in your input on these matters, which is greatly appreciated. Our attempts to identify and match up the ossuaries with their present positions is not without difficulty and there are cases where we are not certain. Based on the e-mail I shared with you from our GE camera man I had confidently identified the inside shot as the one presently numbered ossuary 4. I think that is still the case, but you are correct, the person working on the chart giving "complete" findings put "plain" when our report, correctly, puts it as ornamented. As for the crack, it is entirely possible it was done in 1981 when the ossuaries were moved about, first by the IAA team, and later by the religious who apparently put them back in the niches. I think I mentioned to you various damage we observed including heavy crowbar chips on the edges of some of the ossuaries and so forth. When ossuaries are lifted and moved they can often crack. I have seen it happened twice at the Bet Shemesh warehouse even in the hands of the workers there who are quite skilled at handling them. In one case an entire ossuary imploded, as if by magic, just by lifting it up off a table. On the other hand. The main reason we concluded the inscribed ossuary was #4 today was because it was the only one we could not get to to film the far end--and we dearly wanted to get that inscription. We could be wrong but I don't think so. I welcome any further input you have. Many thanks...

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks, James, for your helpful comments. I look forward to the final report in due course. Cheers, Mark