Talpiyot B / Patio Tomb Roundup ~ The Final Nails in the Ossuary(ies)

Folks might recall our previous post on the contentious claims being made by Dr James Tabor and Professor Simcha Jacobovici in regards to their research at a tomb in Jerusalem which they claim contains the earliest evidence of Christianity, and possibly is connected to some of Jesus’ disciples (The “Patio Tomb” … Evidence of Early Christianity? I Hae Me Doots (A Classics Perspective) ). I’ll direct folks to that post to see how the story was spun by the press, but the conversation/discussion continued on various fronts over the past weeks and I think the claims have been thoroughly discredited. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to put together a ‘one-stop-shopping’ type roundup of all the various scholarly opinions that have weighed in, especially seeing that the book on this tomb has just come out and there is an impending Discovery documentary. When the latter comes out, without a doubt, folks will be hitting the internet looking for ‘the real story’ and hopefully what follows will help guide their opinions.

At the outset, I think it is important for folks to know that I am retracting my own reading of the “Messanic” inscription on Ossuary 4. I was working from the early photos of the inscription and, while I still like the idea of a ‘pagan’ couple named Gaius and Julia in a Jewish tomb, other photos — which are much more clear but haven’t been made available to the general public — demonstrate that my reading clearly cannot stand. The photos that are available as part of the press kit at The Jesus Discovery site continue to be somewhat low quality (alas, see, e.g., here, here, here, and here), but contact with other scholars who are privy to such things have shown definitively, e.g., that the first line is definitely ΔΙΟΣ, among other things (this aspect of the story is probably still developing).

And so, on to the roundup … in what follows I’m linking to professional scholars (i.e. they have degrees in a relevant discipline and are actively engaged in teaching and/or research) ; if a link has (JT) or (SJ) following it, it is an indication that James Tabor or Simcha Jacobovici have responded to the blog in its comments section. (Comments) indicates that there are valuable comments by other scholars that are worth reading as well. Again, I strongly encourage folks to spend some time reading the (now revised) version of James Tabor’s paper on the site which is up at Bible and Interpretation

Other views on the inscription:

… at this point, we should reiterate that this “messianic” inscription is on Ossuary 5 but there are serious problems with the identification of the various ossuaries (especially 4 and 5) when the available photos are examined closely. In this regard, I decided to make this problem my initial foray into Pinterest, and direct folks there to see the problems. Mark Goodacre blogged on the same subject and definitely should be read in conjunction therewith:

Turning now to the more contentious issue, namely, the so-called Jonah image, things have definitely taken some strange turns. After several folks had pointed out the image in the newspapers had been rotated to predispose the public to see it as a fish spewing out a man, several reasonable alternative suggestions were made:

Other comments on the ‘fish':

… but in regards to the Jonah image, as time went on it became very clear that rotating the image to predispose viewers to see a fish; CGI enhancement (and possibly photoshopping) of key images began to rear their ugly heads. Robert Cargill led the way on this one, which resulted in ‘unenhanced’ photos appearing in the press kit:

… after the ‘corrected’ images were added to the press kit, other items began to appear:

… and Robert Cargill pounded the final nail into the ossuary (I believe) with a post just the other day:

… which, interestingly enough, resulted (it appeared) in all sorts of photos disappearing and reappearing from the press kit. Steve Caruso was/is all over that:

That said, as can be seen from the above, Dr Tabor has been actively trying to defend his views with the various scholars. In the interest of balance, we should also make readers aware of things he posted on his own blog or at the ASOR blog:

Miscellanea (Other blog posts which are useful):

… also worth a read:

Other Roundups (which include items I have not):

… that should be satis superque to debunk this one. I may add items to this page over the next few days if it seems worthwhile.


Dorothy King’s latest project is called “Lootbusters” and is an online photographic catalog of sorts of items purloined from museums (Greek, Roman, and Egyptian) and Greek and Roman items suspected to have been looted. It’s clearly a work-in-progress (and, given the nature of the antiquities trade, always will be), and is definitely worth checking out every now and then … especially at auction time and/or after that session on eBay:

CONF: Sport and competition in Greece and Rome

Seen on the Classicists list:

Where: British Museum
When: 14-15 June 2012
Laura Ambrosini – ISCIMA
Filippo Canali De Rossi – Liceo Classico Dante Alighieri, Rome
Chris Carey – UCL
Hazel Dodge – Trinity College Dublin
Mark Golden – University of Winnipeg
Ian Jenkins – British Museum
Jason König – University of St Andrews
Leslie Kurke – University of California, Berkeley
Vivienne Lo – UCL
Zahra Newby – University of Warwick
Robin Osborne – University of Cambridge
Olga Palagia – University of Athens
Alan Peatfield – University College Dublin
Chris Pelling – Oxford University
Otto Schantz – University of Koblenz
Reinhard Senff – Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Athens
Judith Swaddling – British Museum
Oliver Taplin – Oxford University
Hans Van Wees – UCL

Book now to beat the rush.

Online booking via

A flyer is available at:

Messages to the list are archived at http://listserv.liv.ac.uk/archives/classicists.html

Metope of the Annunciation

The incipit of an item in the Greek Reporter:

The 32nd metope of the Annunciation, that has been removed from the Parthenon temple atop the Athens Acropolis for conservation, will be exhibited at the Acropolis Museum of Athens on the 25th of March.

The 32nd metope from the southwestern side of the Parthenon, a Classical Era temple dedicated to the mythical goddess Athena, is known as the metope of the Annunciation because it was thought to resemble the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary and it is the first time that it is being exhibited at the Acropolis museum.

On the 25th of March, the Acropolis Museum will be open to the public from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., while the Athens Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at 17:00 on the ground floor of the museum. [...]

Always something to learn: I had never know this metope was sometimes referred to as the Metope of the Annunciation. The Greek Reporter piece has a small photo of it but here’s a cast of it via the Beazley Archive to give you an idea:

John Allemang’s Career Path

The incipit of a feature in Trinity College Magazine … always fun to read about a Canadian who studied Classics and had subsequent success (he currently is with the Globe and Mail, I believe):

John Allemang ’74 is a journalist, rather than someone for whom journalism is a job. His newsroom experiences date back to the days of newsmen smoking at their desks, filing stories by phone and couriering a cockroach from bureau to bureau in a cassette-tape case on a “Tour of the Bureaus,” making light of the travels of a managing editor.

Allemang is not the guy who produces follow-the-formula stories; he listens to his editors and works with them, but he lets his stories speak for themselves, rather than allowing editorial edict to dictate. Like so many writerly quirks, his intuitive independence likely stems from his upbringing. The eldest of four, he was often left to his own devices, enjoying a childhood spent exploring local drainage ditches, breaking bones and, according to one oft-quoted report card, doing his classmates’ work for them.

He attended University of Toronto Schools – where he excelled and flailed academically, dominated at sports from hockey to gymnastics, took dubious hitchhiking trips across North America in the summers, and cut class to go look at art and hear poetry.

He went on to Trinity, completing a specialty degree in Classics. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship (much to his surprise) and left for Oxford, where he studied Classics at Wadham College. While there, he sated a hunger for gastronomic knowledge.

“I spent a lot of free time in Soho studying the markets, stores, bakeries, dim sum restaurants, cafés,” he recalls. He would buy ingredients, like a pig’s head, and figure out what to do with them, turning his flat into a makeshift rendering plant.

And in those batches of DIY head cheese lie journalistic origins: Allemang began filing reports to The Good Food Guide, a British publication he describes as “a more literate pre-Zagat amalgam of people’s real dining experiences channelled through an intellectually sophisticated, allusive editorial sensibility.”

Following Oxford, he applied to the Canadian diplomatic services but was notified of a hiring freeze. He briefly considered a career as a hockey player in rural France, but chose to enter U of T’s law school instead, which he soon decided wasn’t for him. Eventually, he came back to writing. He contacted two publications, hoping they would hire him to write about food. [...]

This Day in Ancient History: pridie idus martias

pridie idus martias

  • Festival of Mars (day 14)
  • Equirria — the second of two days of horse racing (the first was on February 27) dedicated to Mars; the reasons are obscure, but probably have something to do with preparing horses for the upcoming campaigning season
  • 222 A.D. — Severus Alexander is given the title Augustus