Sins of Commission and Omission: Digitally Generated Marginal ‘Fishes’ and Overlooked Handles on the So-called ‘Jonah Ossuary’

“Men are often unjust by omissions, as well as by commissions.”

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.5.1


“For the record, I am not an archaeologist, nor am I an academic.”

- Simcha Jacobovici, “The Nails of the Cross: A Response to the
Criticisms of the Film,” jamestabor.com, June 22, 2011, p. 45.


Introduction

Marcus Aurelius suggested that there are two kinds of sins: those committed by commission, and those committed by omission.

And while the word “sin” connotes a religious wrongdoing and would therefore be inappropriate for an academic discussion of archaeology and the Digital Humanities, the underlying paradigm is unfortunately still quite apropos. Put simply: there are alterations that can be committed to evidence to enhance and promote certain otherwise unlikely interpretations of the data, and there are other instances where pieces of evidence are conveniently omitted when they detract from the interpretation being promoted by a particular scholar.

Unfortunately, recent examination of additional photos released to the public in support of Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. James Tabor’s alleged recent discovery of a “Jonah” ossuary suggests that the pair (and/or their artists) may be responsible for both additional manipulations of the evidence, and the omission of obvious evidence that does not support their claims.

I and others have detailed the various problems with the imagery released to the public by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor in support of their recently released book, The Jesus Discovery. Specifically, I have documented evidence of digital image manipulation on the primary image fed to the public (that also happens to serve as the pair’s website header logo) that has been variously described as a simple “blow up,” (Fig. 21, pg. 42 of Dr. Tabor’s original Bible and Interpretation article) then a “composite representation” (Fig. 26, pg. 86 of The Jesus Discovery), and then a “CGI enhanced” image, and finally acknowledged as a “computer enhanced” image on the pair’s website.

I suggest a more appropriate way to refer to this particular image is as a heavily Photoshopped, out of context, borderless, “computer enhanced”, resized, reshaped, color corrected, “CGI” digital artist’s rendering of the image, rotated out of its in situ orientation, complete with fake, limestone-colored “engraver’s marks” added to the area surrounding the image to give the illusion that the image is real, and with a completely reshaped, digitally generated tail designed to encourage its interpretation as a fish. We can let the readers decide if that image is simply “computer enhanced” or, as I suggest, wholly reconstructed.

I thought it ended there.

Unfortunately, my colleague Thomas Verenna recently drew my attention to yet another problem with yet another one of the images that Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor have offered to the public in support of their claim. This time, in addition to using Photoshop to “digitally enhance” an image to make it better support their claim, there is also reason to believe that the pair has omitted evidence that demonstrates that their proposed “Jonah fish” is nothing more than a poorly inscribed attempt by an ancient artist at an ornate vessel – complete with handles – that are otherwise common to ossuaries of that period.

Let us begin with problems arising with the commission of digital manipulation.


Problems of Commission

There are two major problems with the image below (from thejesusdiscovery.org, Image 16, captioned “Fish in the margins”): one of omission and one of commission.

[UPDATE: Since I published this article on Mar 13, 2012 at 11:49am Central Daylight Time, the thejesusdiscovery.org website has removed the doctored image below. To fix the missing image in this article resulting from its deletion, I have replaced it here with the copy of the image I downloaded from the publicly accessible "Press Kit Photos and Graphics" section. However, I have left the original URL of the removed image in the caption for reference. ]

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins".

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins". Note the spotlighted areas have had artificial ink added to the engraved lines to enhance their interpretation as fishes. (available from: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1)

Let us first address the evidence of commission, specifically, evidence of digital manipulation to the above image to encourage an interpretation of images as fish.

The photo below is the “Fish in the margins” image, which has been cropped to remove the heading, and which has had the “brightness” increased a level of 52 and the “contrast” increased a level of 92. Increasing the brightness and contrast makes dark images easier to see, and increasing the contrast makes different elements on the image stand out against one another.

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16) Note Ossuary 5 on the right is pressed up against the so-called "Jonah Ossuary" (Ossuary 6).

The first thing one notices in the above image put forth by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor is that the image has obviously been digitally “spotlighted,” or enhanced in such a way so as to brighten and draw attention to certain objects in the image.

While the addition of a Photoshop “spotlight” filter is technically a digital alteration to the otherwise untouched digital photograph, if the image experienced only digital highlighting, which is easily recognized as an artificial enhancement to the image for the purposes of focusing attention upon certain areas without otherwise making changes to the integrity of the digital data preserved in the image, this “spotlighting” does not really rise to the level of “data manipulation.”

Unfortunately, this simple “spotlighting” is not the only manipulation made to the image, and the additional alterations that have been made to the photograph appear designed to create the illusion that there are “fish swimming” in the margins of the photo (hence the image’s title, “Fish in the margins”), with the hopes of thereby enhancing the authors’ claim that the image just beneath the “spotlighted” border is a fish and not a vessel of some sort.

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. Time image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital 'ink' added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. The image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital "ink" added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

The causal observer may miss the more cleverly disguised alterations to this image. However, a closer examination of the above image reveals that the “Fish in the margins” image has been digitally “inked” using a Photoshop “pencil” or “brush” tool. That is, a careful look at the three proposed “fishes” betrays the fact that each of the engraved circles spotlighted above has had small digital pixels of color added to the grooves of the image to “enhance” the natural lines apparent in the photograph. This digital “ink” is not easily noticed because the color of the line has been carefully chosen to resemble closely the color of the surrounding engraved lines, perhaps in an effort to make the artificial “ink” added to the engraved lines look more natural. This digital “ink” was applied rather well in my opinion by the digital artist altering the image, as I did not notice it at first glance. Then again, there was no reason to suspect that the image had been doctored, as there is no indication whatsoever on the image or in its caption stating that the image has been digitally “enhanced,” “altered,” “inked,” or manipulated in any way other than the obvious spotlighting. Rather, it was only after a close-up examination of the high-resolution image that I noticed the naturally colored, but quite artificial digital “ink” in the engraved area.

Had that been the extent of the image manipulation, one might be able to dismiss it as simple “enhancement” for highlighting purposes. Unfortunately, there is a still greater problem with the digital “inking” alteration: the digital ink does not align with the engraved lines. That is, the artificial digital “ink” added to the photograph extends well beyond the engraved lines. This may have been done to foster the illusion of the presence of fishes (akin to the so-called “Jesus fish” one finds on the back of a vehicle) in the border, thereby encouraging, by similarity and multiplicity of the images, the interpretation of the larger image just below as also a fish.

Unfortunately, one quickly notices from a different photo, entitled “Fish in the margins detail,” offered to the public by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor that the actual engraved lines comprising this so-called “fish” in fact do not overlap.

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally 'inked' the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally "inked" the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

The image above (which has also experienced an artificial Photoshop “spotlight” filter) does not possess the digital “ink” present in the “Fish in the margins” image.

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally 'inked' the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally "inked" the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

A closer examination of this “Fish in the margins detail” image (above) reveals that the engraved lines of the supposed “fish” closest to Ossuary 5, in fact, do not overlap, and therefore do not form a little “Jesus fish” shape.

If we place these two images side-by-side, we can see the alterations that have been made to the “Fish in the margins” image.

The "Fish in the margins detail" image (left) and the "Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website demonstrate that the digital enhancements to the "Fish in the margins" image include artificial digitally "inked" lines colored to look like naturally engraved limestone lines that do not correspond to the engraved lines on the ossuary. The digital "ink" extends well beyond the engraved lines of the actual image, which do NOT overlap. This means that the image was digitally altered to generate the illusion of small "fishes swimming" around the edges of the ossuary, perhaps to support the illusion that the image just beneath them is a "fish" and not some sort of vessel.

The "Fish in the margins detail" image (left) and the "Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website demonstrate that the digital enhancements to the "Fish in the margins" image include artificial digitally "inked" lines colored to look like naturally engraved limestone lines that do not correspond to the engraved lines on the ossuary. The digital "ink" extends well beyond the engraved lines of the actual image, which do NOT overlap. This means that the image was digitally altered to generate the illusion of small "fishes swimming" around the edges of the ossuary, perhaps to support the illusion that the image just beneath them is a "fish" and not some sort of vessel.

The “Fish in the margins detail” image (on the left) clearly demonstrates that the engraved lines do not overlap. The engraved line forms an incomplete oval, with its opening on the lower left side. However, the digital “ink” in the “Fish in the margins” photo is drawn (quite remarkably!) in such a way so as to suggest that the engraved lines actually do overlap, forming a “Jesus fish” image. Let us look again closely at the digitally “inked” “Fish in the margins” image:

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. Time image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital 'ink' added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. Time image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital "ink" added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

One can clearly see that the image has been drawn to suggest a “Jesus fish” image where there clearly is none. The “Fish in the margins” image contains artificially added, digitally “inked” lines colored to resemble naturally engraved limestone lines, which do not correspond to the engraved lines on the ossuary. The digital “ink” extends well beyond the engraved lines of the actual image, which do NOT overlap. This means that the image was digitally altered to generate the illusion of small “fishes swimming” around the edges of the ossuary, perhaps to support the illusion that the image just beneath them is a “fish” and not some sort of vessel.

The evidence of commission presented above is indisputable. An unacknowledged digital alteration was clearly made to the “Fish in the margins” image to create the illusion that there are fishes swimming around the edges of the ossuary. And again, this digital manipulation is nowhere acknowledged in the image or its caption. This is textbook digital manipulation of a image for the purposes of supporting a particular claim.


Problems of Omission

Let us now examine possible evidence of omission of data.

Verenna suggested that the “Fish in the margins” Image (Image 16) depicts a visible “handle” on the left top side of the inscribed image that Jacobovici and Tabor label a “fish’s tail.”

Furthermore my colleague Dr. Mark Goodacre, along with comments by Don Griffith on the ASOR blog, have also noted that another image on the same ossuary, which I call a “half fish,” and which Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor interpret as a “Big Fish tail,” may also have handles and may also be an attempt at an inscribed vessel of some sort.

The half fish image, captioned as "Big Fish tail, back of "Jonah" Ossuary, 1981", is available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=46&wppa-occur=1. The image shows what appears to be the top of some sort of vase or other vessel, but Jacobovici and Tabor interpret it is the tail end of a fish. One will note a loop (possibly a handle) on the upper left corner of the image, and also note curved handles stretching down from the top to the body of the vase on each side.

The "half fish" image, captioned as "Big Fish tail, back of "Jonah" Ossuary, 1981" (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=46&wppa-occur=1). The image shows what appears to be the top of some sort of vase or other vessel photographed during Kloner's investigation in 1981, but Jacobovici and Tabor interpret it as the tail end of a "Big Fish." One will note a loop (possibly a handle) on the upper left corner of the image, and also note curved handles stretching down from the top to the body of the vase on each side.

Image 47, captioned "Jonah Ossuary, 1981", (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=47&wppa-occur=1) shows the end of the so-called "Jonah Ossuary" and what Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a 'half fish' diving downward. However, the image appears to have faint handles on both sides.

Image 47, captioned "Jonah Ossuary, 1981", photographed during Kloner's investigation in 1981 (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=47&wppa-occur=1) shows the end of the so-called "Jonah Ossuary" and what Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a "Big Fish" diving downward. However, the image appears to reveal faint handles on both sides.

In the image below, I have duplicated the “half fish” image and placed it immediately beneath the original photograph taken during Kloner’s investigation in 1981, along with my highlights. A closer examination of this image below demonstrates that the “half fish” image does indeed appear to have handles on each side, beginning with a loop sticking up above the top of the vessel (clearly visible on the left), and extending down to the body of the vessel, prompting Dr. Goodacre’s question: “When is a fish not a fish? When it has handles.”

The 'half fish" image (Image 46) from the thejesusdiscovery.org website (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=46). Note the clear presence of curved handles on both sides of the engraving, connecting the top of the image to the body. There is an engraved line in the shape of an oval loop on the upper-left and perhaps the upper-right corner of the engraved image. The handle on the right is fairly obvious, there appear to be two possibilities for lines comprising the handle on the left side: one closer to the body (congruent with the handle on the right) and one farther from the body, which appears to connect with the looped engraving on the upper-left corner of the image.

The 'half fish" image (Image 46) from the thejesusdiscovery.org website (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=46). Note the clear presence of curved handles on both sides of the engraving, connecting the top of the image to the body. There is an engraved line in the shape of an oval loop on the upper-left and perhaps the upper-right corner of the engraved image. The handle on the right is fairly obvious, there appear to be two possibilities for lines comprising the handle on the left side: one closer to the body (congruent with the handle on the right) and one farther from the body, which appears to connect with the looped engraving on the upper-left corner of the image.

The “half fish” image (Image 46) from the thejesusdiscovery.org website reveals the clear presence of curved handles on both sides of the engraving connecting the top of the image to the body. Note the engraved line in the shape of an oval loop (spotlighted above) in the upper-left corner and the upper-right corner of the engraved vessel. And while the handle on the right is fairly obvious, there appear to be two possibilities for lines comprising the faint handle on the left side. One is closer to the body and would be congruent with the handle on the opposite side. The other possibility is a handle that arches farther from the body and appears to connect with the looped engraving on the upper-left corner of the image.

Image 47, captioned: "Jonah Ossuary, 1981" (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=47). Image 47 clearly shows a handle on each side of the vessel, along with an oval loop on the upper-left corner of the image. There is a question whether the left handle makes an angle (black arrows) and arches back to the top of the vessel, or makes a wider arch back to the top.

Image 47, captioned: "Jonah Ossuary, 1981" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=47). Image 47 clearly shows a handle on each side of the vessel, along with an oval loop on the upper-left corner of the image. There is a question whether the left handle makes an angle (black arrows) and arches back to the top of the vessel, or takes a wider curve back to the top.

Note in the above Image 47 taken in 1981, the image clearly shows handles on each side of the vessel. The oval loop (spotlighted above) on the upper-left corner of the image is also clearly visible. There is a question whether the left handle makes a right angle (black arrows) and returns back to the top of the vessel, or makes a wider curve back to the top.

However one interprets the above images, it is quite clear from these untouched, original photographs that this image is not a fish, but an attempt to represent a vessel of some sort, complete with handles, attaching at oval loops in the the upper-left and upper-right corners of the vessel.

Or, to put it another way: fish don’t have handles!

But the oval loop on the upper-left corner of the engraved “half fish” image is worthy of particular note because a similar oval loop appears on the upper edges of the so-called “Jonah fish” image on the Jonah ossuary. That is, there appear to be a similar oval loop handles on the so-called “Jonah fish” image central to Jacobovici and Tabor’s theory, which have been omitted from much of the discussion concerning the image. And while several scholars have come forward now suggesting the image in question is in fact some sort or another of inscribed vessel, be it an amphora as suggested by Italian scholar Antonio Lombatti, a krater as recently suggested by Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Andrew McGowan, or an unguentarium, as suggested by Kings College London Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Dr. Joan E. Taylor, all agree the the image in question is not a fish.

To demonstrate the evidence of an omitted handle on the “Jonah fish” image, let’s begin with Tom Verenna’s highlighted image:

Possible handles present on the "Fish in the margins" photo (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16), as drawn by Tom Verenna, Mar. 10, 2012. The red lines suggest possible handles on the top of an image that Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a "fish's tail fin".

Possible handles present on the "Fish in the margins" photo (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16), as outlined by Tom Verenna, Mar. 10, 2012. The red lines suggest possible handles on the top of an image that Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a "fish's tail fin".

Unfortunately, the red line used by Verenna to highlight the handles obscures the actual engraved lines. Additionally, the long vertical line descending from the top of the vessel appears to be the border surrounding the image. Therefore, I have attempted to highlight the handle using other techniques.

In an effort to demonstrate that I am not adding or subtracting digital data to or from Jacobovici and Tabor’s images, I shall demonstrate the omission in a step-by-step process.

First, below is the “Fish in the margins” image available on the thejesusdiscovery.org website:

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins".

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins". Note the spotlighted areas have had artificial digital "ink" added to the engraved lines to enhance their interpretation as fishes. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) Note also the oval loop on the left side of the so-called "tail fin".

We have already discussed the three spotlighted images in the above image, which I have demonstrated were clearly digitally “inked” to appear like fish, when they clearly were not, as the engraved lines do not overlap.

But notice also the now infamous “Jonah fish” image just beneath the highlighted and digitally “inked” images. Specifically, notice the oval shaped loop on the top left corner of what Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor call the “tail fin.”

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

In the photo above, I have adjusted the “brightness” of the image by an increase of 52, and increased the “contrast” to a level of 92. As mentioned above, brightening and increasing contrast are common techniques designed to make engraved lines on objects more easily visible. Note that on the image below, I have spotlighted the oval looped structure on the upper-left corner of the large engraved image. Note that the oval loop is in precisely the same location as the oval loop in the above photos of the “Jonah Ossuary” taken in 1981.

"Fish in the margins" photo (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16) with brightness and contrast raised for clarity and with the handle spotlighted. (Note: the Photoshop spotlight filers on the three so-called "fishes" along with the digitally added artificial "ink" were added by the authors or their artists.)

"Fish in the margins" photo (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16) with brightness and contrast raised for clarity and with the oval looped handle spotlighted. (Note: the Photoshop spotlight filers on the three so-called "fishes" along with the digitally added artificial "ink" were added by the authors or their artists.)

In the example below, I have taken the same image, but this time added red arrows to show how the engraved oval loop proceeds up from the upper-left corner of the vessel, curves into the border (it is unknown whether the loop was engraved before or after the border), and then proceeds down along beneath the rim of the vessel. The descending etched line then curves back toward the body of the vessel. Note that the engraved lines comprising the handle are as clearly visible as other similar lines of the same angle in the same light that comprise the so-called “fish’s tail.”

The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

In the side-by side comparison below, the shape of the handle becomes clear.

A side-by-side comparison of the handle in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

A side-by-side comparison of the handle in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

Thankfully, my friend and colleague, Dr. James Tabor, has graciously sent to me additional untouched, uncropped photos of the inscribed image Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor interpret as a “Jonah fish,” and has and given permission to reproduce these photos here in this article. In the images below, one can clearly see the oval loop handle at the top of the vessel.

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

A closer look at the above image in over-under and side-be-side comparison allows us to highlight the handles.

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the similar handle at the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the handle on the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image (Jacobovici and Tabor's "Jonah Fish") shows a definite oval loop handle, of a similar shape and in the same place as on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the similar handle at the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image (Jacobovici and Tabor's "Jonah Fish") shows a definite oval loop handle, of a similar shape and in the same place as on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the handle at the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Additional photos from Dr. Tabor demonstrate the power of the robotic camera to peer behind Ossuary 5, which abuts the “Jonah Fish” Ossuary 6. These photos are perhaps the most telling of all as they reveal that there actually are handles on both sides of the top of the vessel.

This image, which peers behind Ossuary 5 abutting Ossuary 6, reveals that there are oval loop handles on both sides of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

This image, which peers behind Ossuary 5 abutting Ossuary 6, reveals that there are oval loop handles on both sides of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

If we examine the portion of the image behind Ossuary 5, a view made possible by the robotic camera, we quickly note that there is a corresponding handle on the top right of the vessel as well. We also note that the top of the vessel is, in fact, straight, and not bent like the “CGI composite image” that has been circulated to the press.

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. Note also that the top of the vessel is straight, not bent. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. Note also that the top of the vessel is straight, not bent. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Again, a close up of the above photo demonstrates that the top corner of each side of the engraved image has a handle.

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel (matching the left), similar to the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel (matching the left), similar to the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel similar to the left, and also similar to the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there are oval looped handles on both sides of the top of the inscribed vessel, similar to the handles on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Thus, we now have evidence of engraved oval loop images of similar shape and size located on both sides of the top of both the so-called “Jonah fish tail” and the so-called “half fish” image from the same ossuary! And yet, for some reason, these engraved oval loops on the upper-left corners of the engraved image are not represented in the “CGI” “computer enhanced” “composite representation” image that has been fed to the press. In fact, it appears to have been omitted:

Image 13 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb." Note the handle visible in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 is not reproduced in this image, and is cropped where the handle would be.

Image 13 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=13&wppa-occur=1). Note the handle visible in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 is not reproduced in this image, and is cropped where the handle would be.

It is also noteworthy that prior to Dr. Tabor’s sending me additional photos from their remote penetration of the tomb, all of the other photos (with the exception of the “Fish in the margins” image) crop the handles from this particular corner of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor’s “fish tail.” Or, to use filmmaker lingo, the proposed handle is conveniently “just out of frame.”

For instance, note that on Image 14 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned “Original Jonah Image – no cgi,” the oval loop is cropped from the image:

Image 14 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned: "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" (available from: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1). Note that the image is cropped precisely where the handle should be.

Image 14 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned: "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1). Note that the image is cropped precisely where the handle should be.

In fact, if we examine all of the other images that had been released to the public, we notice that with the exception of the “Fish in the margins” photo (which was released to highlight so-called little “fishes swimming” in the border, which were shown above to be altered images that were digitally “inked” and made to look like fish artificially), all of the other photos crop the oval loop handle from the image. In fact, the new batch of photos released on the thejesusdiscovery.org website on Mar. 11, 2012 contains one additional photo of the tail (Jonah Image Photo 4), but it too is cropped precisely where the oval loop handle should be! That is, the engraved oval loop that I propose is a handle is coincidentally omitted from each of the images, including the “CGI” “computer enhanced” “composite representation.”

Clockwise from top left: The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1); the "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" Image 14 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1); "Jonah Image Photo 4" displays the intersection of Ossuary 6 (left) and 5 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=49&wppa-occur=1); the "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb" Image 13 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=13&wppa-occur=1); Fig. 20 on p. 41 of original 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb 28, 2012, rotated CW for vertical alignment. Note that only in the "Fish in the margins" image is the handle visible. It is cropped or otherwise not represented from each of the other images.

Clockwise from top left: The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1); the "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" Image 14 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1); "Jonah Image Photo 4" displays the intersection of Ossuary 6 (left) and 5 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=49&wppa-occur=1); the "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb" Image 13 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=13&wppa-occur=1); Fig. 20 on p. 41 of original 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb 28, 2012, rotated CW for vertical alignment. Note that only in the "Fish in the margins" image is the handle visible. It is cropped or otherwise not represented from each of the other images.

But what is even more odd is the fact that the oval loop and the line proceeding from the loop down beneath the lip of the vessel are, in fact, represented by the digital artist who sketched the so-called “Jonah Ossuary,” as well as by the artists that created the museum quality replica of the ossuary for Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor’s New York City press conference.

Note closely on the sketch of the “Jonah side” image, the artist appears to attempt to represent the engraved loop present on the ossuary. Likewise, if one looks closely, one will note that the artists who created the “museum quality replica” for Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor also appear to have attempted to represent the handle (or at least the inscribed line) just beneath the upper-left corner of the image inscribed on the ossuary.

Sketch of "Jonah Ossuary" (top; available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/44.png) and "Museum Quality Replica" (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/IMG_7422.jpg). A close look at each of these reproductions reveals that the artists actually attempted to represent the visual evidence of the handle. The sketch represents the top loop, and the replica represents the etched line beneath the top left of the image.

Sketch of "Jonah Ossuary" (top; Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/44.png) and "Museum Quality Replica" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/IMG_7422.jpg). A close look at each of these reproductions reveals that the artists actually attempted to represent the visual evidence of the oval loop in the upper-left corner of the inscribed image. The sketch represents the top loop, and the replica represents the etched line beneath the top left of the image. However, this feature was omitted from the "CGI composite representation" of the image.

Thus, despite the fact that the engraved lines comprising the oval loop handle are as clearly visible at the same angle and in the same light as other engraved lines comprising so-called “fish’s tail,” and despite the fact that the same engraved oval loop and handles are also clearly visible on the so-called “half fish” on a different panel of the same ossuary, for some reason, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor chose to omit this evidence from their representations, and chose not to represent the evidence in the heavily Photoshopped “CGI” “computer enhanced” “composite image” they have been offering to the press.


Conclusion

Unfortunately, if we take into account the visual evidence that has been omitted, and we acknowledge the digital manipulations that have been committed to the images, we are left with the following conclusions:

1) The “fish swimming in the margins” are the result of digital “inking” and are not fish after all, but simple unclosed, oval shapes used as decorations in the border.
2) The “half fish” on the side panel of the ossuary has clearly visible handles, and is therefore not a fish, but actually some kind of representation of a vessel.
3) The “Jonah fish,” which possesses oval loop handles similar to the “half fish” inscribed vessel (but which were not represented by the authors), is therefore not a fish, but actually an attempt at a representation of some other kind of vessel.

Because, once again, fish don’t have handles.

Thus the entire theory appears to be one big digitally manipulated fish tale (and not a fish’s tail).


Why Pointing Out Evidence of Digital Image Manipulation is Important

Some may ask, “Why bother?” Scholars have certainly asked, “Why waste your time debunking sensational claims that deliberately bypass the academy and peer-review to make a few bucks on TV and a book?” At the other end of the spectrum, supporters of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor will no doubt say, “Why are you so jealous that you didn’t find Atlantis, the route of the Exodus, the nails of Jesus’ cross, the tomb of Jesus’ family, and now the earliest evidence of Christianity represented by a fish (with handles)? Why pick on Simcha and Dr. Tabor?”

These are both legitimate questions. Let me reassure you I am not picking on anyone. Rather, as a scholar in the relatively young field of the Digital Humanities, it is important, nay essential to distinguish between the use of new technology for sensationalism and quick TV profits, and the appropriate use of that technology in humanities research.

Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor’s entire project is based upon a new technological methodology and approach to archaeology. In that regard, they are doing the very thing that I did in my dissertation research – propose a new theory using a new technological methodology. And even if their theory were an absolutely solid, undisputed theory, complete with papers given at professional conferences and articles in refereed journal articles resulting in scholarly consensus, if the technology and digital imaging used to support that theory is not credible, or worse yet, shows obvious evidence of digital manipulation to favor the theory, it undermines not only their entire project, but the credibility of the Digital Humanities as a whole.

As a Religious Studies scholar in the Digital Humanities, my job is to promote and defend the use of technology to solve research problems (in this case, an archaeological one). There are already enough senior scholars who are skeptical of the use of any new technology that does not reinforce the conclusions they reached without technology. One of my jobs is to convince scholars that the process of digital reconstruction is a transparent, trustworthy, academically accepted methodology.

I don’t care if an argument pertains to Jesus, Jonah, or the Colosseum – my job is to promote and defend the use of technology in Humanities research. And when researchers do not follow standard practices of transparency, it hurts my own credibility as a Digital Humanities scholar as well. I’m trying to argue to the academy that the Digital Humanities are a good and beneficial thing, while others are peddling a sensational theory about fish on ossuaries and uploading multiple, unacknowledged, digitally “inked,” heavily Photoshopped images in support of their theory.

It hurts everyone, especially potential corporate partners like GE, who are quite proud of their new technology and of their potential applications. They report in their online company magazine:

Ultra sharp images were required to make the inscriptions on the ossuaries legible to viewers, so engineers from the Inspection Technologies business of GE Measurement & Control custom designed a high definition camera for the crew.

GE is attempting to demonstrate a wonderful new technology that could truly transform archaeology and could be an effective research tool in the Digital Humanities. Unfortunately, it’s first use in the archaeological field is by a filmmaker attempting to turn an inscribed vessel into a fish, which GE reports as “Move Over Indiana Jones.”

When this so-called “fish” gets debunked, and it will, how will GE feel about having its pilot use of a robotic camera scuttled by the academy, who refuted the claims of a documentary featuring its technology before it even aired? One can only hope that companies like GE will continue to support efforts in the Digital Humanities by credible scholars in the academy who will use the technology for real archaeology, and not for sensational television.

And just think: when Mr. Jacobovici’s pseudo-documentary The Resurrection Tomb airs on Discovery this spring, we’ll get to do this all over again.


Handles: Fish don't have them

Photoshop: When reality won't cooperate

80 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on The Musings of Thomas Verenna and commented:
    Absolutely definitive evidence of photo manipulation in order to support a conclusion. The whole ‘fish’ interpretation is completely blown away by this article. Outstanding work, once more, from Bob Cargill!

  2. Masterful post, Bob. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and for exposing the difficulties with such clarity and patience. We are in your debt.

  3. amazingly meticulous work. there’s clearly been things done to the images to ‘enhance’ them for a particular purpose.

  4. [...] (VIA) Share some history:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  5. [...] Cargill not only exposes the handle in his recent post on the subject but he eviscerates the argument that we are looking at fish–anywhere–on this ossuary.  [...]

  6. Well Bob, as you know, as we have corresponded I could not disagree with you more. Your post here, despite the applause of Mark, Tom, and Jim, is shot full of factual errors, unfounded assumptions, and false charges of intentional manipulation. I am kind of amazed at how quickly, since you just posted this, such a chorus of “bravo Bob” “you got ‘em” cheers seem to immediately well up from the crowd. It seems it might take folks a bit of time to do some thinking, but apparently not in this case. I am totally swamped at the university today but I will respond in detail to your charges in my blog, or wherever is appropriate and try my best to set the record straight. One thing I have to ask though, if this is not a fish with a stick figure coming out of the mouth–what is it? Are you back to the amphora theory? Can you post an images of vessels that you think most match this one? Including tip (head), fins (handles), and tail (handles)? Or are you still leaning toward the perfume bottle idea? And if the little fish on the border are not fish, what do you think they are? BTW, the only “fish” on an ossuary everyone seems to agree with has no crossed tail (the Claudius one), and the one with the Yeshua written inside it has a crossed tail–both 1st century, but I will get into that in detail. I think Antonio has also located several other fish on ossuaries but not sure if he has published them yet. He sent them to me by private e-mail. They compare well with these little fishes in several cases. We also found a series of three little fishes, with crossed tails, on another ossuary in the basement storage area of the Rockfeller. Later…

  7. BTW, I think you might have me confused with someone else in terms of the nails of the cross, the Exodus, and Atlantis as my published work has concentrated, since 2006, in this area at least, on the Talpiot tombs. I am quite familar with Simcha’s work in these other areas and have my own views but I have not written them or expressed them so far as I remember.

  8. Hey Bob,

    Outstanding research here. I went ahead and updated my original article to include the post. I also went ahead and posted a link on ASOR.

  9. Powerful, well expressed and convincing argument in what you and several others have now shown, that their research again and again has absolutely no creditability nor respectiability within the profession. It’s time that we boycott this type of exploitation for the sake of near eastern archaeology along with the editors, books, magazines and the universities that allow this to happen. Will we be able, only if we make a concenterated effort on behalf of the profession. Last year I alerted one of the universities deeply involved in these projects, asking for an investigation, only to be rebuffed that these charges are but normal disagreements within the academy. Again we senior academics, who have devoted our lives to the profession are deeply indebt to our younger colleagues, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to all of you.

  10. Dr. Tabor,

    Agreed. That comment is not directed at you, as you have focused your research upon legitimate research into a cluster of tombs, which has shed much light, and has produced a few objects the interpretation of which we simply happen to disagree.

    Cheers,

    BC

  11. thanx james,

    i’m actually in the process of beginning to make a series of videos that will show the public how to correct for perspective on images taken at acute angles. i’ll shoot it over to you before i post it. i think the video will prompt me to make a model of the kind of vessel you might have on ossuary 6.

    cheers,

    bc

  12. James,

    I’m just curious; what factual errors could exist in Bob’s post? It seems to me he is simply highlighting problematic aspects of the photos on the Jesus Discovery site? Would that not imply factual errors exist on the Jesus Discovery website? Please help me understand what factual errors exist here.

    Also, your change of focus to the amphora is interesting. I don’t believe Bob has ‘changed his position’ since admitting to the fact that this is a vessel of some sort. He made one hypothetical guess based off images which were not oriented correctly in some news articles to making a more educated interpretation once better evidence presented itself (from nefesh to amphora). So it is my understanding that he hasn’t gone “back to the amphora theory”. So I do hope you are not implying that Bob is in some way flip-flopping.

    Also, I have addressed your criticism of the ‘vase-type’ on several instances already. Not just on my blog, but on ASOR and in private correspondence as well. A ‘motif’ is present here; the artist need not have a specific example in mind. In fact it is likely he is imitating older artwork here. This is why we have a wide-range of vase-types inscribed on ossuaries and other places. And usually examples were taken from classical or Hellenistic vase-types. This is a well-documented subject.

  13. [...] before now. In case you haven’t noticed, he has recently and exhaustively done articles on problems with the “Jesus Discovery”. He also regularly does humor posts. He has an adorable [...]

  14. Joe, I have no idea who your editorial “we” is but you are way off base and really out of sync with anything I know going on in the academy or its processes. You have circulated a set of false charges and gossipy personal innuendoes of “improper” conduct to everyone under the sun but I don’t know anyone who gives you much of any credence but one biblioblogger. Why don’t you take my preliminary report submitted to the IAA and posted on bibleinterp.com and produce your own academic response rather than spreading rumors and lies about underwear ads and planting evidence. Or propose a paper to ASOR or SBL as I have done–both accepted. I am sorry that Bob put your post through as it is nothing more than slander and contributes nothing to the discussion at hand.

  15. Great and very professional work. The evidence you show here is really convincing.

    James: I haven’t published the images yet, I’m going to include them in a forthcoming paper at Bible & Inter.

  16. In defense of the apparent speed of my reaction, James, I have been been carefully studying the images you have provided now for several days, and have been discussing this with Bob (and others). I read a draft of this post before it went online. I think that what Bob has put together here definitely needs to be taken seriously. He knows his stuff and he has laid out his case here with clarity and force, I would say. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing your detailed response in due course.

  17. To back up Mark, both he and I were given drafts to review before Bob posted up his final edition here. We spent the afternoon reading through it and discussing the images. None of our reactions were hastily given.

  18. [...] colleagues and reported that following Bob Cargill’s post on the issues with the iconography and the problematic digital manipulation…, the Jesus Discovery website has removed several key incriminating photos.  Bob Cargill notes this [...]

  19. Well Tom, I guess I don’t know. I thought there were some but now that you have pronounced the verdict–what POSSIBLE errors could exist, why even reply? My mouth is shut. We set out to deceive, twist, malign, and fake everything we could…We are sinners, and all to make money, did you not figure that out yet? It is so simple. There is not be a shred of academic integrity in our three year endeavor. It was a total ploy. Did you not read Zias’s post. Joe Zias, known far and wide for his objective and tempered judgments.

    There I said it. Maybe some of the more responsible “bibliobloggers” can now quote this out of context like a Republican (sic) negative Pac ad…after all you have it now in print.

    Seriously Tom, just put in a hard day of 12 hours at my real job, chair of a department of 21 people after Spring Break. I just wrote Bob that I would reply. I might even do it tonight, but soon. Please back off and “behave” as my mother used to say to unruly children.

  20. Dr Cargill (Dear Bob): I am immensely grateful for your specialist expertise in this area, your careful precision and thorough analysis. I very much appreciate your research here, and honest representation with argument and evidence – thank you. I empathise with this statement very much: “when researchers do not follow standard practices of transparency, it hurts my own credibility as a Digital Humanities scholar as well.” It hurts when scholarship is compromised by inaccurate speculation, sensational claims and interpretation, and or, just plain amateurism, giving the public a false impression and misrepresenting the evidence and inhibiting progress in knowledge.

  21. “Well Tom, I guess I don’t know. I thought there were some but now that you have pronounced the verdict–what POSSIBLE errors could exist, why even reply? My mouth is shut. We set out to deceive, twist, malign, and fake everything we could…We are sinners, and all to make money, did you not figure that out yet? It is so simple. There is not be a shred of academic integrity in our three year endeavor. It was a total ploy. Did you not read Zias’s post. Joe Zias, known far and wide for his objective and tempered judgments.”

    James, how much must I remind you that I am not Joe. Joe is entitled to his opinions of you, but I have my own. I have made NONE of those statements about you. Not here, not anywhere. Please be mindful of that. I have been nothing if not respectful to you and critical of your argument (and the photos, which you make no claim to anyway). You claimed that Bob’s post is full of errors; in the time it took you to respond to him, Joe Zias, and me, you could have written down even one example of an error. Regardless, I look forward to your reply, once you write it.

    “There I said it. Maybe some of the more responsible “bibliobloggers” can now quote this out of context like a Republican (sic) negative Pac ad…after all you have it now in print.”

    James, I can understand that you’re stressed and tired after your long day. There is no need to be livid with me. I asked you some questions, I did not insult you. I don’t deserve your projections.

    “Seriously Tom, just put in a hard day of 12 hours at my real job, chair of a department of 21 people after Spring Break. I just wrote Bob that I would reply. I might even do it tonight, but soon. Please back off and “behave” as my mother used to say to unruly children.”

    Did you recall any saying related to grumpiness? Honestly, James, I work long days myself and then on top of that I go to school part time. You don’t need to be rude about it. Bob and Mark and others work hard too and still find time to be cordial to people. If my questions upset you, maybe you should ask yourself why that is. Either way, I don’t deserve the tone you’re giving me. I’m not your enemy.

  22. Boom goes the dynamite!!! Well done, Bob. Well done. We all would have loved for this to be a first century “sign of Jonah,” but reality just didn’t line up with desire here…

  23. ENHANCE

  24. Dr. Tabor,

    The evidence is overwhelming that the unaltered images on the ossuary depict a vessel of some variety and not a fish. The evidence is also overwhelming that many of the images released thusfar have been manipulated, or at the very least “reframed” under different context in a plainly misleading fashion and then subsequently re-labeled to ameliorate problems when criticism mounted.

    The question now I believe is more of a matter of whether you’re willing to re-assess your position in light of this criticism, or continue to hold to an hypothesis that has irreparably fallen to pieces. There really is only one academically honest option.

    To be honest myself, I don’t know what is going on here. Your prior work is solid, respected, and lauded by other academics; however, it seems that whenever you and Simcha get together and work on a project (or should I say ‘whenever Simcha works on a project,’ it seems) something seems fishy.

    (No pun intended.)

    Respectfully submitted,
    -Steve

  25. I have dial up internet, so I can’t really see every picture. Is the “half fish” a big amphora or whatever that the artist started from the top and made too big to fit on the side of the ossuary, so he or she had to do it again on another side? It seems that the artist was making a bad looking jar or fish, so maybe the size and proportions were way off because the artist was so bad. The other ossuaries had beautiful jars on them not like the artwork on this one, if this was a jar of some sort.

  26. [...] biblioblogs have been abuzz with discussions about the Talpiot tombs. Here are some highlights:Bob Cargill, Mark Goodacre, Steve Caruso, and Tom Verenna have all been drawing attention to digitally-altered [...]

  27. Tom, you have confused an attempt at facetious humor for grumpiness. I am not the grumpy type, in fact I am quite cheerful, even now at 2:30am when I got up to listen to the Israeli judge’s verdict on the James ossuary and I haven’t even made coffee. I was just coming at you a bit because I had written that I would respond to Bob’s post that I had charged was “shot full of factual errors, unfounded assumptions, and false charges of intentional manipulation,” and you immediately shot back–what possible errors could there be?–as if the discussion was now closed, also pointing out how you had privately and publicly addressed my critique of your vase hypothesis–as if to say what more could I possibly have to say? Back off a bit Tom, “hold your horses,” as they used to say when I was growing up, and we might have a good discussion on this whole thing, which I truly would like to see. I am not picking on you here Tom, you have plenty of comrades in arms–Jason exclaiming gleefully like an 8th grader, “Boom goes the dynamite,” and Steve declaring the issue is now settled but wondering why I as a scholar, one who usually does good and respectable work (not sure what work this is but thanks), just can’t back down because of my association with “Simcha.”

    The Talpiot tombs issue, beyond just our “Jonah image” here, is a complex one and some of us have published and written rather extensively on it (in my own case quite it a bit on my blog at jamestabor.com (search Talpiot), a slew of posts at bibleinterp.com by others not me, NEA, the forthcoming Charlesworth conference volume) and nothing I have said are argued as an academic has anything to do with Simcha whatsoever. I am immensely proud of the high quality work Rami and I, along with our department of Anthropology chaired by the distinguished archaeologist Janet Levy, were able to do. I am neither an archaeologist nor the son of an archaeologist but have been privileged to serve as an historical consultant on this project as well as co-director on the IAA license. Without Simcha’s amazing skills in facilitating so much (the orthodox, the apartment owners, bringing in GE, providing financing, and having the robotic arm built, etc.) we could have never begun to carry out this amazing exploration of this sealed 1981 tomb. Beyond that he is a brilliant dialogue partner and an ever stimulating colleague and friend. I have been honored and privileged to work with his entire team. They are truly amazing in their skills and abilities.

    Back to Bob’s charges, that I consider to be wholly unfounded…I am not responsible for the film which should air next month but I am responsible, as co-director on the license for the highest quality of research and reporting related to our finds. That is absolutely what we have offered. Interpretation is another thing, both of the image and the inscription and I look forward to continued and responsible exchanges on those issues.

    I might be able to post something today in response to Bob’s post above, depending on how the days goes, but I will respond soon and I hope my response will clear the air a bit on this matter.

  28. I’d like to know why Prof. Tabor can’t see this as a vessel. Is it because the bottom of it is pointed, with this little ball of something coming out of it? Really, the fact that the image is vertical rather than horizontal should have ruled out the fish interpretation from the start.

    In my view, this is clearly a vessel — it looks like an unguentarium, but with a wider mouth. (I guess it would depend on whether it really has handles, as few unguentaria did.) It would be perfectly appropriate to portray a broken vessel on an ossuary, as “vessel” was widely used literarily as a metaphor for the body, and the breaking of a vessel, with the “soul” leaking out, would represent death. Thus it seems to me that an unguentarium with its contents leaking out (at the foot, which was often accidentally broken off) would be a wholly appropriate image for an ossuary.

  29. I used to have respect for the highly educated professors who dedicate their lives to teaching others and molding future leaders. From what I have read here, many of you are acting like children and politicians pointing fingers.

    If you want to see handles, you will see handles. If you want to see scales, you will see scales. But look at the whole image. Only an idiot would make a vase that looked like a fish standing on a ball. Considering the size of the vase, approx. 12″ high, why would it need handles at all. Now if it were a fish it might need fins. I don’t think fish evolved that much in 2000 years that they just added them.

    I am sure you are all waiting to see the documentary to figure out how the video was faked. After all, the pictures were taken by the same cameras inside the tomb.

    Blogs are great, aren’t they? Before they existed only academics read professors papers. Now the whole world can read what you believe. But I guess it depends on how popular your blog really is.

    In closing, children change their minds as they learn new things, politicians hold true to their party lines and don’t waiver.

    Regards,

    Kill Bill

  30. Bill,

    Not “only an idiot would make a vase that looked like” the image on this ossuary. Take a look at pictures. Some vessels were very narrow at the bottom — they were held upright in stands. You might want to consider the drawings of unguentaria in Virginia R. Anderson-Stojanovic, “The Chronology and Function of Ceramic Unguentaria”, *American Journal of Archaeology* 91 (1987) 105-22.

    As for the “standing on a ball” aspect, see my previous post.

  31. James,

    Thanks for clarifying. I appreciate your openness about all of this. I look forward to a good discussion ahead.

  32. Dear Jack,

    Just quickly here. The reasons I don’t think this image corresponds to any vessel and/or architectural monument (which was the initial view of the main experts week before last–who had had the photos for months–Fine, Rollston, Meyer, Jensen) is I know of no image on any of the hundreds of ornamented ossuaries that is even close. I have looked at most all of them, not only in the catalogue of Rahmani, which is only a limited portion of the whole (and up to 1989–so now 23 years out of date) but on in autopsy fashion on the shelves at Bet Shemesh, the basement of the Israel Museum, and the Rockfeller Museum. When we made our discovery in May, 2010 we spent the next six months consulting with experts on both the Greek text and the image as well as numerous trips to these storage facilities to study the ossuaries firsthand. The only alternative suggested, by Steve Fine, was that it might be a nephesh/pillar, a view he now seems to have solidified on, and apparently the first six experts commenting on this special blog ended up agreeing with him, at least for a few days. I think Steve is doing a paper on this at the SBL, so I look forward to hearing his arguments. I just heard that my own paper on the image has been accepted at SBL in the ANE iconography section–where this very “eastern” style fish belongs. Other than that, everyone of the 12 or so experts we consulted throughout 2010-2011 saw it as a fish, and most of them with a “Jonah” image included. We found no nephesh (up-side-down) or amphora that resembled this in the slightest. I cover this in my preliminary report at bibleinterp.com.

    The recent suggestion that this is an image of some other kind of vessel, not represented on any ossuary (whether vase of some type or perfume bottle) is a recent one–a week old I think. I find it most unlikely and have explained my reasons in a post on my blog (jamestabor.com) as well as an article posted now at bibleinterp.com as well. Your innovative suggestion about a soul “dripping” out is quite amazing (Taylor thought “congealed nard”) and I can only imagine had I suggested something like that how it would have been received. You do realize that your suggestion of any kind of singular symbolic meaning related to beliefs or the afterlife such as this is anathema among those who claim to know best–no problem from me on this, though I think your proposal is pretty out there.

    Cargil’s handle theories, just advanced yesterday, to which I have not yet responded, are in my view completely unfounded. So no, not just the ball/head, but the entire image in all of its parts and proportions. It just doesn’t fit. But more on that to come. Today I am dealing more with James ossuary things, as there is new evidence, covered in our book, as to where that ossuary originated–DNA and otherwise.

  33. I am rather amazed at the rapidity with which my esteemed colleagues and fellow “bibliobloggers” have in less than 24 hours heartily embraced Cargil’s post here lock, stock, and barrel. It must represent some kind of record. As I read through it yesterday I found myself even more amazed at what I consider to be the errors, untrue charges, and unfounded assumptions. Actually Bob and I have been kicking some of these ideas back and forth for a week or so and I have been supplying him with all the photos I could get hold of–untouched I might add, despite his assertions about “cropping.”

    It seems to me a comment section on a blog post is not the place to address all these things. I plan to put up a couple of blog posts in response when I can get the time–but soon. I want to divide things into two main topics. Were the photos we made available “doctored,” “photoshopped” or otherwise manipulated to support a thesis? The answer to that is a definitive no! Second, do the images exhibit handles or anything of the sort, as Bob now thinks he has discovered as indicated by his red arrows. Here again I argue such is not the case and Bob has made some serious mistakes in this regard.

  34. My view of ‘handles’ may be described as ‘completely unfounded,’ but that reasoning does not explain the presence of the handles (or, let’s call them “oval looped shapes on the outside top edges of the inscribed images”) in the photos.

    It took me two weeks to find the “oval looped shapes on the outside top edges of the inscribed images” and describe them. Two weeks from the first time I saw the ‘composite’ image on Feb 28 until today. And I only have some of the photographs you have.

    So if by ‘unfounded’ you mean ‘very recent’, then I would agree with you. ;-)

    But there’s no denying that something is there on each side. The question is: what are they? (Or, what part of the fish do they represent?)

    I actually think had you stated something along the lines of, “We’ve discovered a unique vessel resembling a krater or amphora or something like that with what appears from the photos to be 2 sets of handles (1 on the body, and 1 at the rim), inscribed on an ossuary with another inscribed vessel on a different panel,’ that that would hav been an unprecedented (at least to my knowledge of pottery) find, and would have been a lot more amazing (and believable) than arguing you found a bunch of fish on a box.

    The fact that we haven’t yet discovered a precisely corresponding image on another ossuary only makes it original, but not a fish. Remember, your ossuary 6 isn’t a professionally engraved image like the others we often reference. This is almost a graffito (I’d argue a little more than that, but not premium quality engraving), meaning we’re not sure of the skill of the artist’s hand (or of his memory of Greek pottery).

    btw, Dr. McGowan’s suggestion of a calyx krater is looking more and more like a possibility. The problem is that the ‘ball’ at the bottom is smaller, and there is a second set of handles at the top on the rim.

    not quite a calyx:
    http://cache2.artprintimages.com/lrg/29/2928/COHRD00Z.jpg
    http://static.flickr.com/2161/2069289811_be31a66975.jpg
    http://www.timelineauctions.com/item-images-small/2011-s.jpg
    http://images.metmuseum.org/CRDImages/gr/web-highlight/DP143698.jpg
    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/data/Journals/AJP/4237/appi.ajp.2011.168.9.893a.jpeg

    or a hydria
    http://www.bible-history.com/ibh/images/fullsized/Woman-and-Arimaspus-riding-a-griffin-Attic-red-figure-hydria-in-the-Kerch-style-ca-370-350-BC-From-Cyrenaica.jpg
    http://www.students.sbc.edu/mdavis04/Greek%20Painted%20Vases_files/Greek21.jpg
    http://www.christies.com/lotfinderimages/D54254/a_greek_black-figured_hydria_circa_4th_century_bc_d5425408h.jpg

    or the vessel we’ve discussed:
    http://www.barakatgalleryuae.com/images/HellenisticSandCoreGlassAmphora.jpg (note there are the remains of little handles at the top)

    (BTW, I’m working on a video to show how to correct the image so that the bottom of the vessel is the proper width (that is, as wide as the top). I think you mentioned that you now realize that the bottom is wider, since it is the same distance from the vertical left border at the widest part of the body (your fish head) as it is at the top. I’ll shoot it to you before I post it.
    -bc

  35. James,

    Once again, I distinguish between ‘photos’ (which the ones you have shown me are indeed not manipulated), and ‘images’ (which have had filters, digital ink, etc. added to them).
    I’ve never accused you of doctoring photos. (If I have, please show me and I’ll both correct it and apologize.) Rather, I have demonstrated evidence of alterations or additions to photos, but I always refer to them as ‘images’ (not photos).

    Please do not confuse the two in your rebuttal. You have provided me with untouched photos. You have also posted on the thejesusdiscovery.org website altered images. There is a difference, and I regularly distinguish between the two.

    My point is that the ‘alterations’ regularly tend to favor your thesis, not argue against it. Handles not represented in photos. Unacknowledged overlapped digital ink lines in little fishes where the engraved lines do not overlap. Half fishes (without drawing attention to obvious handles). Jonah big fishes (without acknowledging whatever oval looped anomaly is at the upper edge of both sides of the top). Each alteration or ‘crop’ always appears to favor your theory, and never against it (of course, except the inked ‘fishes in the margins’ photo, and then the ones you sent to me, which do, in fact, argue against it).

    I’m not arguing what it is, and the fact that I can’t offer a definitive alternative beyond ‘vessel of some sort’ does not make ‘then it’s a fish’ the default.I am arguing what it is not: a fish.

    Again, I look forward to debating this. But my claim of doctoring is not that you are doctoring ‘photos’ – I believe those to be untouched – but of the reconstructions (especially when unacknowledged as having been ‘retouched’).

    Cheers,

    bc

  36. And I am equally amazed at the coordination of the book release, press conference, newspaper articles, the Lenten season, and publicity for your discovery.
    And I too am even more amazed at what I consider to be the errors and unfounded assumptions of your claims.

    But like I said, we’ll get to debate this now as the evidence gets examined by your professional peers.

    Cheers,

    BC

  37. BTW (and I don’t think you’re doing this intentionally, but just for the record), it’s Cargill. 2 L’s. Car-gill (you know, like a fish ;- )

  38. James wrote: “I am rather amazed at the rapidity with which my esteemed colleagues and fellow “bibliobloggers” have in less than 24 hours heartily embraced Cargil’s post here lock, stock, and barrel.”

    Funny, I was rather amazed at the rapidity with which those doctored photos were pulled down from the website…

    ;-)

  39. “Steve declaring the issue is now settled but wondering why I as a scholar, one who usually does good and respectable work (not sure what work this is but thanks), just can’t back down because of my association with “Simcha.””

    So, Dr. Tabor, you cannot identify — off the top of your head — any of your own prior work that is good and respectable? How can I even respond to this?

    In essence, that aside states that you’re the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for nothing. We know this not to be the case. You arrived at that position through your own merits.

    When it comes to the reaches of this project, however, we *know*:

    1) Images have been manipulated digitally, as Bob has stated, in such a way that removes or marginalizes rather strong problems that exist for your thesis.

    This cannot be argued. There are digital fingerprints.

    2) No fewer than 9 images on the Jesus Discovery website have been pulled down, with some of them re-oriented, re-titled or replaced with other images before being posted again in response to criticism without proper versioning citation (i.e. images simply change without any indication that there had been a change in the first place).

    A similar thing happened to the article you, yourself published (“A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem”) where images were re-oriented and re-titled with the only versioning indication given was “photos added.”

    This cannot be argued. There is a digital paper trail.

    3) If we look at the original photographs in their original context and orientation, we’re looking at something that, even at a casual glance, appears to be a vessel; this is not something that looks like a fish (without serious priming).

    So, I have to ask: What is going on here? The excavation seems to have been carried out well, but the legwork afterwards is wanting. The entire thing has become a mess with so many red flags and an explanation exists that is more suitable and elegant than the one you provide.

    I believe that may be the reason why academic bloggers have reached such a quick consensus after the original context of the images was made clear and they were allowed to examine it for themselves.

    More easily put: These inscriptions being “fish” is simply not the best solution.

    Can you at least see where I’m standing?

    This is why I must ask why there is an apparent insisted departure from consensus when I see you work on a project with Mr. Jacobovici, someone who is known for sensationalism and is admittedly outside the purview of academia. As a filmmaker, his career flourishes from sensationalism, where your career as an academic can be seriously harmed by sensationalism.

    This does not make sense to me.

    Respectfully,
    -Steve

  40. I can’t be the only reader here to find this situation tragic.

  41. not a bad word for it. sigh.

  42. Nothing has been pulled from the website but LOTS added.

  43. With all due respect to you, that’s simply not true.

    Image 16, the “Fish in the margins” image was pulled form the website.
    The image was removed. I made a note about it in my article (above), because there all of a sudden was a gaping hole in the article.

    That same image (with the same overlapping digital ink) was later re-uploaded as Image 61 (http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=61&wppa-occur=1), which now has a corrected caption stating that the “Fish in the margins” image is “Fish in the margins – Highlighted and Marked” (emphasis mine)

    It is not true that “nothing has been pulled from the website.” It is true that “LOTS” has been “added,” but stating that “Nothing has been pulled from the website” is factually not true. It was, then replaced (the URL proves it, as it is now image 61, not 16).

    Sorry.

    bc

  44. First – I have no opinion on what the image is. I can’t tell.

    Second – Ultimately it sounds like you’re trying to accuse him of deception. I like your analysis, but overall your points just have to be judged random observations. If Tabor & SJ were trying to mislead they wouldn’t have published the drawing, the model, and the image which all show your “handles.”

    Third – As for the commission argument goes, everyone does it. I’ve seen a hundred inscriptions with lines drawn in the markings trying to make it easier to visualize. So if you’re accusing Tabor of this, you must also throw Rollston under the bus too.

  45. Jordan,
    You said:

    “If Tabor & SJ were trying to mislead they wouldn’t have published the drawing, the model, and the image which all show your “handles.””

    I’d argue that the reason that the reason none of the other photos showed the handles was because they didn’t think them important (perhaps, ironically recalling Simcha’s proposed “Cargill Rule” ;-). Or perhaps they didn’t see them. Or, perhaps that saw them, but couldn’t argue that fish had handles. I believe the one image that showed the handle (the one highlighting the fish) was, in fact, highlighting something else (like proposed fishes in the margins with Hollywood spotlights on them), and they missed it. To their credit, it is an argument in favor of not arguing that they deliberately cropped every handle out of the picture, because behold, there one is.

    You’ll also note that the other images Dr. Tabor sent me which show the handles are NOT published on the Press Kit of Photos on the thejesusdiscovery.org website. I only saw them when he emailed me the photos.
    That’s when I realized that not only was the markings on the left side a handle, but also that there was a similar loop on the right side (behind Ossuary 5)!!!

    As for your ‘commission’ argument, as I demonstrate in the above article, there are better ways to highlight things than by obscuring the actual data (especially when the digitally inked lines don’t match the etched lines). I used arrows. I used spotlights. I used side-by-sides. What I didn’t do is “ink” a line and force you to assume that I was accurate. In each example above, you see the original data, and then you see my highlight. That’s how it should be done. Otherwise, how are we to know if the artificially inked lines actually match the engraved lines?

    Again, sorry.

    bc

  46. Bob, sorry for the mistyped name…I am horrible at typing on blog comments, and that is not an excuse but a confession. I do know you are a true Bob of the Gill variety.

    Tom and Bob, here you go, always wanting to prove bad faith. I asked the web person to rearrange the photos in a better order as it was getting confusing, plus clarify the captions, numbering them sequentially to include the new ones, so it is possible that you logged on just when that was in process, I have no idea, but please, I am really getting tired of this.

    Steve I could say a lot and I actually have if you have time to read what I have written (jamestabor.com, asorblog.site, bibleinterp.com, etc.) but maybe since you think this is so obviously a vessel, even a child could see it, much less an obstinate Simcha devotee who somehow strangely got to be chair of a major RELS department, you could explain why perhaps the foremost historian of Jewish art in the country Steven Fine thinks it is a nephesh, echoed by Jodi Magness, Eric Meyers, who wrote his dissertation on ossuaries, and Robin Jensen, in my view one of the very very top historians of Christian art in antiquity…Somehow it seems things might not be so obvious after all. Plus all of the original consultants except Fine who spent a day at the NatGeo HQ thought it was a fish when we went around at the end of the day asking where we were on both the image and the inscription. They were provided with numerous photographs, as many as they wanted and I think we sent dozens more after that meeting to four or five of them.

    We will work through this, believe me. There is a lot to come, with papers at the SBL, major publications by several art historians who are going to argue the Jonah image, etc.

    One thing we might agree here on the Cargill blog–whatever this image is there is no parallel on ANY ossuary in anyone’s kin? Can we at least go there folks? It would be a great advance over Eric’s initial declaration that there is nothing in the icon or the Greek inscription that is of the slightest interest–just more of the same that we have everywhere.

    I have to absent myself for a bit as I am dealing with some James ossuary things now that Oded will have his ossuary back and we are in the midst of tests, DNA bone and soil tests, done by the Israel Geological Survey and UC Davis that can now go forward as to the possible connection of the James ossuary to Talpiot tomb A (see chapter in our book for the latest, plus the new DNA tests chapter).

  47. Interestinger and interestinger…

    My cynical side wants me to wonder if the whole reason the “ultra high resolution custom camera” was used was in order to be able to manipulate any images taked with less chance of being caught. Unfortunately, the awfully amateur results of all this cutting and pasting and inking ruins the (intended?) effect!

    When I’m not being cynical, I’m always sceptical, and the fact that Dr Bob has drawn attention to obviously heavily edited, cropped, and posed images should be lauded more widely. It certainly shouldn’t be refuted, whether the implication was deliberate (and therefore the _intent_ of the editing is a major concern) or accidental – where the _competence_ of the editing becomes a major concern. And not just the editing – the interpretation depends on valid data. That’s just not present in the published images, FMPOV.

    I personally find it execrable that Mr Jacobovici has taken this otherwise incredible opportunity to test the latest technological surveying method, and instead of letting the results rest on the astonishing and awe-inspiring images, he decides to add a bit here, delete a bit there, crop a bit there, add another bit here and here and there, draw some lines, delete some others, rotate, and claim it’s not what he *knows* it is.

    The amateurish and visibly irrefutable changes haven’t been admitted for what they are, which leads me to completely ignore the authors’ denials and cover-ups. In over two weeks of scholarly peer review, the facts have been slowly discovered DESPITE the best efforts of the people involved to smear, deny, and obfuscate the inevitable result.

    A win for science. A big loss for personal integrity. But lots of fun to watch the culprits squirm! Mind you, they’ll still make an amphora-load of money.

  48. Dr. Tabor,

    “if you have time to read what I have written (jamestabor.com, asorblog.site, bibleinterp.com, etc.)”

    Yes I have, actually. My objections are not answered satisfactorily on any of them, hence my attempt to reach out and discuss this tête-à-tête here, as it were.

    “but maybe since you think this is so obviously a vessel, even a child could see it”

    No, to be fair that was one of Jacobovici’s defenses for the “fish” interpretation, of which I am sure you are aware. :-)

    “much less an obstinate Simcha devotee who somehow strangely got to be chair of a major RELS department”

    Only the latter part of this statement beginning after (but not including) “strangely” is what I endorse and believe, Dr. Tabor. Not the first half. I respect your prior achievements and position.

    “you could explain why perhaps the foremost historian of Jewish art in the country Steven Fine thinks it is a nephesh, echoed by Jodi Magness, Eric Meyers, who wrote his dissertation on ossuaries, and Robin Jensen, in my view one of the very very top historians of Christian art in antiquity”

    Yes actually, and it falls under point #2 in my last reply:

    You must remember in the original press kit (and in your original article, too, before you changed it) that the first “clear” image released was *rotated 90 degrees*? This was quite the talking point when this find was originally broken to the public, if you will remember. It caused a fair amount of chin scratching along with a fair amount of amazement when it was revealed that we were looking at the image on its end all this time.

    Am I safe to believe that this orientation was *first* released to the persons in question? (The order is quite important.) Can you re-iterate whose choice it was to re-orient the image in the first place?

    They, assuming that “on its side” was indeed it’s proper orientation, and that the manipulated “cleaned up” images were among the more prominent examples they were given (as they were with the rest of us), these individuals drew what logical conclusions they could by looking at this seemingly odd figure.

    They did the best with what they were *handed.*

    This brings me to the third point in my last reply: When the original orientation is taken into account along with the other iconography on the ossuary (the other vessel with handles on the side, and that the borders do not contain fish, but plain ovals or circles), the image becomes quite clear.

    This is the reason, in my opinion, behind the sudden consensus:

    Resolved context, nothing more.

    I’d also be exceedingly surprised if any of the individuals you named there would be strongly opposed to the vessel interpretation after reading this post.

    Given that this is one of the greatest advantages of blog-based media — immediate discussion and clarification — shall I do the leg-work and extend an open invitation for them to comment here?

    Respectfully,
    -Steve

  49. [...] we have the verdict of the James ossuary trial, but yesterday Prof. Robert Cargill posted a very lengthy and devastating analysis of the various image alterations of the Talpiot B tomb “fish art” in this most recent [...]

  50. Steve you are mistaken here. The initial consensus of the nephesh had nothing to do with the orientation of the image. Fine, Meyers, Rolleston, Jensen, etc. were our consultants and knew how it was oriented and were brought into this last May, provided with as many photos as they wanted, etc. That was one of the objections to Fine’s proposal we discussed openly in our consultation meetings–would it make sense to have a funerary monument up-side-down? The image is oriented correctly in the book, both CGI and photo, it is clearly described in my report as oriented down, in fact we make a point about that, and the original photo is oriented correctly in the report. Unfortunately, the person who formatted the PDF turned it sideways in the original to make it fit on the same page as the photo, so it could be compared side by side, but we corrected that when it was noticed. All our discussion, from day one, has included the orientation of the image as it appears and that has been central to its evaluation. The day of the press conference in NY, contrary to your assertion, we stood before the ossuary reproductions with the image clearly shown in its orientation. Those photos went around the world. Also there was a huge blowup of the image on the wall behind us at that conference, also oriented “head” down, in full view of all the cameras. You seem to imply here that the blogging world went from nephesh to amphora as they got more information but those options are ones I put forth in my bibleinterp.com article, with illustrations, not something someone came up with last week. I had to smile when Tom and others suddenly posted ossuary photos of amphora images, even using some of the ones we had published, but implying they had made some new discovery.

    I have disagreed from the start that the orientation makes any difference, any more if I turned an amphora on its side and said–OMG, look, it is a fish, when it would be obviously an amphora turned sideways. In ancient art recognizable objects are regularly portrayed in various orientations and of course on mosaic floors it often depends on where one is standing–i.e., the bird could be upside down until you walk around, or the menorah, or whatever. This truly is a “red herring,” but of the Odontoceti variety. But either way there had never been any intent to deceive or I would not be making the argument in my paper that the downward orientation had significance, discuss the up-side-down nephesh proposal, etc.

    Anyway, thanks for your input Steve. I think we can get some of this straightened out if we learn to listen to one another, and I would hope extend good faith to colleagues, and I agree with you about both the amazing potential of our “blogging” forums, but the downside has also been evident even this week, as is obvious from some of the comments on this very post of Bob’s. You can also write me directly anytime–I think you know that, if you have further questions, etc.

  51. Bob, I think it is very unfortunate, as illustrated in the comments here, that people are reading your post and concluding that photos were altered, cropped, manipulated, photoshopped, and even a poor quality camera used on purpose, all with the intent to trick, deceive, and hide the real evidence. I have just posted the facts as I see them on my blog: http://jamestabor.com/2012/03/15/more-photos-of-the-talpiot-tomb-discoveries-released/

    It is possible that we are just using different language and actually agree, as per your clarifications in your comments here on your own post, on “no photos altered,” which unfortunately no one seems to read. I am amazed in reading through these comments this morning at what people have taken away from your post in this regard.

    I hope to deal with the more substantive matters in your post above–mainly the “fish in the margins” and their shapes, as well as the “handles” you propose, shortly. I am getting killed at the office with a pile of things following our Spring Break. I think you have yours this week and we had last week.

  52. James,

    No problem. I think it important to distinguish between the untouched, unaltered photographs you have quite graciously and quite transparently been providing your colleagues (especially me :) and the public, AND the digitally enhanced, inked, etc. images that were simply used for illustration purposes, but that may have suffered from a lack of indication/captioning that they had been enhanced.

    I see that that is all getting labeled properly and remedied, and that is to you and your team’s credit :).

    Cheers,

    BC

  53. [...] have suggested in a recent post that the image we see on the front panel of Ossuary 6 is actually a vessel of some sort (perhaps a [...]

  54. It should be no surprise that Bibliobloggers blur the distinction between the scholarship of James Tabor and the promotion that takes place during the promotion of a television program and related websites. There is nothing wrong with criticizing the manner in which information is being released, promoted and possibly manipulated on the internet and other public media. Cargill should be praised for taking the time raising these issues. Yet the vilification of a real scholar like James Tabor is completely unnecessary and only shows the resentment that brews inside of ‘Bibliobloggers’ who typically stay at home, write ‘pajama scholarship’ on their blogs to other like minded ‘pajama scholars.’

    I have always marveled at the audacity of those who live off the avails of their wives, mothers or other women who happen to be the main breadwinners in the family. There used to be an age where that would be considered dishonorable in itself. Apparently not so any longer (at least within this fold of the internet’s ‘intellectual elite.’

    So let me break it down for most of these ‘Bibliobloggers.’ James Tabor probably heard about these other tombs and thought ‘hey this sounds interesting’ but wondered how he was going to get the cash to study them. Now unlike the rest of you – who would simply ask your wives to go to the ATM to lend you some money – he partnered up with the Discovery Channel. They provided the much needed cash to investigate these tombs which were otherwise inaccessible to him and other investigators.

    Yes the reality of live in the 21st century is that you need money to conduct investigations of this sort. Was the arrangement perfect? No certainly not. Were there compromises made along the way? I don’t know. In due course we will a full accounting of what’s what. But just lay off James Tabor. I don’t know why everything has to get personal with you folks. James is a nice guy from my limited exposure to his person. He’s a human being who cares deeply about discovering and getting at the truth. He took a big risk and maybe mistakes were made along the way. I don’t know. But in the end scholarship will be enriched by the free flow of information that comes out of these tombs.

    If you have a point to make. Please stop making personal attacks against people who go out of their way to seek after the truth. The truth will shine forth regardless of the designs of men. He could be like the rest of you – typing posts in his pajamas, making sport of other people’s mistakes and short comings and feeling satisfied with themselves at the end of the night when you’re wives, mother’s and other dominant females in your lives remind you what you’re supposed to do tomorrow (I wholly overlook the possibility that some of you may be too unattractive both physically and financially to have actual girlfriends, love interests etc).

    As the old adage says “Blessed are the weak who think that they are good because they have no claws.” The only reason many of you revel so much in making personal attacks is because it serves to take your eyes away from your own short comings. Stop picking on poor James Tabor. Regardless of the shortcomings of some of the work related to the study – he is actually engaged in real research. His obituary will likely touch upon various successes and failures but at least he will have an obituary. People who carry out their scholarship between household chores and baking lasagna aren’t afforded that luxury.

    Peace

  55. thank you for your comments, stephan. i don’t believe we’ve ever met, but i googled your name and came up with this and this. (although i did just find this. i hadn’t seen it prior to your comments.

    two things:
    1) i do not vilify dr. tabor. i respect him. i like him. we have exchanged dozens of emails over the past week. etc.
    we don’t agree, and i think his jonah interpretation is incorrect. and he thinks my interpretation is incorrect. but that’s what scholars do.
    he has a sense of humor. i have a sense of humor. we tease (but for some reason, the philadelphia inquirer only picks up when he teases me ;-)
    we are colleagues.

    and 2) please rest assured that i am not in pjs behind my desk here, as the university of iowa would likely frown upon it.

    now if you’ll excuse me, i’ve got some mid-terms to grade. (or did you not know that ‘bloggers in their pajamas’ give exams to students at universities…)

    nice to meet you.

    bc

  56. Stephan,

    Long time, no see. How goes the NatGeo documentary? :-)

    Since I quoted the philosophy of C.H. Barbossa last time, allow me to quote the observances of S. Black III now:

    “Once again you’ve put your keen and penetrating mind to the task and as usual come to the wrong conclusion.”

    I, too, do *not* vilify Dr. Tabor. I respect him as a scholar who has earned his position in academia through hard, recognized work.

    It’s the interpretation of this inscription that I do not see eye to eye on, and the vigor in my comments is focused upon chewing on the details of this find, the related data and circumstances, not in chewing on someone for the sake of giving them a hard time (especially someone who I personally respect).

    As another metric to consider, Tabor’s blog is solidly a Biblioblog, not a Related Blog, as I am sure you are aware. :-)

    Peace,
    -Steve, “Baffled as to how his PJs, his wife, his late mother – may she rest in peace, his bank account, his physical appearance, Dr. Tabor’s death, and Italian food were brought into this… :-) “

  57. [...] how else to say it. There are no fishes on the ossuary. The “fish in the margins” are not fish. (They are oval decorations.) The “half fish” is not a fish (It is a vessel with [...]

  58. If you actually want to understand what these symbols mean, you first need to understand ancient symbology. No one involved in this project seems to have a clue and thereby all assertions about symbols and their interpretations are without any factual support.

    I will demonstrate that this image purposely portrays the merger of both a fish and a vessel and it is Hebrew, not Christian. To fully understand what this image represents, it must be viewed correctly with the “ball” at the bottom, just as it was drawn. Changing its position breaks the meaning of the symbolic code. Consider that the ball is the sun rising above the horizon at the spring equinox. The fish/vessel is the constellation Pisces, and thereby this shows the spring equinox sun, rising into Pisces, which is how you determine the current age on the zodiac.

    This image would then represent a zodiacal/astrological time stamp pointing to the second temple period, which was at the start of the age of Pisces. The fish thereby represents the constellation Pisces, and the vessel shape holds the “waters” of that age. Water symbolizes the flow of deeds through time, and a vessel holds a measured quantity of water (or other liquids like wine and oil). The measured period of time is the 2160 years of the age of Pisces, which ended in 2001. This image is a perfect symbolic code for the age of Pisces and the time and deeds (waters…) it represents.

    The second temple period was the 11th 360-year cycle on the Hebrew calendar. That is why the Dead Sea Scrolls were buried in exactly 11 caves, during the 11th cycle, which is also symbolized by the 11 stars in Genesis. The 11th cycle was also the beginning of the age of Pisces, and it is well known that the zodiac was used by those who buried the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as other groups throughout the region.

    The symbology of that image is not Christian, but a time code pointing to the start of the age of Pisces and related details. That is also the true source of the fish symbolism used by early Christians and later recast by Church leaders to hide the astrological source and associations with those most call the “Essenes.” Visit my website (http://www.sevenstarhand.org) and download a free copy of my ebook to learn the basic rules for this ancient symbology. They prove all previous interpretations are erroneous, though both a fish and a vessel were correct guesses.

    This image also provides key proof that Christian assertions about the fish and related symbology have always been blatant lies. I’ll publish more details soon.

    Here is Wisdom…

    Buddy Page
    aka
    Seven Star Hand

  59. Dear ‘Seven Star Hand’,

    You have absolutely made my day!
    You have proven that there is more than one way to interpret a vessel with sensational symbolic interpretation.

    Here is much needed laughter…

    bobcargill

  60. Hello Bob,

    Glad I could make you day. If you pay closer attention, you’ll see that the fish/vessel interpretation is the only one that fits the time period of the burial and the facts relating to those who used this symbology, during the Second Temple period. That is a perfect symbol for the age of pisces, that also purposely incorporates the method of determining a zodiac age, plus the actual age of the time it was buried. Astrology and the zodiac were used by those that predated Christianity. Furthermore, this image was purposely designed to expose the truth about the use of fish symbolism, ergo was the current zodiac age which began in 160 bce and ended in September 2000. Here are some more insights into the importance of the zodiac to ancient Hebrews.
    http://www.i-newswire.com/dead-sea-scrolls-burial-secret/81149

    I am the only symbolic expert who has weighed in on this and I have solved this mystery, if anyone is interested in the truth…

  61. Buddy,

    Do you happen to be a fire marshal from Oklahoma?

    bc

  62. That’s a curious question.

  63. [...] the handles on his fish. I (and others, namely Mark Goodacre, Tom Verenna, Michael Heiser, ) have demonstrated in earlier posts that Dr. Tabor’s multiple ‘fish’ appear to have [...]

  64. [...] video walks viewers through an illustrated version of an earlier blog post I wrote entitled, “Sins of Commission and Omission: Digitally Generated Marginal ‘Fishes’ and Overlooked Handles on…“. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  65. [...] Sins of Commission and Omission: Digitally Generated Marginal ‘Fishes’ and Overlooked Handles on… [...]

  66. [...] There are no fish in the margins.  They are ovals that Simcha and others have manipulated in images to look like fish. See here: http://robertcargill.com/2012/03/13/sins-of-commission-and-omission [...]

  67. I raised these same questions on Mark Goodacre’s blog…. Two questions from someone who’s just catching up. (1) Since when does the Jonah fish — or any fish — swim downward? (2) On the other hand, if the image represents a vessel, why would it have a little knob on the bottom?

  68. these are both great questions. i’ll let dr. tabor or simcha answer them.

  69. Dr. Cargill, since there absolutely is a tomb and it definitely does have artifacts and you are an XKV8R, what is your final answer?

  70. It is a tomb. It possesses ossuaries. Some of these ossuaries have inscribed designs on them. Some have inscriptions.
    The tomb was entered and examined and photographed by Amos Kloner in 1981. It was published that same year in DAVAR by Zvi Ilan.
    All subsequent investigations are re-examinations of the data we’ve known for over 30 years to exist.

    These facts are not in dispute. They are all established.

    The questions are: what are the inscribed images? What does the inscription say? This is what scholars will debate.

    I conclude the vessel on Ossuary 6 is a vessel, complete with handles and a base. They do not. They think it’s a fish.
    I conclude there is geometry around the edges of the vessel: braids, stacked triangles, squares with Xs in them, and ovals. They extended the lines of the ovals with digital ink to make them appear as “Jesus fish.” They did. I demonstrated it publicly. They then acknowledged that they had ‘inked’ or ‘marked’ the image and uploaded the original. This is established fact.
    I conclude the inscription does not say what they say it says.
    I conclude the intersecting parallel lines are not a Christian cross. Maybe a window? Maybe geometry. But not a cross; not that early.
    I conclude that the base of the vessel is the semi-spherical base of the vessel, not the ‘seaweed wrapped head of a stick man Jonah.’

    I conclude that Simcha and Dr. Tabor rediscovered an ancient Jewish tomb. That does not mean that some early Christians (or Jews) did not believe in ‘spiritual’ resurrection. It just means this tomb and its ossuaries have no bearing on early Christianity.

    Cheers,

    bc

  71. But I read on another post (or website – I can’t remember) that you agreed this type vessel would be unprecedented for a 1st century tomb in Jerusalem?

    If you are saying that the Jesus fish border is a fake, can you post on your website the original picture from the Kloner survey so we can compare? I have tried to find it but have not had any luck.

  72. Whatever happened to the family Josef of Arimethia who allegedly owns the patio above the tomb. Name appears in three places, (door, mailbox and doorbell) and is mentioned in the film numerous times ?

  73. No idea. Seems to be mentioned/introduced 5 or 6 times, but not a single shred of evidence is offered in the film. Literally nothing. It’s like they pulled a segment on evidence of JofA, and forgot to change the narration. Just a guess.

  74. I don’t know what someone else wrote in some other blog.

    As for the altered images,
    The Jesus Discovery website has the actual unaltered image: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=17&wppa-occur=1
    I draw the distinction here: http://robertcargill.com/2012/03/13/sins-of-commission-and-omission/
    See especially here: http://bobcargill.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/actual_fish_vs_inked_fish2.jpg

  75. It is kind of hard to be sure but it looks as if only one of the three fish are shown in close-up without the photoshop assist. On this single fish the line does seem to taper off before it crosses the upper line. However, above the upper line there is an engraved indentation where the line would cross if it had not tapered off. It looks to me as if it is a continuous line but has been interrupted by buildup of dirt. A horizontal line will catch the dust particles and build patina more quickly and thickly than a vertical line. A line that is intersected has double the capacity to capture airborne dirt. You would expect to see patina build up more quickly on vertical lines and more thickly on intersections.

    It would be interesting to see the other two fish in closeup without the photoshop assist. What about the original photos from the 1981 survey? I have tried to find them online but cannot. You stated that you have seen them. Would it be possible to post them here if you still have access?

  76. [...] Robert R. “Sins of Commission and Omission: Digitally Generated Marginal ‘Fishes’ and Overlooked Han…March 13, [...]

  77. […] end with this image.  There is also the ‘fish in the margins’.  Bob Cargill has an exemplary post where he exposes these little ‘fish’ as ovals that have been manipulated with digital […]

  78. […] maintaining maximum deniability. Likewise, he ignores data that clearly refutes his claims, and has shown a tendency to manipulate data to fit other claims. (In fact, in the case of the instance I cite here, Mr. Jacobovici actually […]

  79. […] we have the verdict of the James ossuary trial, but yesterday Prof. Robert Cargill posted a very lengthy and devastating analysis of the various image alterations of the Talpiot B tomb “fish art” in this most recent […]

  80. […] Robert Cargill has posted a blog article that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exposes where the so-called “Jonah Ossuary” images were digitally manipulated. These manipulations were made to hide features that very plainly show that the “fish” are in fact pottery. […]

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