60 Minutes has produced a piece about forgery of antiquities in Israel, focusing on the famous “James Ossuary.” The show casts doubt on the authority of all antiquities which are not discovered in archaeological digs. They reach the scholarly world through private collectors who buy them from looters. These types of artifacts are known as unprovenanced finds, and scholars disagree about whether to study and publish them.
The 60 Minute video along with a critique are at the BiblePlaces Blog. Todd Bolen defends the authenticity of the James Ossuary and objects to what he calls “a glimpse of the prosecution’s case rather than an even-handed treatment. ”
A discussion of the debate on unprovenanced finds is in Biblical Archaeology Review 33:01, Jan/Feb 2007. For more information on the James Ossuary controversy, see Real or Fake? on the Biblical Archaeology Society website.
UPDATE: The Discovery Channel in Canada has named the James Ossuary as one of the top ten science hoaxes of all times.