YouTube: “Jonah’s Seaweed Wrapped Head” on the “Jonah Ossuary” from “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery”

I’ve created one more YouTube video that critiques the image that is claimed by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. James Tabor to be “Jonah’s Seaweed Wrapped Head” on the so-called “Jonah Ossuary” from a tomb in Talpiyot, Jerusalem. The ossuary is featured in a forthcoming Discovery Channel documentary entitled “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery.”

And just as I’ve written before, the “Seaweed Wrapped Head” of “Jonah” is actually an attempt at a half-spherical base of a Greek vessel etched into the side of the ossuary. Nothing more.

The “seaweed” is nothing more than an etched version of “coloring in” the base, just like the artist “etched in” the top of the vessel (Simcha and Dr. Tabor’s “fish tail”) and many areas of the geometric border surrounding the vessel. Note that the lines are drawn as you’d expect one to draw them were they attempting to represent a half-spherical base.

Finally, the lines that comprise the extra “legs and arms of stick man Jonah” are nothing more than attempts at reproducing the ring of lines that quite commonly appear just above the bases in vessels, as the video clearly shows. Unless you are going to put forward Rorschach tests as archaeological evidence, there is nothing else there.

update: jim barfield and the copper scroll project appear on travel channel

Jim Barfield and Michael Arbuthnot on the Travel Channel

Jim Barfield appears on the Travel Channel with Michael Arbuthnot

Jimmy D. Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project are back. After disappearing for nearly a year, Jimmy D. (and yes, he now refers to himself in the third-person now as ‘Jimmy D.’ – see the video) has made an appearance on a Travel Channel show hosted by marine archaeologist Michael Arbuthnot entitled: Secret Worlds with Michael Arbuthnot: The Mystery of the Copper Scroll. While little to no information appears on the Travel Channel’s Website about the show, Barfield’s ideological cohorts over at The JerUSAlem Connection are promoting Barfield’s appearance. (Be sure to read their related article on the same page entitled ‘Islam and the Left: two sides of the same coin.”)

The opening scene is an interview with Indy-branded tour guide Danny “the Digger” Herman, and it closes with an entire segment devoted to Jimmy Barfield and his theories about the Copper Scroll. In between, we learn how to smoke a hookah, go scuba diving in Caesarea Maritima, go mud bathing in the Dead Sea, and ride camels. The show did have a couple of scholars, namely Alison Schofield of the University of Denver and Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, both of whom provided background information about the Dead Sea Scrolls and archaeology.

An organization called Biblical Productions commented extensively on the making of the project:

Morningstar Entertainment, a production company from Los Angeles, sent another crew in July this year to investigate the mysterious Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls for their highly anticipated new show “Secret Worlds”. After having previously shot in Israel and Jordan for the “Knights Templar” and “Dead Sea Scrolls” episodes, their archaeologist and host Michael Arbuthnot now concentrated on solving the riddle of this fascinating inscription.

Biblical Productions was the local production manager for the entire shoot and took the crew to fascinating desert locations and fabulous experts. Why was the scroll written on copper? Is it a real treasure map? Who can help us understand the mysterious inscriptions and who wrote it? These were just a few questions the crew set out to answer in this quest, in which Biblical Productions took them from the impressive Hyrcania Tunnel in a desert military zone, to the Qumran Caves where the scrolls were found; to Acre and finally to Jerusalem. Along the way they interviewed and discussed ideas with several experts such as Shimon Gibson, Danny Herman, Steven Pfann and Jim Barfield; the latter an inspirational fire fighter from Texas who has made it his mission to solve the riddle of the scroll. The crew furthermore filmed one of Dr. Stephen Pfann’s researchers who traced the methods of the inscribing process by inscribing a copper scroll all on her own – with astonishing results.

Copper Scroll Project of Facebook

Copper Scroll Project uses Facebook to try and get people to call or write the Travel Channel and ask them to do more with Jimmy Barfield.

One comment: As I have stated in the past (see this post for a summary of the scholarly critiques against Barfield’s nonsense) listing Jimmy D. Barfield as an ‘expert’ in this show makes a mockery of archaeology, of the show, its producers (Morningstar Entertainment), and of the Travel Channel. I am all for the production of documentaries that discuss archaeology and the Bible (full disclosure: I have appeared in a number of them), but a production company creating documentaries about the Bible and archaeology has an obligation not to pass on nonsensical theories as credible, nor the theories’ peddlers as ‘experts.’ In this regard, Morningstar and the Travel Channel have failed miserably. They gave air time to Barfield, which he will now turn around and use to raise funds and promote his religious agenda. (Barfield is already taking ‘pre-orders’ on a self-published e-book on his Copper Scroll Project website. Likewise, Copper Scroll Project folks are encouraging people to contact the Travel Channel and tell them how much they liked the show on Facebook.) They have done a disservice to the public by equating Barfield’s admittedly amateur musings with real scholarship. And they have done a disservice to scholarship, setting back yet again many concerned scholars’ desire to provide quality, verifiable information to the public.

If you want to see and hear the archaeological ‘expert’ yourself, watch his video.

I do have one final question about the brief reconstruction of Qumran shown during the episode. Specifically, where did the producers get it? It appears to be a mutilated modified version of some otherwise pretty good research, although I can’t quite place where I’ve seen those film clips before. I recognize those camera angles from somewhere… that color palette… the interpretation and building layout… that background… I can’t quite place it.

double checking the ‘research’ of jim barfield

a number of posts have been made regarding jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project:

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

however, i wanted to make sure that the criticism of barfield’s so-called expedition was not unwarranted. so, i got in a plane and flew to the west bank and visited qumran. there, i met up with yuval peleg, the district archaeologist in charge judea and samaria, who personally dug at qumran. yuval told me that jimmy barfield never even so much as touched a trowel. his group never dug a single spade of dirt. they were merely observers – that’s it. peleg said as soon as he saw jim barfield claiming to ‘lead an excavation’ for the copper scroll at qumran, he told them to stop making the claim.

mr. barfield never had a permit to dig. in fact, mr. barfield never dug at qumran. barfield simply claimed to have ‘cracked the code’ on the copper scroll. and once he was exposed raising thousands of dollars to lead a ‘copper scroll project’ to qumran, but never actually digging or finding anything, his excuse was that he was not allowed to ‘dig to the proper depth.’ i asked peleg about this claim. yuval showed me to a probe that he dug at a place where mr. barfield insisted there was buried treasure. peleg needed to dig a probe, so he used it as an opportunity to show barfield he was mistaken. the result was exactly as mr. peleg expected: there was nothing. and to prove it, mr. peleg showed me the probe he dug (right).

Jim Barfield's Hole in the Ground 1

Jim Barfield's Hole in the Ground

Jim Barfield's Hole in the Ground 2

Jim Barfield's Hole in the Ground

anyone who has even dug for a day knows what virgin soil looks like. we see to the right that there is nothing but virgin rock. mr. peleg probed along the wall for the presence of a lower water channel near the locus 138 miqveh. barfield assured peleg that he would find treasure there. yet, when peleg realized that there was nothing beneath the surface but untouched rock, he ended the probe and moved on. his question had been answered: no water channel beneath the wall.

however, barfield still claims that he wasn’t allowed to dig deep enough. this is, of course, the same claim a gambling addict makes when he’s trying to get his friends to lend him more money because this time he’s gonna win it big. there’s just nothing there. and just to make sure, i traveled to qumran, met yuval peleg, and saw for myself. nada.

barfield is presently petitioning the iaa and the israeli government via a letter writing campaign to let him dig deeper at qumran. but i applaud the iaa for not working with amateurs who make claims that are simply not true. i am assured that jim barfield will not be digging or observing an excavation at qumran again. and after meeting with several iaa employees, i am confident that they are doing their best to not only keep people from destroying their sites, but to combat sensationalism and religious zealousness that ultimately threaten archaeological sites.

so in the end, the criticisms of the copper scroll project are all justified and verified. there is no treasure. barfield never led an excavation. barfield never had a permit. barfield is not an archaeologist. the iaa does not work with or endorse barfield or his research. the copper scroll project never dug at qumran, they only observed and ongoing iaa excavation. those are the facts, and above are the photographs to prove it.

by the way, in the video below we can see evidence of the deceptive nature of the copper scroll project. barfield claims ‘we are digging’ at qumran in a ‘tunnel.’ this ‘tunnel’ is one of the places where  jimmy barfield claims treasure is buried. of course, this ‘tunnel’ is actually a part of qumran’s water channel system, which magen and peleg have been studying and excavating for the past 10 years. if you look closely, barfield is, in fact, not digging, but just observing with cameras. the iaa cleaned the channel and moved on. in later videos, barfield criticized the archaeologist digging there for not digging ‘to the proper depth’ so he could find the treasure. but this is merely a water channel, and the iaa was not about to dig beneath a water channel to look for some imaginary treasure. rather, they just excavated the water channel as they had planned to do. barfield and company, however, gave the impression that they were leading the excavation, and that the iaa was digging according to barfield’s ‘research’ when in fact, the iaa was simply cleaning and clearing out the qumran water system, which they had been doing for the past 10 years.

in the end, it is what it is: someone claiming to be doing something that he is not, and raising a lot of money from hard working people who are kind enough to believe him.

the copper scroll project gives an exclusive tv interview

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

jim barfield and chris knight, amateur archaeologists and directors of the copper scroll project, have finally landed a primetime television interview!! the two met with glc (god’s learning channel) founders al and tommie cooper, live from their satellite-access living room studio. the ark-eologists (they literally are looking for the ark of the covenant, see 17:10) – gave an exclusive, sit down interview to al and tommie and filled them in on their exciting summer. click here to watch the video hosted by waytozion.org.

there is but one word to describe this video: classic. it is simply classic!!! you must watch the first 10 minutes of this video. it is so, so very worth it. seriously. and set aside your whole, ‘watching the video only dignifies their actions’ argument. trust me, this is worth it. at least watch the first 10 minutes of this painfully long 1 hour 45 minute video. the last 90 minutes are admittedly excruciating, as jimmy barfield talks about himself for most of the interview. barfield does allow chris knight to get in a few words (on his cue), but most of the interview is barfield attempting to synchronize significant events in his own life with significant events in the life of the scrolls and the nation of israel, thereby providing irrefutable evidence that barfield’s interpretations are correct, god revealed this revelation to barfield personally, and that their mission is the father’s will. the bulk of the interview is rehash of barfield’s earlier videos, but the first 10 minutes are pure television gold.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project.

after you get past the bob ross-inspired painted landscape background of the sea of galilee and the ceramic lion lying down with the lamb in front of the coffee table holding up what can only be described as the last remnants of the garden of eden, the interview will blow your mind.

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here are a couple of great lines from the interview:

speaking about the fact that their dig was cancelled shortly after it was begun, a bewildered barfield says at 2:58:

‘there’s no one gonna disrupt the timing of the father.’

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project

that is to say, the fact that barfield and the copper scroll project were shut down shortly after it was discovered that the israel antiquities was working with them must be a part of the will and timing of god. it certainly has nothing to do with the fact that the iaa was embarrassed to be seen working with a bunch of amateur observers (including a fire marshal and a compact tractor salesman), who were raising funds and claiming to be ‘leading’ an excavation for the copper scroll. it certainly has nothing to do with the fact that a group of archaeologists began to question why the iaa would be mixed up with a group like this. no, the shutting down of the copper scroll project is all a part of god’s big plan.

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another great line from barfield speaks just as much about the israel antiquities authority as it does the copper scroll project nonsense. at 4:12 in the video, barfield claims that he met with shuka dorfman, head of the iaa. barfield claims dorfman gave them the ok to dig. describing this unprecedented opportunity, barfield says:

what they’ve [the iaa] done was an un…, is an unprecedented dig in israel. they dug, the antiquities authority of israel dug on the research on a fireman from oklahoma. [laughter] that was unprecedented.

The Tabernacle treasures Jim Barfield says are described by the Copper Scroll and buried at Qumran.

The Tabernacle treasures Jim Barfield says are described by the Copper Scroll and buried at Qumran. In case you missed them, here they are on one of Jimmy Barfield's powerpoint slides.

i could not have said it better. the idea of the iaa following the ‘research’ of a fireman from oklahoma with no archaeological training and a ‘kindergarten’ level understanding of hebrew truly is unprecedented.

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barfield hit a little closer to home when he actually referred to the archaeologists that have critiqued the copper scroll project and shown that the entire campaign is sheer and utter nonsense.  in an exchange with al and tommie cooper, barfield states:

barfield: there are gentlemen throughout the world that are angry at me, that hold a ph.d. they are…uh, you can go on the web and you’ll see that they are just hammering me!

al: why?

barfield: i don’t know.

tommie: because he’s an upstart.

al: oh, you don’t have the post hole digger thing on your name.

barfield: there ya go. i don’t have the uh, credentials. i don’t have a string of letters behind my name. and with all due respect to these men, i’m, i’m not trying to take over their, their occupation, i just happened to figure out something – i found something – and i just wanna, i just wanna present it to israel, and if i’m correct, and if they’re still there, i wanna get ’em back into the hands of the israelis. so, there’s no reason for them to be angry with me. i’ll be out of their way soon if they will just let me dig. one way or another we really need to find out.

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about he Copper Scroll Project

Jim Barfield on GLC talking about the Copper Scroll Project

first, the sheer lack of understanding of the value of an education is striking. post hole digger? really? only the uneducated don’t realize they are uneducated. only the uneducated don’t appreciate what it means to have an education. i would never claim to know what a fire marshal does because i visited a fire station. nor would i claim to even pretend to be able to know how to fly a helicopter because i enjoyed riding in one. i don’t have training in that field. therefore, i don’t pretend to be an authority in that field, even if i’m very enthusiastic about it.

i simply have to laugh a this notion that not having ‘credentials’ makes barfield’s ‘accomplishment’ more significant. it does not. what has barfield accomplished? what has he found? having no credentials does not mean barfield is impressive, it simply means he lacks credentials – proper education and training in a field he obviously doesn’t understand. and bashing the educated doesn’t make you smart just like bashing the rich doesn’t make you wealthy!

i do not sign my name:

Robert R. Cargill, AA, BS, MS, MA, MDiv, PhD

i don’t sign my name this way because letters behind one’s name does not make one any more correct than one without a formal education. rather, it is one’s methodology and willingness to submit to critical peer-review that determines whether or not one’s theories will stand up to scientific and critical examination. i am not objecting to mr. barfield’s lack of education. i’m objecting to his methodology, reasoning, and conclusions. were jimmy barfield’s conclusions the result of sound methodology and critical cross-examination, and found to be credible, i’d accept them whether he went to college or not. but he didn’t. mr. barfield has devised an absurd set of timelines and coincidences, interwoven them with his own life and a political and religious ideology, and is attempting to sell it to the public without even stopping to consider the last 60 years of accepted, tested scholarship.

second, mr. barfield is incorrect about scholars’ anger towards him. stop saying we’re angry. we’re not angry. not in the least. we’re scholars. our job is to point out real research, expound on its significance to the public, and warn the public about charlatans and fakes. the copper scroll project is, in my professional judgment, nothing but circularly reasoned nonsensical speculation. that’s it. there is not a single shred of evidence to support a single thing barfield says, and most existing evidence points to the contrary. he has found nothing. simply crying ‘if you’ll only let me dig deeper’ is laughable. there’s an expression about digging oneself into a hole. put down the shovel mr. barfield. there’s nothing there.

mr. barfield misunderstands a few things. the copper scroll was not authored by jeremiah. all of the treasures are not buried at qumran. the qumran tower is not a pyramid (that’s still my favorite). the date press to the south of the southeast potter’s station is not a ‘fountain of intercourse’ where married couples take a bath after they do it. it’s all sheer nonsense! we’re not angry, we’re just informing the public of the multitude of problems with your outlandish theories.

Jim Barfield accidentally mentions the name of the IAA 'archaeologist' working with the Copper Scroll Project.

Jim Barfield accidentally mentions the name of the IAA 'archaeologist' working with the Copper Scroll Project.

third, did barfield really say, ‘i’ll be out of their way soon if they will just let me dig?’ really?? where are you going to dig? who is going to permit your excavations? the iaa? no one in the state of israel is going to let you and your metal detector go anywhere near qumran. not anymore. and did you really say, ‘one way or another we really need to find out?’ one way or another? mr. barfield, please articulate what you meant by ‘or another.’ if you cannot dig in a permitted excavation, what is this ‘other’ way you will be digging?

and did shuka dorfman really approve barfield’s excavation as barfield claims? did he really summon the two main iaa qumran archaeologists for judea and samaria and instruct them to proceed with this excavation following barfield’s research? i highly doubt that. in the video, jim barfield keeps referring to this unnamed ‘archaeologist’ that was assigned to their project, but no name is ever mentioned and the ‘archaeologist’ page on the copper scroll project website is blank. either there was no archaeologist, or the archaeologist has ordered barfield to never use his name in association with the copper scroll project. which is it?

(by the way, at 45:22 in the video, barfield accidentally says the name of the iaa archaeologist helping him with this dead sea scrolls treasure hunt at qumran. barfield refers to him as ‘yuval.’ so the question becomes: what qumran archaeologist working for the iaa in judea and samaria named yuval was working with the copper scroll project? and was he really working for/with barfield, or is barfield making this up?)

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Chris Knight holds up a facsimile of the Copper Scroll that Jim Barfield made

Chris Knight holds up a facsimile of the Copper Scroll that Jim Barfield made

another interesting statement comes at 8:07 when barfield is explaining how they want to continue to work with the israel antiquities authority. they are disappointed with the iaa because they did not allow him to ‘dig to the proper depth,’ but barfield claims that they were, in fact, sanctioned by the iaa and working with iaa supervisors. what’s more, barfield claims the iaa paid for the excavation at qumran:

they’ve [the iaa] been wonderful to us. they’ve done some… they’ve done some wonderful things. and it didn’t cost us anything. they paid for the, the diggers. they paid for the… they paid for everything… the equipment. so now they’re working on the word of a fireman from oklahoma. that gives me some credibility.

that the iaa paid for everything (the equipment, the diggers, etc.,) is troublesome. if this is true, i must ask: why was the iaa working with these people? and why is the iaa paying for it. that is, unless the iaa was going to dig at qumran anyway, and they let the copper scroll project bunch tag along and observe, in which case barfield is misrepresenting his role on this excavation. what is even more troublesome for the iaa is barfield’s continual claim that the iaa is ‘working on the word of a fireman from oklahoma.’ scary indeed. i know of only two other people who routinely praise the archaeologists working for the iaa digging at qumran. strange bedfellows indeed.

an even more problematic question must be asked: if the iaa is paying for everything: why is the copper scroll project raising money?? why does barfield need to raise money of the iaa is funding the excavations?

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still another great exchange takes place at 8:42 when tommie asks barfield if he actually knows hebrew:

tommie: jim, did, did you, um, study hebrew, do you, did… to know how to read hebrew?

barfield: i’m on about a kindergarten level. at best. and people say, ‘well how in the… and these ph.d. guys are jumping all over this. how did a guy with a kindergarten level understanding of hebrew figure this copper scroll out? it’s not that hard. here’s what i did: i used an investigative technique… i used a very technical piece of equipment. it’s called a uh, strong’s concordance. that thing works wonderful… i got the strong’s concordance number and i added it to it in case anyone ever questioned where i came up with this word at. i could show them. and it worked beautiful.

i don’t know where to begin. barfield admits to having a kindergarten level understanding of hebrew. this perhaps explains why barfield can’t tell the difference between mishnaic-style hebrew and biblical hebrew. and yes, we ph.d. types are ‘jumping all over this.’ think of this: barfield is claiming to have properly interpreted the text of the copper scroll, but only reads hebrew at a kindergarten level and can’t tell mishnaic hebrew from standard biblical hebrew. this probably explains why barfield believes jeremiah wrote the copper scroll.

and a strong’s concordance? for mishnaic hebrew??

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finally, at 23:38, we are told why barfield and knight are doing what they are doing and how they are doing it. according to knight:

Jim Barfield disappointed that the Copper Scroll Project was not allowed to 'dig to the proper depth' to allow them to find the treasures of the Copper Scroll

Jim Barfield is disappointed that the Copper Scroll Project was not allowed to 'dig to the proper depth' to allow them to find the treasures of the Copper Scroll

jim and i were friends since 03, and when we… he discovered the copper scroll and he deciphered it, as we began to pray about it and really f… try to figure out why in the world would god reveal to jim and m… myself to associate with him and helpin’ him to s… to research the copper scroll, and we could only come to one conclusion, and it was, and it was sealed our mission: was that the items are to be retrieved and returned to the nation of israel.

according to knight, jimmy barfield ‘discovered’ the copper scroll. jimmy barfield ‘deciphered’ the copper scroll. and most shockingly according to knight, god apparently revealed all this information to jimmy barfield for the specific purpose of discovering the items from the tabernacle and returning them to the nation of israel (before the palestinians get them).

again, i am speechless. i literally have nothing to say to that.

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another bombshell from barfield comes at the 35:31 mark:

because jeremiah… it, it is my undying opinion that he was the teacher of righteousness written about in the dead sea scrolls.

wow. just wow! jeremiah, who lived in the 6th century bce, is the ‘teacher of righteousness’ written about in mishnaic hebrew on the copper scroll (dating to the late 1st/early 2nd century ce). go figure. this must come from barfield’s kindergarten level understanding of hebrew.

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one final area of concern comes when barfield mentions that someone from the travel channel heard about him and interviewed him for a program called ‘secret worlds.’ i resolutely do not believe that any network, production studio, or director would have the lack of sense to put jimmy barfield on any television show. i have a feeling that any producer who gives barfield air time will suffer greatly from tarnished credibility. it will most likely be a black mark on their resumé, and will cause legitimate  archaeologists to avoid them from barfield forward.

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in sum, i am not out to make fun. i am not out to waste time on nonsense. it is important, however, for scholars to address ridiculous claims made by amateurs with the same vigor we critique those within the academy. popular amateurs are not exempt from peer-review simply because they avoid it. it is the responsibility of real archaeologists and scholars to help the public as well as production companies to understand when they are being lied to and being fed mere speculation. it is the responsibility of the academy to provide credible original research and to protect scholarship from claims from the likes of jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project.

n.b. don’t miss the commercial break at the 49:00 mark. again: classic!

on the balancing act between faith and credible archaeology

i recently received a letter via facebook that asked an intriguing question: how does one do archaeology and still retain one’s faith?

the question alone gave me pause because it implied that doing science will ultimately lead one to renounce one’s belief in god, or at the very least shatter one’s theological understanding of the world.

this issue comes up again and again with students. essentially, archaeology students soon learn that while some of the passages and claims made within the bible are consistent with archaeological findings, many others are not. this quickly leads a person of faith to make one of two choices: either to cling to one’s faith and begin to look for alternate ‘methodologies’ that could explain the bible’s claims that are inconsistent with the archaeological evidence, or, to accept the scientific data and re-examine one’s religious preconceptions. afraid to admit that what they were taught or have believed for so long might be wrong, many students opt for clinging to their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the bible and seek out new ways to interpret the data so that it is congruent with their preconceived beliefs. yet, this methodology leads only to poor science, even poorer interpretations of the data, and ultimately to misleading claims about the nature of the remains.

sometimes, archaeology is nothing more than boring rocks in the ground. but the true archaeologist does not seek out the big discovery that changes all we know in one amazing find, but rather gives his or her life to seasons of excavation and discovery, letting the evidence speak for itself until the larger picture of the social, economic, and yes, at times, religious makeup of the society is slowly revealed.

so for those seeking to balance faith and archaeology, here are a few tips:

  1. follow the data wherever it leads. sometimes the data doesn’t line up with the text of the bible. this is true about many sites and many verses. in some places, the text just isn’t supported by the evidence. this does not mean that the bible does not contain truth in other places, but it does tell us a lot about the author and the message the author was attempting to convey. remember, even the early church father origen offered a straightforward explanation of the preservation of factual truth within documents edited by human hands. in his commentary on john 10:4, origen says, ‘the spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in material falsehood.’ just because a factual error exists in the text of the bible doesn’t mean that truth cannot still be conveyed.
  2. follow sound scientific methodology. if your methodology is good, your claims will be better received, and you (and/or your organization) will retain credibility. don’t fudge. take good notes, log everything (especially if it is contrary to your hypothesis), and don’t cut corners. methodical monotony is boring, but will be your friend in the long run. baby steps, small turns, an inch at a time. it is by the archaeological method employed that the academy will judge an archaeologist. credibility is earned over a long period of time, not with a single find.
  3. not every ‘biblical archaeology’ object is the same. just because noah’s ark and the holy grail are most likely legendary, doesn’t mean the ancient israelites didn’t carry a gold covered wooden box (the ark of the covenant) around in front of them when they marched into battle (like every other army at the time). each object is unique and should be treated as such. walls and pots are often (read: usually) more important than gold and silver. treat every object with respect, wash every sherd, and always check for writing.
  4. partner up. the best way to earn credibility as an archaeologist is to partner with and work for an established, credible archaeologist or excavation. don’t seek to strike out on your own too quickly. this requires substantial fundraising and once you begin asking for funds more than you dig, scholars begin to question your motives, your credibility drops, and your conclusions will be questioned more often. be humble. pay your dues. earn your stripes. and then, when you have established the credibility and education you need, work with the authorities to secure your own excavation.
  5. never, ever search for the ark of the covenant, noah’s ark, or the holy grail. adventure quests will always bring immediate derision and condemnation from the academy. never claim to be the first to discover anything; someone else has already done something similar. cite them! remember that most scholars rightly reject any primordial notion of god destroying the earth with a flood; they opt instead to see this story as a parallel to the gilgamesh epic or some other early flood narrative. sensational claims are the quickest way to expose oneself as a fundamentalist. know the literature, read, and always see what your opponents have to say before you make a claim.
  6. submit to the peer-review process. the most credible archaeologists submit to the peer-review process and allow their findings to be critiqued by the academy. submit articles for publication in refereed journals and present papers at national conferences. welcome criticism and feedback. this is the only way to ensure your that interpretations will gain the traction they need to become the accepted consensus.

ultimately, it’s not about what you believe, or even what you can prove. rather, a credible archaeologist or archaeology program is judged by the methodology it uses to reach its conclusions. if the science is good, and the results are published in credible journals, the program as well as the scholar will be a success.

the single greatest argument against junk science i have ever seen

intelligent_aliensthis is absolutely the best argument against ‘intelligent design,’ ancient aliens, and all other forms of junk science, pseudoscience, and sensationalism i’ve seen. in this short clip, the narrator provides a satirical argument eviscerating the popular tendency of junk scientists to bypass critical method, peer-review, and all forms of scientific evidence to make an otherwise unfounded claim. the portion of the video that compares claims of alien involvement in the development of humanity’s various technologies to the present ‘intelligent design’ movement, which uses the court system and claims of academic freedom to advance non-scientific theories under threats of violation of the equal protection clause.

why produce evidence when you can claim that your ‘belief’ is free speech, and that it should be considered just as ‘possible’ as theories that have veritable support of actual scientific data?

you see, doing science is hard work. conducting original research, writing technical papers with lots of footnotes and publishing them in reputable journals where they’ll be critically examined by other highly trained scientists isn’t exactly easy. even if you are lucky enough to make it through the peer-review process unscathed, you still have to present your work at professional conferences, where the world’s experts will pick apart your assumptions and methods to find anything that you might have overlooked in your research. why would anybody voluntarily subject themselves to this madness? i can understand doing it to get some honest feedback, but if your mind is already made up, what’s the point of exposing yourself to criticism?

this is where i believe the intelligent alien intervention institute can learn a thing or two from the discovery institute, the driving force behind the ‘intelligent design’ movement. the ‘intelligent design’ movement has discovered how to effectively bypass the protocols traditionally used to weed out junk science. just think how useful such a loophole could be.

absolutely classic!

circular reasoning, public appeal, demonizing science and scientists, the use of the court system, the assistance of politicians and fundraising, and claims of freedom of expression are all tactics used by amateurs, hacks, pseudoscientists, and sensationalists to advance their claims when they possess no data to support them.

this video makes this point succinctly and in a most entertaining fashion. with thanx to michael heiser for the tip and creator gordon j. glover, give it a look.

‘the distortion of archaeology and what we can do about it’ by eric cline

bi_jugbible and interpretation has published dr. eric cline’s new article entitled, ‘the distortion of archaeology and what we can do about it: a brief note on progress made and yet to be made.’ in the article, dr. cline laments the trend towards the sensationalism of archaeological claims made by amateur archaeologists, hacks, fakes, and scholars who should know better, and the media’s use of this quackery to sell books and magazines and drive traffic to television documentaries and internet sites.

dr. cline then details how some archaeologists are working hard to expose this nonsense, critique and correct the false claims, and re-establish legitimate archaeology as a science and not as a field held hostage by those who use the media and internet to drive minority opinions, spurious claims, and outright unsustainable theories.

give it a read.

now you can pay to hear the madness

Jim Barfield, leader of the 'Copper Scroll Project' testing a metal detector in preparation for his search for the treasures of the Copper Scroll

Jim Barfield, leader of the 'Copper Scroll Project' testing a metal detector in preparation for his search for the treasures of the Copper Scroll.

(you have got to be absolutely kidding me…)

come one, come all and see the greatest show on earth. it’s jimmy barfield, director of the copper scroll project, and he wants you to pay him to come to speak to your group.

here, on the copper scroll project’s newest web page, you can read all about what jimmy barfield will tell you if you will only contribute to his fundraising cause. just think, now you can pay to hear madness: schedule a meeting with jim barfield and the copper scroll project team, give them some money, and maybe you too can help bring about the rebuilding of the third temple and discover some really cool treasure all at the same time. because that’s what real archaeology is all about: finding treasure with a metal detector, bringing back the third temple, and keeping land away from the palestinians, right jim?

because the page is either mis-formatted or intentionally disguised, i’ve cut and pasted the text here. here’s what the page says:

SCHEDULE A MEETING
Schedule a presentation and learn details of what the Copper Scroll is and the incredible information that it contains and hear the story of how Jim Barfield discovered the key to understanding this most important document.

The Class will consist of:

• The events leading up to Jim Barfield’s discovery of the Copper Scroll locations
• The history of the Copper Scroll from the academic scholars and Jim Barfield’s personal view of the history of the scroll
• How the initial discovery was made and Jim Barfield’s resulting research
• Jim Barfield’s four trips to Israel to verify his findings at the actual locations listed on the Copper Scroll and how he was required to disclose the information to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
• Learn about the amazing artifacts and vast treasures that may be contained at the locations described by the ancient scroll.
• Jim Barfield’s relationships that resulted from his research on the Copper Scroll including:

• A Leading Temple Rabbi (his name is being kept secret until the right time)
• Gershon Solomon of the Temple Mount Faithful
• Vendyl Jones, a prominent Copper Scroll Scholar
• Shuka Dorfman the head of the Antiquities Authority of Israel
• Tamar Yonah, a great friend and supporter of our project and Talk Show Host for Israel National Radio
• William McKay, the producer of the TV series “Against All Odds” has called and offered to produce the documentary covering the story of Jim Barfield’s discovery and the dig that is to soon follow.
• The entire class will be presented with a PowerPoint Presentation, a projector and laptop will be available if your group does not have the necessary equipment for the class.
• Your group will also see the photo that is becoming so famous…the buried opening of the cave that most likely contains, the Alter of Incense, the Tabernacle of Moses, Jeremiah’s title deed to the Land of Benjamin, and most importantly “The Ark of the Covenant.”
• Be among the few that will see this presentation before the cave is opened, or before Jim Barfield is robbed of his discovery and unscrupulous men open the cave with out him.

Jim Barfield is raising funds to return to Israel to do the excavation required to unearth the most exciting discovery since the Tomb of Tutankhamun was opened by Howard Carter in the early 1900’s.  In order to do the required excavation a large amount of funding will be required and Jim Barfield and his associates are working hard to make this happen before the land that contains the locations listed on the Copper Scroll is given to the Palestinians.

Required provisions for Jim Barfield and/or Chris Knight to be able to do the Copper Scroll Presentation;

• Transportation costs (airfare or $0.54 per mile)
• Lodging
• $40.00 per day per diem for food per person
• Request for donations to support our Israel Excavation

Contact Jim Barfield at this email address [address xxx’d out so as not to promote the cause] to make the arrangements.

i simply do not know where to begin. perhaps i can start with listing just a few posts that have attempted to combat this kind of fake, sensationalistic, pseudoscience, amateur, did i mention fake, nonsense that barfield and his ‘team’ are attempting to pass off as archaeology:

  1. https://bobcargill.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/the-insanity-continues-jim-barfield-and-the-copper-scroll-project-get-another-jpost-article/
  2. https://bobcargill.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/transcript-of-tamar-yonahs-interview-of-copper-scroll-project-director-jim-barfield/
  3. https://bobcargill.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/new-article-by-dr-robert-cargill-pseudo-science-and-sensationalist-archaeology-an-expose-of-jimmy-barfield-and-the-copper-scroll-project/
  4. https://bobcargill.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/how-not-to-pad-your-ratings-the-copper-scroll-project-facebook-marketing-scheme/
  5. https://bobcargill.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/this-is-why-we-must-fight-pseudoscientific-fake-archaeology/
  6. https://bobcargill.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/now-busted-the-cover-up-begins-jimmy-barfield-and-the-copper-scroll-project/
  7. http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/copper.shtml
  8. http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/cargill2_08261.shtml
  9. http://jwest.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/more-dilettantism-the-copper-scroll-project/
  10. http://jwest.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/post-ashamed/
  11. http://jwest.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/the-post-essay-and-barfield-are-misrepresenting-the-iaa/
  12. http://drjimsthinkingshop.com/2009/08/27/pseudoreality-and-archaeology-virtual-reality-and-qumran/
  13. http://asorblog.org/?p=259
  14. http://blog.bibleplaces.com/2009/08/copper-scroll-code-cracked.html
  15. http://biblicalpaths.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/the-copper-scrolls-dr-robert-cargill-on-the-insignificance-and-the-abuse-of-the-copper-scroll/
  16. http://biblicalpaths.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/copper-scroll-the-jim-barfield-saga-continues/
  17. http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/oklahoma-ark-eologist-arson-investigation-skills-to-find-lost-temple-treasure/
  18. http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/claim-oklahoma-government-officials-to-lobby-top-people-in-israel-on-behalf-of-copper-scroll-treasure-hunter/
  19. http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/jim-barfields-israel-adventure-continues-hebrew-roots-teacher-sets-up-meeting-with-archaeologist/
  20. http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/jerusalem-post-puffs-jim-barfields-copper-scroll-treasure-quest/

now, barfield is making himself available to the public for his own mini ‘copper scroll lecture series.’ but there is one line that sticks out like a sore thumb from barfield’s web page above:

Jim Barfield is raising funds to return to Israel.

and there it is. simply put, jimmy barfield has told the world exactly what this project is all about: raising money. ain’t that the truth!

this line really caught me off guard:

• Be among the few that will see this presentation before the cave is opened, or before Jim Barfield is robbed of his discovery and unscrupulous men open the cave with out him.

what? ‘his‘ discovery? what discovery?? the iaa found out barfield was making false claims about his role in this ‘expedition’ and cut him off, and now they are doing their job (excavating) and barfield fears that they will find ‘his‘ discovery? without him?? again, we are privy to what this entire copper scroll project is all about: credit and publicity for jimmy barfield. barfield has now twice betrayed his motivation: money and credit/publicity.

as for the line:

A Leading Temple Rabbi (his name is being kept secret until the right time)

i shake my head. literally. perhaps the identity of this ‘leading temple rabbi’ is being kept secret because it is as real as the ‘amazing artifacts and vast treasures that may be contained at the locations described by the ancient scroll.’ or, perhaps more likely, the identity of this ‘leading temple rabbi’ is being kept secret for the same reason that the name of ‘the archaeologist’ has been removed from the website and overdubbed in their videos (note the audio at 0:28, 1:26, 2:18, 3:50, and 5:11): they both asked jimmy barfield not to use their names for fear of being linked to sheer and utter nonsense.

as far as this claim is concerned:

Your group will also see the photo that is becoming so famous…the buried opening of the cave that most likely contains, the Alter of Incense, the Tabernacle of Moses, Jeremiah’s title deed to the Land of Benjamin, and most importantly “The Ark of the Covenant.”

i simply am at a loss for words. the line is written in such a manner that if some unwitting group were naïve enough to believe this claim and actually pay money to invite jimmy barfield to speak to their group, he would actually show them these items (the alter [sic] of incense, the tabernacle of moses, jeremiah’s title deed to the land of benjamin, and most importantly the ark of the covenant) that exist only in the fantasy world of jimmy barfield’s mind. how is jimmy barfield supposed to find the altar of incense if he can’t even spell altar?? and really, jeremiah’s title deed to the land of benjamin? the ark of the covenant?? they will see a picture of a cave. that’s it. what’s inside of it is sheer and admitted speculation.

seriously, it’s time for this nonsense to stop.

just remember, as p.t. barnum said, ‘there’s a sucker born every minute.’

now busted, the cover-up begins: jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project

Jim Barfield, leader of the 'Copper Scroll Project' testing a metal detector in preparation for his search for the treasures of the Copper Scroll

Jim Barfield, leader of the 'Copper Scroll Project,' testing a metal detector in preparation for his search for the treasures of the Copper Scroll.

jimmy barfield and his copper scroll project disciples have been hard at work responding to a barrage of charges of false claims, pseudoscience, and manipulative marketing. the most recent example comes from their facebook page. this blog revealed on august 27, 2009 that jimmy barfield publicly encouraged his followers to go to their jerusalem post article by supporter shelly neese and pad the ratings by attaching positive feedback (click here to see image of copper scroll project facebook page as of aug. 23, 2009 :

One last request….could you all go to the end of the article at the link below and please rate it…..the higher we get on the ratings the better the chance will be that they do the next article. Shelly Neese has another article just waiting in the JPost office if can get enough of you guys to help out…so…if you would please give it a high rating…we need support from Israel. Thank you, Jim. (August 23)

i also noted that barfield placed a picture of the ark of the covenant on their page.

well, after exposing this not-so-subtle marketing scheme, barfield and his disciples removed the request by barfield to pad the jpost article with positive feedback and the picture of the ark of the covenant. the screen capture below shows the page as of august 23, 2009 (with my annotations in red).

The Copper Scroll Project Facebook Page. Note the red arrows pointing to a picture of the Ark of the Covenant and to a paragraph encouraging supporters to navigate to the linked Jerusalem Post article and provide positive comments on it.

The Copper Scroll Project Facebook Page (as of Aug 23, 2009). Note the red arrows pointing to a picture of the Ark of the Covenant and to a paragraph encouraging supporters to navigate to the linked Jerusalem Post article and provide positive comments on it.

the screen capture below shows the copper scroll project facebook page on august 31, 2009, after i posted the exposé of their marketing scheme (my annotations in red).

The Copper Scroll Project Facebook Page (as of Aug 31, 2009)

The Copper Scroll Project Facebook Page (as of Aug 31, 2009). Note that the picture of the Ark of the Covenant has been replaced with a pic of the Shrine of the Book, and that the post encouraging followers to pad Shelly Neese's Jerusalem Post article has been deleted.

it seems someone doesn’t want the rest of the world to see how the behind-the-scenes media manipulation works in jimmy barfield’s world. so, after reading this post on aug 27, it appears that barfield attempted to remove the evidence of his fluff marketing scheme. he deleted the post encouraging his supporters to rush to the jpost article and praise it, and he reposted the link to the tamar yonah interview, but only after removing the pic of the ark of the covenant and replacing it with an image of a scroll and the shrine of the book.

it’s a good thing that everything ever published on the internet is cached (and that i screen capture things when i see them ;-).

i shake my head.

Duke Conference on Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: DAY 1

i was asked by eric meyers to blog 2009 duke conference on archaeology, politics, and the media as an observer. even though my comments below are posted the monday after the conference ended, i recorded my comments as live notes, as one would live blog or twitter an event. my job was not to offer a polished report on the conference but rather to blog the sessions in a live manner. i’ve also added additional comments at places throughout.  -bc


Duke University Conference on

Archaeology, Politics, and the Media

April 23-24, 2009

The conference began with an introductory lecture by Eric Meyers and Michael J. Schoenfeld, Duke VP for Public Affairs and Gov’t Relations.

1:00 pm – 1:15 pm

Eric Meyers gave an introduction on the origin of the conference.

Meyers told the story of his first experience with archaeology and the media.

His discovery of an object in the Galilee was reported as: “Lost Ark Found in Wilderness of Galilee.”

His excavation’s “Sepphoris Mosaic” became the “Mona Lisa of the Middle East.”

Meyers told a brief history of the “James Ossuary,” and how Hershel Shanks, Simcha Jacobovich, and the ROM promoted and sponsored the James Ossuary exhibit in Toronto. SBL then held a special session on the James Ossuary.

Meyers concluded with the ongoing trial of Oded Golan, the power of the media, PR representatives, lawyers, the IAA, and others, and lamented the fact that these side-shows continue to take away from the work of reeal archaeology and archaeologists.

Michael Schoenfeld welcomed the attendees and gave an introduction to Duke. Schoenfeld provided reasons why he felt it was important that Duke University addressed issues of Archaeology, Politics, and the Media.

1:15-1:35pm

Joel Marcus, professor at Duke, introduced the first speaker, Byron McCane.

Byron McCane – Prof. of Religion and Chair at Wofford College.
“Scholars Behaving Badly: Sensationalism and Archaeology in the Media.”

McCane discussed the Talpiot Tomb’s discovery and subsequent media blitz.

Wed, Oct. 3, 1945 was the actual first media blitz of the Talpiot Tomb. McCane told it as if it were the introduction to the recent Jacobovichi/Cameron endeavor (which, of course, it was not).

Earlier, on Sept. 10, 1945 Sukenik, Nachman Avigad, Yigael Yadin, excavated the Talpiot tomb for the first time.

McCane then told the story of the original discovery of the “Jesus Tomb.” Although he initially saw the possibility of Christian discipleship, Sukenik gave several interviews explaining the nature of the discovery, tempered sensational news reports, and published a formal, peer-reviewed report to the academy, which was received negatively. Scholars responded to the publishing negatively, and Sukenik received the criticism without protest. That is, he behaved like a scholar should, and took the high road, accepting the judgment of his peers.

Prof. McCane lamented the growing trend to report any archaeology discovery as a sensational, straight-to-media promotion, without the consultation of the academy.

2004 – Cave of John the Baptist
2007 – Talpiot again
2007 – Netzer discovered the Tomb of Herod the Great
2009 – Easter, Who really killed Jesus, found the house of Caiaphas.

Spate of sensationalism is surely the fault of the media.

But, (!)

Most documentary makers are careful and responsible, although speaking to a popular audience.

They attempt to catch the eye, challenge the mind, and touch the heart.

The responsibility also lies with scholars.

We have been entrusted with great responsibility like tenure, and the opportunity to educate the public’s children.

The responsibility of the scholar on TV is not to use it as an opportunity to promote our own pet theories, but to provide an informed scholarly consensus, or bring about a sense of the academic debate.

“We should never present to the media any theory that has not already been published in a peer-review journal. Put frankly, if you can’t get it published in a peer-review journals like BASOR and JBL, then don’t say it in front of a camera when the little red light is on.”

McCane concluded by stating that sensationalism gives the public the impression that the Middle East is a place where religious battles can be fought and won, and takes away from what the Middle East might someday be.

1:35-1:55pm

Milton Moreland, Assoc. Prof of Religious Studies at Rhodes College
“Forged by a Genius: Scholarly Responses to History Channel Meets CSI”

Religiously-inspired video productions are incredibly popular in the US.

The Religion documentary has arguably replaced the book as the method of archaeological dissemination of information to the public.

Moreland did a study on the public reception of religious TV docs with his class and shared some of the results.

Biblical scholars and archaeologists need to take these documentaries VERY seriously.

Where inspiration once came from thousands of hours of scholarly work, the public now receives the bulk of its information about archaeology from film studios.

The archaeologists and biblical scholars MUST continue to engage the documentary industry to counter the sensational misinformation of the fringe, conspiracy-laden documentaries.

Moreland stated that there are no crises of faith in the archaeological record except those manufactured by the popular media.

How did we get from John Grierson to Simcha Jacobovichi? How did something so educational go so wrong?

Docs once had a high level of trust and an expectation of truth.

PBS/BBC – May have been boring, but were associated with truth.
Frontline – Investigative Documentaries became seekers of truth and chief debunker of fantastic stories.
Ken Burns – Provided a model for filmmakers for biblical documentary makers.

In a final proposal, Moreland suggested that we must treat doc filmmaking in the way we treat other scholarly print. We must respond in a formal and timely manner to the sensational claims of the doc filmmaker.

Cargill note:

  • The journey of documentaries into a lesser level of truth and more entertainment is tied to its association to reality TV. This is why History doesn’t show history shows anymore. History and Discovery show “Ice Road Truckers” and “Deadliest Catch” and “Axe Men,” and have changed their slogan to “History in the Making” in order to cash in on the reality TV craze. Note that the Emmy Award category is now “Reality/Documentary” – both of which are scripted for maximum entertainment, often at the expense of truth. By the way, that’s almost done and it’s about to change.

1:55-2:15pm

Christopher Rollston, Emmanuel School of Religion
“An Ancient Medium in the Modern Media: Stages of Semitic Inscriptions”

Rollston gave a paper that, in keeping with his style and traditional subject matter, was an erudite specialist paper on NWS epigraphy.

Rollston described the discovery of the Mesha Inscription and the media that surrounded it. He noted that there never has been any doubt about its authenticity.

Rollston suggested three categories of archaeological inscriptions:

1. Forgery
2. Apologetic Usage
3. Sober Reflections by Scholars

For the Jehoash Inscription, Rollston stated:

1. Forgery (by the public)
2. Genuine (only by non-epigraphers)
3. Sober Reflection (forgery)

Rollston spoke about Jacobovichi and the Talpiot Tomb sham.

Rollston called for “All hands on deck!” We need to address the documentary sensationalism put forth by filmmakers, and not think ourselves above it.

Regarding the Jezebel seal, Rollston believes it’s a forgery. For many previously published reasons, and reason that there is no (other) 9th century seal in Canaan.

Following the outline he provided, Rollston then dealt with sensationalism surrounding other epigraphic discoveries.

1. The Media at Sea Sans Compass
a. Jesus Family Tomb

2. All Trained, Restrained Hands on Deck: The Sagacity of Methodological Doubt and Field Expertise
a. Jezebel Seal
b. Goliath Inscription
c. Temeh Seal to Shlmt Seal
d. John the Baptist Cave: No Epigraphic Data
e. Pierced Messiah
f. Baruch Bulla

3. Recalibrate the Ship’s Rudder: A Case Study in Retraction
a. Ebla Tablets and the Cities of the Plain

4. Navigating for Placid Waters

Methodological Doubt must be our M.O.

Be suspicious comes from the antiquities market.

2:15-2:35pm

Jonathan Reed, Professor of Religion at University of LaVerne
“The Lure of Proof and the Legacy of Biblical Archaeology: Scholars and the Media”

Reed gave an excellent talk and accompanying powerpoint presentation on Pseudo science and Biblical Archaeology. He discussed his class that teaches critical method and historicity.

The lure of proof coupled with the lure of mammon drives much of popular media.

Hoaxes:

The Cardiff Giant – The petrified stone remains of a giant.
The Shroud of Turin –
Head of John the Baptist
Three Heads of the Magi
The Feather of the Holy Spirit
The Foreskin of Jesus (no image available)

The James Ossuary – there’s a sucker born every minute

How to create a sensationalistic (and profitable) claim:

Prey on the public’s thirst for proof
Use scholarly skepticism
There is money to be made
Use twists of logic
Make reason for doubt

Reed noted that archaeology is made to be the arbiter of faith and fact. Should this be the case?

Biblical pool (Silwan) found in Jerusalem.

The lag time between discovery and publication is suspect.

Public dissemination of the story and the earlier academic discussion are often disconnected.

The purpose of late (NT) archaeology is not to ‘prove’ the biblical narrative, but more to illuminate the social context of the world that produced the biblical narrative.

What should scholars do with regard to the media? Good teachers can use a stupid question to answer a rephrased form of that question and communicate a better bit of information, shedding light on the questions we should be asking.

2:35-3:00pm

Question and Answer Period

Is it better to anticipate in the media or to ignore and remain above the media?

Skepticism is growing. Skepticism follows sensationalism.

Today’s kids are more skeptical of things because we all know how to Photoshop, YouTube, blog, and manipulate the Internet (AND catch those that do it). Like a cat and mouse, the public (especially younger generations) are learning to be highly skeptical of sensational claims, and use the new set of research tools at their disposal to verify claims. This is why sensational archaeologists are making better use of websites, Wikipedia, and YouTube, to beat the scholars to the media.

Cargill notes:

  • We must engage the popular media.
  • Archaeologists must participate in these docs at the very least as debunkers and at best as authorities on the subject.
  • Archaeologists must form a consortium that offers some equivalent of a “seal of approval.”
  • There must be a group dedicated to discussing archaeology and the media. We have editorial boards for peer-review journals. Where is our editorial board for television production?
  • Likewise, the respected authorities/scholars within the field must embrace those bloggers and legit websites that are attempting to combat junk science by making guest posts on the sites.
  • It’s time to stop claiming that the academy is above television media. If we don’t speak to the public, they will.
  • One of us needs to get in, take root, and invite the others in.
  • Documentary filmmaking has merged with reality television. That means, the audience is getting younger. Thus, the more media savvy, younger generation of scholars will begin to get asked to participate. Where are they/we? Why am I the youngest person here?)
  • The other thing is that peer-review publication is the ‘radio’ of television media. That is, tv docs are always looking for people who are “camera friendly”. “Camera Friendly” can be defined as good looking, fit, or eccentric. Scholars need to do a better job of learning to speak and appear in ‘camera friendly’ ways, so that they will become more likely to be used on camera.

3:20-3:40 pm

Eric Cline, George Washington University
“Fabulous Finds and Fantastic Forgeries: The Distortion of Archaeology by the Media Pseudoarchaeology”

Cline began with a “study” that declared the types of breakfast cereals one eats influences the gender of children produced by the one eating the cereal. Even though the claim was later refuted by science, the legend remained.

The game is played by issuing a fantastic claim and couching it as possible.

When facts are later refuted, they are not as popular as the original fantastic claim.

We have already taken the first steps towards reclaiming the field archaeology from junk science and fantastic claims.

Cline suggests creating a “war room” to respond to junk science.

Cline used the example where he and Robert Cargill called out Randall Price and his search for Noah’s Ark on the ASOR website. He also noted his quick response to defend himself once he had been called out, showing that these junk scientists are using and monitoring the media and know of the power of legitimate scholars responding to them.

Cline noted that the AIA created a combat/refutation site.

Cline also described the Raphael/Norman Golb affair and their misuse of the Internet to promote marginal views of Norman Golb. He described how Robert Cargill used the Internet to track and ultimately expose the media campaign.

Cline suggested we should create something like a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for documentary makers.

Cline also suggested that ASOR should create a page for the media in which a list of specialists who are willing to appear on camera might appear.

3:40-3:50pm

Response by Joe Zias, Science and Archaeology Group

Zias discussed how this issue has been around since the 70’s with Erich von Däniken.

He also discussed how the media exploits religion and vice versa.

Zias described a story of how Hershel Shanks published an article about the James Ossuary, and told the real story behind the abuses of the ossuary and the media coverage of it.

During the discussion period, Eric Cline stated that 30 years ago, there were a few nuts and a few outlets. Today, there are more outlets (Internet) and therefore more nuts making unverified claims. The lure of an unknown amateur making a discovery missed by the professionals is appealing to the reality TV/American Idol public audience.

Robert Cargill asked whether this “crisis” is based upon this second American trend of self-publication? As newspapers fail and blogging increases, the definition of ‘credible’ resources is again in question. Credible scholars must embrace credible bloggers or create a central, authoritative one of their own.

4:00-4:20pm

Morag Kersel, University of Toronto
“The Power of the Press Release and Popular Magazines on the Antiquities Trade”

Kersel spoke about archaeology and the ethics of antiquities sales. She discussed the practice of looting and its relation to the antiquities market.

Kersel did original research in the form of interviews to determine how consumer demand drives antiquities dealers’ desire to acquire objects.

AAMD issued guidelines for press releases that limit publication of items after the 1970 threshold date to those that have a demonstrable history of ownership or context.

Archaeological context is not about history of ownership, but about actual in situ context. We need to wage a social war against those who advocate for the collection of antiquities. Only education as to the supply and demand of this trade will curb the desire to collect objects.

4:20-4:30pm

Response by Annabel Wharton, Duke University

Wharton agreed with Kersel and argued that dealers and collectors drive the market and harm archaeology and despoil it of its own history by removing it from its context.

As an example, Wharton shows the claims about the “Tomb of David” in Jerusalem.

4:40-5:00pm

Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“Confessions of an Archaeologist: Lessons I Learned from Talpiyot Tomb Fiasco and Other Media Encounters”

Magness told many stories about her participation in public documentaries.

People are most interested in issues of Egyptology (mummies, pyramids, etc.), and anything related to Jesus.

The web has blurred the lines between scholarly credibility and popular junk science.

It is impossible to explain in a 60-second sound bite why some archaeological claims are simply invalid. Sensationalist claims can be made in a moment. Disproving a claim scientifically takes more time, more effort, a more patient and understanding audience, and therefore are not usually as received as the initial claim.

Some filmmakers use their connections and capital to promote false claims, in spite of archaeologists counter claims. They do it knowingly for ratings.

Magness wished that ASOR, SBL, and the AIA had issued swift claims denouncing many of these false claims.

Archaeologists have a responsibility to communicate their findings to the public. This means that scholars need to learn to speak in sound bites and become more media savvy.

5:00-5:10pm

Response by Chad Spigel, Trinity University

Academics have had tremendous difficulty responding to and refuting sensationalist claims.

Are scholars offering the kind of expertise that the public thinks it is receiving?

Academics don’t always agree with each other, and history is always interpretation.

Irresponsible uses of the media can be used as teaching moments in the classroom.

Cargill notes:

  • The number one thing interviewers say to me is, “Can you say that again, but say it more definitively? You keep saying ‘It is possible’ or ‘some scholars believe’ before everything. Can you say it again and just say it factually?” The fact is that scholars can’t, because scholars live in a world of probability, doubt, and preponderance of evidence, while junk science and peddlers of sensationalism live in a world where any data is definitive, and any possibility, no matter how remote, is fodder for investigatory entertainment.

5:20-5:40pm

Mark Goodacre, Duke Professor of the NT

“The Talpiot Tomb and the Bloggers”

Dr. Goodacre talked about the role of blogging in the Talpiot Tomb affair.

Goodacre demonstrated the successes and failures of blogging in their role in countering the claims of the Jesus Tomb doc.

The key is a consistent presence, which builds trust and confidence in the source, as well as a presence within Internet searches.

5:40-5:50pm

Response by A.K.M. Adam, Duke University

Mark Goodacre’s “Talpiot mistakes” page is not as much of a failure as he thinks it is. Goodacre should be credited with an early and consistent voice against the Jacobovichi’s claims, as well as a platform for others to voice their concerns and opinions.

We need to learn to address other media outlets other than blogs.

We need to engage all forms of media and get ahead of the curve.

7:45 Plenary Session

Patty Gerstenblith, DePaul University; Director of the Center for Art, Museum and Cultural Heritage Law; President, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
“Legal and Ethical Aspects of Cultural Heritage”

The earliest form of looting is the booty of war.

The French were required to return the plunder of war after the Napoleonic War.

Only about half of the objects were returned.

Leber Doctrine – Cultural objects captured during war were to be returned and not destroyed. First codified set of rules regarding artifacts.

1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

Art. 3. Safeguard Cultural Property

Art. 4. Respect for Cultural Property

  • Section 1. The High Contracting Parties undertake to…
  • Section 2. The obligations mentioned in paragraph 1…may be waived only in cases where military necessity imperatively requires….

Art. 5. Occupation

  • Section 1. Any High Contracting Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory…

Art. 7. Military Measures

Hague Convention Blue Shield

First Protocol

  • Section 1. An occupying power should prevent export from occupied territory.

Second Protocol (1999)

Narrows “military necessity” waiver

Art. 9. Preserves cultural property

Status of the Hague Convention as of 2003

105 States Parties to main Convention
87 to First Protocol
U.S. had signed, but not ratified the treaty

Following WWII, the antiquities market surpassed war as the leading cause of looting.

Fakes and Looting became the two main ways to appease the demand for artifacts.

Market and looting encourage damage to artifacts. The mosaics in Northern Syria were given as an example.

Gerstenblith spoke of the story of the excavation:

Proliferation of Aramaic incantation bowls in Israel post-2003. Under the conventions, Israel should return the bowls (if proved to be authentic) to Iraq.

How did US military break the conventions?

Sites looted for objects are worse than looting the museum. Because in a museum, at least the objects are recorded.

Recent developments:

1970 UNESCO Convention ratifications: UK, Suisse, Germany, Belgium
1954 Hague Convention.
UK proposed ratification of convention
Germany implementing legislating
US ratification in 13 March, 2009.

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