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

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If the Evidence Doesn’t Fit, Photoshop It: Digital Image Manipulation in the Case of Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor’s Jonah Ossuary

As the author of a book in the burgeoning fields of digital archaeological reconstruction and virtual reality, and as a member of the University of Iowa Digital Humanities Cohort, I know the importance of transparency when it comes to representing archaeological data in digital media. While most find it boring (and while some critics claimed chapters 3 and 4 in my book, Qumran through (Real) Time, which detailed each tedious technological step of my digital reconstruction methodology would have been better left out), I find it essential to the credibility of the practice of digital reconstruction to demonstrate at each point in the process precisely how digital reconstructions are made and exactly how the data are handled and represented. When dealing with digital representations of archaeological data, it is essential for the establishment of a researcher’s credibility to document all alterations of digital imagery and data. For as a colleague of mine (who happened to disagree with part of my digital Qumran reconstruction) once memorably stated to me, “If you give the public a picture of your interpretation of the data, they’ll believe it!”

Images are powerful. And because they are powerful, archaeologists must take great care in representing visual data properly in publication. For just as well-handled visual data can greatly inform the reader and provide new insights into archaeological research, so too can mishandled, or worse yet, deliberately manipulated visual images distort reality. Unfortunately, deliberately altered visual data have been used to support sensational claims throughout history like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and this abuse has only worsened with the rise of digital photography and editing. It is now possible for unscrupulous individuals to manipulate photographs for the purposes of supporting sensational claims in the hopes that said claims can be published in print and on television to generate tremendous revenues for those making the claims.

Unfortunately, digital technology is often times also used by some to distract from a weak argument. That is, some will elaborate upon and highlight the use of technology in the hope that the mere presence of sophisticated technology, which may have no bearing whatsoever on the interpretation of an object in under examination, will distract from any subsequent fallacious claims being made about said object. And, in more disquieting cases, digital technology is sometimes used to “enhance” or even fabricate evidence outright that supports an otherwise untenable claim.

Or, to put it another way: if the evidence doesn’t fit, Photoshop it (especially if it looks fishy).

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that an image that has been circulating in the press as part of the marketing campaign in support of the new book by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and University of North Carolina, Charlotte Professor, Dr. James Tabor, entitled, The Jesus Discovery, and Mr. Jacobovici’s forthcoming documentary, has been digitally manipulated in such a way as to lead the reader toward a desired conclusion. That is, the image making the rounds in the press and published by Dr. Tabor on the Bible and Interpretation website has been digitally altered and made to look like an engraving of a “great fish” on an ossuary discovered in Jerusalem, in order to support the authors’ rather sensational claim.

What’s more, in Dr. Tabor’s article, the manipulation of the photo of the “fish” on the ossuary has been made without any acknowledgment that the image has been manipulated.

Evidence

In his recent publication in Bible and Interpretation entitled, “A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem,” Dr. James Tabor describes “Ossuary 6” (the “Jonah Ossuary”) on page 20, and references two images: Figs. 20 and 21.

Fig. 20 from page 41 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, Feb 28, 2012.

Fig. 20 from page 41 of the 'Bible and Interpretation' article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, published Feb 28, 2012. The caption for this image reads: "20. Jonah image on front façade of ossuary 6."

Fig. 21 from page 42 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, Feb 28, 2012.

Fig. 21 from page 42 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, published Feb 28, 2012. The caption for this image reads: "21. Blowup of Jonah image."

Fig. 20 is pictured on page 41 along with a caption that reads: “20. Jonah image on front façade of ossuary 6.”

Fig. 21 is pictured in page 42 along with a caption that reads: “21. Blowup of Jonah image.”

Nowhere in the text of Dr. Tabor’s article or in the captions beneath the images is there any acknowledgment whatsoever that Fig. 21 has been altered other than being “blown up” or enlarged. This differs slightly from the caption of the same image in the Jesus Discovery book, where the caption for Fig 26 on p. 86 reads: “A composite representation of the ossuary image of Jonah and the big fish” (italics mine). On March 1, 2012, the team’s “Jesus Discovery” media website labeled the image as a “CGI enhanced image of ‘Jonah and the Whale’.”

However, whether the image in question is a “blown up” or “composite” image, as soon as one looks at original photograph and the composite/blown up image side-by-side, one immediately notices that Fig. 21 is no simple enlargement of Fig. 20, but rather a highly-doctored digital artist’s representation of Fig. 20.

Side-by-side comparison of Figs. 20 (left) and 21 from the 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 on Feb 28, 2012.

Side-by-side comparison of Figs. 20 (right) and 21 from the '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. I have rotated Fig. 21 (left) back to its actual orientation for comparison purposes.

Let us examine the examples of digital image manipulation.

1. Fig. 21 in Dr. Tabor’s article has been enlarged, rotated, and cropped. Simple changes to scale that retain fundamental aspects of digital data, such as shape, color, and features are generally not considered compromises of the digital image.

Archaeological photo indicating size and direction.

Example of archaeological photo indicating size and direction.

Archaeological photo indicating size and direction

Example of archaeological photo indicating size and direction

However in cases where alterations of scale and orientation are made to images, it is common practice to supply a centimeter measuring stick or relative scale (see above) to convey relative size, and a compass pointing north (see above) to indicate the orientation (especially for rotated images).

Digital reconstruction of the SE pottery annex at Qumran from 'Qumran through (Real) Time' by Robert R. Cargill.

Digital reconstruction of the SE pottery annex at Qumran. Photo from 'Qumran through (Real) Time' by Robert R. Cargill. Note the digital overlay indicating direction/orientation and loci.

These size and direction indicators can even be added to hard to reach areas (like those accessible only through robotic arms) and digital reconstructions after the fact (see above). Both of these are absent in both of Tabor’s Figs. 20 and 21.

Frog or Horse?

Frog or Horse?

Fish or Girl?

Fish or Girl?

As the classic optical illusion of the frog and the horse or the fish and the girl (note that this fish actually has an eye) demonstrates, rotation and orientation make a huge difference when identifying an object. The psychological process of “cognitive priming” can be used to lead the brain to interpret certain objects in a desired manner. Michael Shermer’s book, The Believing Brain, examines this process in detail.

It is quite telling that it was this digitally altered photo, Fig. 21, that was first sent to the press by Jacobovici and Tabor, and that the image was rotated to the side in most press reports. That is, the absence of any indication of proper orientation on the photograph allowed Jacobovici and Tabor to depict the image on its side, that is, in a manner more consistent with the natural orientation of a fish, rather than in its proper orientation with the tapered end down, which would more resemble some kind of ceramic or glass vessel.

For instance, in the Yahoo News story by Eric Pfeiffer and the MSNBC Cosmic Log story by Alan Boyle on Feb. 28, 2012, the doctored image appears rotated onto its side with no indication in the caption or in the story that it has been digitally altered. Similarly, the Photoshopped image depicted in the Haaretz.com story by Nir Hasson on Feb. 28, 2012 describes the image as an “enhanced image” without noting that the image is out of context and rotated to better resemble a fish. Likewise, in the LiveScience story by Wynne Parry and the syndicated FoxNews.com story on Feb. 28, 2012, both the digitally altered photo and the photograph are included among the images. And while the doctored image under examination has a caption that reads, “A CGI-enhanced image” (italics mine), both the Photoshopped image and the photograph are rotated to resemble the natural orientation of fish, and no indication is given for either image that they have been rotated from their in situ orientation.

Of course, Jacobovici and Tabor can “blame the press” for rotating the images, but they wouldn’t have had the problem had the orientation indicators and size and scale indicators been digitally placed on the images in the first place. Likewise, the fact that their own YouTube promotional videos also have the image turned on its side while they prime the brain with discussions about a fish (see the 1:35 mark) suggest that the image rotations were not the product of the press, but were done by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor from the outset.

It therefore appears that the repeated rotation of the image to its side and away from its proper orientation is not the result of trying to fit it on a page for publication, but may be a deliberate attempt to orient the image in such a way so that it better resembles the natural disposition of a fish. The image Jacobovici and Tabor released to the press appears to have been intentionally disoriented.

2. One then notices that Fig. 21 is a different color than Fig. 20. It appears more brown or sand colored, possessing much less green than Fig. 20. While this may be an attempt by the authors to make Fig. 21 look more like other known images engraved in limestone ossuaries, and while this is, in fact, an alteration of the digital data, we can excuse this acceptable manipulation of the image as a simple color correction from the original photo (Fig. 20). That said, many archaeologists do not like the practice of “color correcting,” as maintaining color data is the purpose of employing Munsell color charts in archaeological recording and photography. Such color information is lacking from the article and the figures.

Thus far, the image has been enlarged, rotated, cropped, and color corrected. Unfortunately, Fig. 21 appears to have undergone an additional digital perspective manipulation to correct the oblique angle of the camera, which apparently was not perpendicular to the image when the photograph was taken. This is a more serious digital manipulation of the image, as it involves correcting the lengths and angles of objects to make them appear as if they were photographed at a perpendicular angle to the object (straight on). This technique is also used to correct so-called “barreling” and “fish-eye” lens effects that result from certain cameras and angles, especially during close-up shots. This more severe correction to the image in Fig. 21 can be excused as a digital correction of a poor initial camera angle, but it is customary to acknowledge that the image has been altered to correct for perspective. This is nowhere indicated in Dr. Tabor’s article.

Unfortunately, the evidence of image manipulation with regard to Fig. 21 (the image that has been sent to the press) far exceeds simple rectification of orientation, size, color, and perspective. The evidence below details a number of digital alterations to Fig. 21 that simply cannot be described as a “Blowup of Jonah image.”

A side-by-side look at differences between Figs. 20 (left) and 21 (pgs. 41-42) from the 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.

A side-by-side look at differences between Figs. 20 (left) and 21 (pgs. 41-42) from the 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. I have rotated Fig. 21 (right) back to its actual orientation for comparison purposes.

3. An object covering the right side of the supposed “tail fin” (marked as “Digitally Removed” in the upper right corner of Fig. 20 above) is present in Fig. 20, but suddenly absent in Tabor’s Fig. 21. On p. 83 of the Jesus Discovery book, this object is identified as another ossuary (#5) that is “jammed up against it so closely we were unable to see its full decorated façade.” In Fig. 21 above, Ossuary #5 been digitally removed and the right portion of the “tail fin” has been digitally generated using a Photoshop process called “clone stamping.” This is evidenced by the fact that it appears darker than the rest of the “fin.” Likewise, the dark shadow that appears down the right side of the “tail fin” in Fig. 21 may be explained as the unintended result of the process of cloning and creating that portion of the “fin,” as there is a dark spot present in Fig. 20 at the intersection of the right side of the image and Ossuary #5. The shadow is the result of cloning that dark spot up along right side of the “tail fin.”

4. Perhaps one the most egregious alterations to Fig. 21 appears in the so-called “tail.” The shape of the “tail” is altered to make it look more like the tail of a fish. The horizontal top of the “tail” in Fig. 20 is straight, but the corresponding line in Fig. 21 shows a tremendous bend on the right side. This is a deliberate result of the cloning process that produced the right side of the “tail fin” after Ossuary #5 covering part of the image in Fig. 20 was digitally removed from Fig. 21. The creation of this portion of the “tail” appears to have been deliberately drawn at an angle to further the illusion of a natural fish’s tail. Likewise, the left side of the “tail” in Fig. 21 also appears to have been gently rounded at the top, and then curved toward the bottom so that it better resembles a natural fish’s tail, while the corresponding area in Fig. 20 reveals a nearly L-shaped angle.

"IMG_7422 Posted on February 29, 2012 by admin" located on thejesusdiscovery.org website is a photo of the 'museum quality replica' of the "Jonah Ossuary" in question.

"IMG_7422 Posted on February 29, 2012 by admin" located on thejesusdiscovery.org website is a photo of the "museum quality replica" of the "Jonah Ossuary" in question.

It is worth noting that the reproduced image on the “museum quality replica” exhibited at Jacobovici and Tabor’s Feb. 28, 2012 press conference in New York does not match Tabor’s Fig. 21 image above, which was the image released to the press. The image is in its proper orientation, and not on its side. The artist(s) who engraved the replica more faithfully followed the original photograph in Fig. 20 above than did the doctored “composite” photo that was distributed to the press, as the replica more accurately reconstructs the top of the image.

5. The zig-zag triangle and braided border design visible in Fig. 20 to the left side of the image suddenly disappears from Fig. 21. The full size image of Fig. 20 (above) shows that the supposed “fish” is surrounded by a double border consisting of a line zig-zagging in between two parallel lines forming a column of triangles, that sits inside of a beautiful braided or herringbone design, all of which passes just outside the left “fin” of the “fish” in Fig. 20. However, this design element, which appears to be engraved equally as deep as the “fish” in Fig. 20, suddenly disappears in Fig. 21, despite the fact that many of the lines in the double border design appear at many of the same angles present in the “fish” design. Given the lighting, many of the lines comprising the border should appear along with corresponding lines making up the “fish” image, but are peculiarly absent. The border design appears to have been Photoshopped out of Fig. 21 using a combination of clone stamping, feathering, and use of the “healing brush” tool, as the resulting brown texture remaining after the deletion of the border appears indicatively blurry and feathered.

Again, the motivation behind the deletion of the border may be understood as an attempt to remove the image further from its actual context. Combined with presenting the image on its side, eliminating the border gives the viewer the illusion that the “fish” is swimming freely in the ocean rather than bound and framed narrowly by an ornate border, which, along with its proper orientation, certainly detracts from its interpretation as a fish.

6. A segment of the “fish’s abdomen” near the supposed “tail” (that I have labeled Seg4 above) suddenly appears clearly in Fig. 21, but is barely recognizable if not completely absent in Fig. 20. Changes in lighting cannot account for this change, as the three segments (Seg1, Seg2, and Seg3 above) are visible in Fig. 20. Even if we allow for the presence of Seg4 in Fig. 20, it still does not match with the altered angle of the tail in Fig. 21.

The addition or “enhancement” of the Seg4 layer may explain the more tapered, narrowed look of the “abdomen” of the “fish” in Fig. 21, perhaps leading the viewer away from interpretations of Fig. 20 as a nephesh monument or some other architectural structure, and encouraging an interpretation as a fish.

7. Finally, there are marks around the outside of Fig. 21 that betray the telltale signs of digital alteration, specifically, digital cloning. In a number of boxes above, I highlight examples of digitally produced marks that are identical in shape and size. (They do differ in color/tint, as this effect can be applied after the cloning process is complete.) Each mark of a mechanically engraved ossuary is unique in reality. At the pixel level of Fig. 21, however, the attempts at reproducing artificial “engraver’s marks” that I have isolated demonstrate, I believe convincingly, that someone used a Photoshop “clone stamp” tool to add artificial scratches all around the “fish,” and give the illusion of a naturally engraved image.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engravers marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the 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.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engraver's marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the 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.

Take for example the white boxes numbered 1-4 above. I have cut-and-pasted (a process similar to Photoshop cloning) these examples in the chart to the right. As you can see, the marks bear the telltale signs of being copied time and again around the outside of Fig. 21. Each cloned “engraver’s mark” is comprised of a main line attempting to represent an engraved gash. However, identical marks labeled as “low lines” appear just below each of the “main lines.” Likewise, a light spot appears above the left end of each of the “main lines.” Because such identical markings at the pixel level would never appear naturally on an ossuary, anyone familiar with Adobe Photoshop and digital imagery can attest that these are obviously the product of someone who has cloned gashes and attempts at “engraver’s marks” around the edge of the supposed “fish” in an attempt to make the altered image look more natural.

Likewise, if we examine the yellow boxes above, I have highlighted additional examples of identical, digitally cloned marks that were added in an attempt to disguise the fact that cloning had been done to the image. By altering the shape of the “engraver’s marks” added to the digital image, it was hoped by the digital artist that the additional variety of artificially produced “engraver’s marks” would conceal the artificial marks, making the evidence of cloning less noticeable.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engravers marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the 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.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engraver's marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the 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.

Yellow boxes 5 and 6 above demonstrate a variation of the “engraver’s marks” digitally added to the image. Likewise, yellow boxes 7-9 show yet another deliberate variation. I have enlarged the identical marks in boxes 7, 8, and 9 in the chart to the right. In each example, there is a central horizontal “main line” curving upward to the left, a small notch just below the center of the main line, and a curved, almost vertical mark just above each “main line.” Again, these examples reveal definite evidence of digital manipulation to Fig. 21 in Dr. Tabor’s article.

Tabor and Jacobovici’s Response

The scholarly community has been nearly unanimous in their rejection of Jacobovici and Tabor’s claims. The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) has posted on its blog a series of posts by reputable scholars critiquing the authors’ claims. And while these rebuttals vary in substance and style, from critiques of the inscription to critiques of the authors’ use of the Bible, one of the most intriguing rebuttals has been from a host of scholars critiquing the above altered image in question above, perhaps without the knowledge that it had been digitally altered. Specifically, perhaps based partially upon the demonstrable Photoshopped Fig. 21 above, several scholars (including Dr. Christopher Rollston, Dr. Eric Meyers, Dr. Jodi Magness, Dr. Stephen Fine, and myself) have argued that the image would be better interpreted as a nephesh monument.

However, I cannot help but wonder how many of these expert opinions may have been based upon the digitally altered and deliberately disoriented image described above. It now appears possible that at least some of the scholars interpreting the image in question as a nephesh monument may have been basing some of their arguments on a digitally altered image, removed from context, and rotated away from its original orientation. The interpretation as a nephesh monument may still be a possibility. But alternatively, given a knowledge of the image’s proper orientation, it may also be interpreted as a representation of an amphora as suggested by Italian scholar Antonio Lombatti, or some other kind of vessel like a krater as recently suggested by Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Andrew McGowan, or perhaps even an unguentarium, as suggested by Kings College London Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Dr. Joan E. Taylor.

The one theme shared by scholars interpreting the image both as a nephesh monument and as some kind of ceramic or glass vessel is this: they all agree it’s not a fish.

But scholars can only evaluate the claims and evidence that authors publish, and proper context and the integrity of the image data are essential to one’s interpretation. The caption under Fig. 21 from page 42 of the original version of Dr. Tabor’s Bible and Interpretation article, “A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem,” published on Feb 28, 2012 simply read: “21. Blowup of Jonah image.” Except, it obviously was not.

As I have shared the above evidence of image manipulation with my scholarly colleagues, including an exchange with Dr. Tabor on the ASOR Blog, it now appears that Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici are attempting to take steps to correct their descriptions about the misleading photo in question (Fig. 21 above), which has, in fact, been removed from its context, rotated away from its in situ orientation, and digitally altered, by updating the captions describing these images, and in some cases, correcting their orientation after the fact.

Page 42 of the article by James Tabor entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" published at Bible and Interpretation. The original article (left) was published on Feb. 28, 2012. The revised article (right) appeared on the site on March 2, 2012. Note that the orientation of the image in Fig. 21 (left) is rotated away (CCW) from its in situ orientation, better resembling the natural disposition of a fish. However, the same image on the right has been rectified to its proper orientation (although it has been flipped horizontally). Note also the the revised caption on the revised article (right) still reads, "Museum replica showing placement of image on front panel and closeup of image," despite the fact that the image in question is still not a 'closeup' of the replica, and still does not indicate that the photo has been heavily Photoshopped.

Page 42 of the article by James Tabor entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," published at 'Bible and Interpretation.' The original article (left) was published on Feb. 28, 2012. The revised article (right) appeared on the site on March 2, 2012. Note that the orientation of the image in Fig. 21 (left) is rotated away (counter-clockwise) from its in situ orientation, more closely resembling the natural disposition of a fish. However, the same image in the updated version of the article on the right has been rectified to its proper orientation (although it has now been flipped horizontally, with the digitally reproduced section of the "tail" on the left side). Note also the the revised caption on the revised article (right) still reads, "Museum replica showing placement of image on front panel and closeup of image," despite the fact that the image in question is still not a "closeup" of the replica, and still does not indicate that the photo has been heavily Photoshopped.

For instance, the editors at Bible and Interpretation confirmed to me that they have, in fact, taken down Dr. Tabor’s original article (which I have reposted here for purposes of comparison), and replaced it with a new, revised version. They also updated the title of the revised version with an editorial comment noting that Dr. Tabor’s present article is a different version from the one originally published.

Editor's comment (see red arrows pointing to text in parentheses) noting that a new version of James Tabor's Bible and Interpretation article, originally published Feb 28, 2012, had been revised.

Editor's comment (see red arrows pointing to text in parentheses) noting that a new version of James Tabor's 'Bible and Interpretation' article, originally published Feb 28, 2012, has been revised.

This revision appeared on the Bible and Interpretation website on March 2, 2012, after Dr. Tabor and I had discussed the Photoshopped and rotated image on the ASOR blog. To his credit, Dr. Tabor confirmed that he uploaded a revised version of his article at Bible and Interpretation, noting on his Tabor Blog:

By the way, if you are one of the 18,000 that have downloaded that article in the last two days take a look again at the picture in the appendix–we have added the museum reproductions of the ossuaries.

However, Dr. Tabor makes no mention in his revised article of the fact that he has also corrected the orientation of the supposed “fish” in the image in Fig. 21 by rotating it 90-degrees clockwise into its actual in situ orientation. In the original version of the article, the image was horizontal, with the “head” of the “fish” pointing to the right, perhaps in an attempt to better resemble the natural disposition of a fish. Likewise, the caption for Fig. 21 has been changed from the original, “21. Blowup of Jonah image” to now reading, “21. Museum replica showing placement of image on front panel and closeup of image.”

A side-by-side comparison of the "museum quality replica" (left, source: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/intro/img_7422/) and the digitally altered photo from Dr. Tabor's 'Bible and Interpretation' article. Both are artist's renditions of the image on the ossuary. Note the difference in shape and scale even in these artists' renditions. Note also that the digital reproduction from the revised 'Bible and Interpretation' article has now been flipped horizontally.

A side-by-side comparison of the "museum quality replica" (left, source: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/intro/img_7422/) and the digitally altered photo from Dr. Tabor's 'Bible and Interpretation' article. Both are artist's renditions of the image on the ossuary. Note the difference in shape and scale even in these artists' renditions. Note also that the digital reproduction from the revised 'Bible and Interpretation' article has now been flipped horizontally.

The problem is, if one examines the two images in Fig. 21 of the new article closely, the images still don’t match! The bottom image is not a “close up” of the top image at all. Rather, the top image is an artist’s reconstruction on a replica, and the bottom image is a highly Photoshopped image. Look closely at the so-called “tails”: the bottom image has a bent “tail” on the top left (as the digital reproduction from the revised Bible and Interpretation article has now been flipped horizontally), while the image on the “tail” on the replica is flat and straight.

The caption of the same image in their Jesus Discovery book beneath Fig. 26 on p. 86 reads: “A composite representation of the ossuary image of Jonah and the big fish.” Again, there is no mention of the multiple digital alterations that the image has experienced, just the words “composite representation.”

Finally, the caption under the same image on the thejesusdiscovery.org website finally concedes it is a “computer enhanced” photo. Unfortunately, these photos were not made available on the website until after the book had been released, after the press conferences, after scholars had begun their initial critiques, and after I had begun to point out that the image in question (Tabor’s Fig. 21) had been digitally altered as described above.

The question is: which pictures should we believe? Should we accept the artist’s rendition on the “museum quality replica,” or the doctored, heavily Photoshopped, “computer enhanced” digital “composite representation”?

And this is the point: the image that was released to the public was a Photoshopped image. It was rotated. It had been altered in other ways, including having the “tail” reshaped to more closely resemble that of a fish. Yet, these were the images given to scholars to evaluate. And that’s what we evaluated.

I cannot speak for other scholars, so I shall only speak for myself: I admit that my original suggestion of some similarity between the image in question and Absalom’s Tomb stemmed from my analysis of the photo sent to the press (Fig. 21 above), which I have now demonstrated to be a doctored photo that was rotated to more resemble the natural disposition of a fish, and which lacked any indication of size, scale, or orientation like a cm stick or compass point. Once I realized that I had based my analysis upon a doctored photo, I publicly conceded that I no longer favor the interpretation as a nephesh memorial, but instead favor an interpretation of an amphora, krater, unguentarium, or some other form of vessel.

I also noted that as scholars, we must be willing to alter our conclusions based upon new (or in this case, accurate, in context) evidence following a consensus of our trained peers. The question is: are Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor willing to do the same? Now that they’ve had the opportunity to experience the peer-review of trained professionals, will they heed the nearly unanimous voice of the archaeologists and scholars stating that the image under investigation is not a fish?

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the visual evidence detailed above compels us to conclude that Fig. 21 from pg. 42 of Dr. James Tabor’s original Feb 28, 2012 Bible and Interpretation article entitled, “A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem,” has experienced a high degree of digital manipulation. Given the changes to the “tail fin” of the supposed “fish,” and given the deliberate rotation of the image’s orientation causing it to more resemble the natural orientation of a fish without offering a compass point or any indication on the image whatsoever that the image has been rotated, it can be argued that the motivation behind making these digital alterations to the image was the desire to create, or at least “enhance” the illusion of a “great fish” swimming freely in the ocean, while vomiting forth a human head.

We should not state that the image has been “faked,” as there is obviously an image on the ossuary. However, we are forced to conclude that the image was digitally manipulated and its orientation altered in such a way so as to encourage and enhance its interpretation as a fish over other possible interpretations. The fact that Dr. Tabor is still using the doctored photo as “evidence” upon which to base his recent rebuttals of other scholars’ critiques of his theory on his own jamestabor.com blog and in a new Bible and Interpretation article is quite telling.

What is more troubling is the prospect that other images published by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor may be similarly digitally “enhanced” without proper acknowledgment. If such image manipulation is demonstrated in the “Jonah fish” image, which is central to their sensational and already highly spurious claim, how can we be sure that other images, such as those of the inscriptions, have not experienced similar amounts of digital alteration? Let us remember that the image distributed to the press and on the “museum quality replica” are, in fact, artist’s renditions of the image on the ossuary and not the image itself – a rendition that the authors desperately want viewers to interpret as a fish.

With the credibility of the visual evidence demonstrated above now highly suspect, and with the scholarly consensus nearly unanimously interpreting the image as something other than a fish, we should be all the more skeptical of any and all claims made by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor regarding any claim of Jonah, a fish, or so-called “new evidence” of early Christianity obtained from these tombs.

Because if it doesn’t look like a fish, and doesn’t swim like a fish, it may very well be an ancient vessel cleverly Photoshopped to look like a fish.

Instruction, Research, and the Future of Online Educational Technologies – SBL 2010 Paper by Robert Cargill

Instruction, Research, and the Future of Online Educational Technologies
Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
UCLA Center for Digital Humanities
Monday, November 22, 2010
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Atlanta, GA
(audio)

I’d like to conclude this session by speaking for a moment about instruction, research, and the future of online educational technologies.

Patricia Cohen's New York times article entitled, "Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches"

Patricia Cohen's New York times article entitled, "Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches"

Just this past Tuesday in the NY Times, Patricia Cohen wrote an excellent piece about how instructors like many of us in the Humanities are beginning to embrace online digital technologies, which are now commonly referred to as the “Digital Humanities.” Like many previous new innovations in education, early adoption of the Digital Humanities as a legitimate and perhaps stand-alone field of study has seen a mixed reaction.

There are those like Princeton historian Anthony Grafton, who argue that the Digital Humanities are means to end, and not ends in themselves. However, I’d like to argue that while a definition of “technology” as a set of tools most certainly satisfies that characterization, “Digital Humanities” has quickly become a burgeoning discipline in its own right. That is, while various technologies can be used as tools to improve instruction and research within existing higher education pedagogical approaches, the Digital Humanities as a field of study proposes new pedagogical approaches to education. So while many scholars are asking how technology can assist with their existing courses and approaches to instruction and learning, Digital Humanities scholars ask how these new technologies fundamentally change how one does instruction. It is the difference between laying technology on top of a course, and rethinking a course from the ground up in light of these new technologies.

In addition to instruction, instructors embracing the Digital Humanities are leading the charge to discover new forms of research that were simply not possible prior to the advent of modern technology, crowds, clouds, and social networking. Brett Bobley, director of the National Endowment of the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities stated to the New York Times, “Technology hasn’t just made astronomy, biology and physics more efficient. It has let scientists do research they simply couldn’t do before.”

Qumran through (Real) Time by Dr. Robert R. Cargill (Gorgias Press, 2009)

My research with the digital reconstruction of Qumran developed a new, quantitative approach to dealing with very large quantities of archaeological data that had previously been offered to the public only as in disparate chunks or individual reconstructions pushing particular viewpoints and interpretations. A new approach, specifically, a way by which to model multiple interpretations for multiple archaeological loci at multiple periods in time, each preserving the archaeological remains in a transparent and easy-to-access manner, was only made possible by employing the Digital Humanities, specifically, three–dimensional digital modeling, to capture the archaeological data published in primary and secondary literature in a database, model it, and make it available in real time. Thus, in my research, the Digital Humanities did not replace archaeology; it was a tool, a methodology by which to process and represent the data used within an existing discipline. However, the capacity to do this kind of visualization research, and to use it not only for instructional display, but for research as well, was only made possible by the advent of modern visualization technology. In that regard, the Digital Humanities can be said to be an independent field and approach to the processing of archaeological data in its own right.

Regardless of which way you lean on the Digital Humanities debate – a set of tools within existing disciplines or a burgeoning, independent field of study of its own – the greater problem has been the dissemination of this information. There simply was no established outlet to publish my data – either in a public or academic setting. Imagine attempting to communicate an idea to another person, but not being able to speak, write, type, or sign. That is to say, the technology used at the cutting edge of research in some fields has outpaced the vehicles needed to publish the results appropriately.

I lamented this in my book, Qumran through (Real) Time, when I stated:

A problem of scribal technology persists. While technology for gathering and processing information has advanced almost exponentially, the accepted means of communicating this new information is stuck in a scribal format that is literally thousands of years old: the written word. Scholars have yet to adopt alternative means by which to receive and redistribute information developed and communicated in three-dimensional format. Far too many scholars are insisting that technologically minded scholars communicate digital information by analog means. Digital journals and online publications are a step in the right direction, but even these new digital publications are made to look like the traditional written pages of journals in many instances, rather than harness and utilize the interactive connectivity and visual capabilities available on the Internet. (Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 69-70.)

Later, I lamented:

This research also realizes the overt incompatibility of publishing a book involving digital reconstructions in three-dimensional space in the traditional paper and ink format. It is, of course, highly ironic that this three-dimensional research is looked down upon by many, who prefer the time-honored, traditional medium of the printed book, which cannot fully convey the technological approach described within its pages. It is as incomplete as literally trying to describe a picture with a thousand words! (Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 217.)

We are left with problem of trying to convince and perhaps compel an academy that clings to tradition and traditional ways of doing things to adopt modern forms of digital publication. The root of this problem lies in the fundamental incentive and motivation for scholars to publish: profit on the one hand, and tenure and promotion on the other.

In order to alleviate the academy’s resistance to adopting digital forms of online publication, we must target the motivation. Few scholars make large sums of money selling academic books. Those who have discovered ways to make money by selling books are facing the reality of a shifting publishing industry.

However, for most scholars, the motivation for publishing articles and books lies not in the income generated by studies of the variant forms of Aramaic verbs in Targums, but in the potential for promotion and tenure at our universities. Unfortunately, many tenure-granting universities still only acknowledge print-published volumes as “legitimate” when considering tenure and promotion, thumbing their noses at “digital” or “online” publications, which causes many scholars considering publishing online in digital formats to resist and instead publish their work in traditional paper and ink peer-review journals. Academic prestige still lies in the print-published textbook, not in digital, online course, and therefore, young scholars – those who are most likely to adopt new technological approaches and methodologies – opt for the status quo and publish their work in traditional journals, thereby thwarting progress and innovation in exchange for the safety and acceptance of an academy, which is only now beginning to experience the manifestation of its failure to adapt to and embrace the advance of online and digital forms of publication.

Let us look at what has happened to different forms of publishing.

  • Dot coms obviously were empowered by and embraced digital publishing and communication and have thrived.
  • Brick-and-mortar businesses panicked when they first saw that Internet start-ups were quickly eating into their business. They solved this dilemma by buying up the Internet start-ups and re-branding them as their own.
  • Newspapers did not and perhaps could not adapt to digital means of publication, and many have failed fantastically in record numbers. Those news outlets who have made the transition to online print may have survived, but not before yielding their market position at the top to upstart news outlets, integrated blogs, and news aggregators like the Drudge Report, Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast, which by the way just this week announced it had merged with Newsweek (remember them) and will be the online face of the venerable Newsweek, which only earlier this year was purchased for one dollar.
  • Book publishers saw the writing on the wall and are only now embracing e-books. As evidence, I’ll point you to this statistic: this year marked the first year that Amazon.com sold more e-books than it did printed books. If this stat is shocking to you, you probably work for a university. The world has transitioned to e-books, online journals, and handheld devices.
Dr. Jim West debunks the myth that scholars "curl up by the fire with their leather bound books." Here, Dr. West curls up on the couch in his Snuggie and laptop.

Dr. Jim West debunks the myth that scholars "curl up by the fire with their leather bound books." Here, Dr. West curls up on the couch in his Snuggie and laptop.

This leaves the academy, which is only now beginning to seriously ask the question: “what’s happening?” As scholars, we cling to our books, and recite the now classic line that “I can’t curl up next to the fire with a laptop like I can a book.” And despite the romanticism of fireplaces and leather-bound books filling libraries smelling of rich mahogany (thank you Will Ferrell), the fact is that we scholars now get the bulk of our news online, do our research on JSTOR, digital libraries, Google, and even the ever-improving Wikipedia, we write in Microsoft Word, teach with PowerPoint or Keynote or Prezi, we email one another without end, and have not only have joined and created academic networks on Facebook, but have adopted our own scholarly version of Facebook complete with an integrated content management system called Academia.edu. The fact of the matter is, scholars do not do their research, teach their classes, or talk to colleagues curled up next to the fireplace. We do it in our beds with our laptops, online like everyone else.

The world has gone online. It did so ten years ago, and the academy is quickly being left behind. In fact, we are so far behind, we are quickly being replaced by online universities, who have embraced and been empowered by online publication. And while we mock online universities, they are raking in record profits and expanding their course offerings, while traditional brick-and-mortar universities are standing idly by watching their funding being cut, their endowments shrink, their lecturers laid off, their scholarships trimmed, and their tenure-track positions not being re-opened as the last generation retires.

The academy must embrace online publication before it goes the way of the Library of Alexandria – a noble memory about which proud legends are told, but that no longer exists!

Thus, the challenge is to convince tenure-granting committees to accept digital forms of publication as not only legitimate forms of academic publication, but to accept it as the preferred vehicle for publication – one that not only publishes the results of research thereby creating knowledge, but effectively markets this knowledge by disseminating it in a manner that can compete with rival forms of lesser-informed knowledge being peddled to students and the public by various political, religious, and business entities.

It is to the university’s advantage to publish in a form that best disseminates new ideas and research, while preserving a university’s most important asset: its brand, which is the symbol of a university’s credibility.

There has been a paradigm shift in the management of knowledge. In the past, the credibility of an institution, be it a university, temple, or secret society, resided in how one hoarded and preserved sacred knowledge. However, modern repositories of knowledge like Google and Wikipedia are evidence that this paradigm has shifted. Today, knowledge management credibility lies with the institution that gives the most information away for free. Today, while we still may brag about how many $140 Brill volumes we have in our libraries, the truth is we more often tell one another about the latest place online to get tons of new, credible information for free.

The paradigm has shifted from one of hoarding knowledge to one that freely disseminates knowledge. As such, the number of scholars using blogs, message boards, wikis, and social networking are increasing exponentially. And as a greater number of scholars publish online, the credibility of online publishing is raised. Likewise, scholars are slowly realizing that it is better for their scholarship to publish their research online where it is available for free or at very low cost, than it is to limit the visibility of their research to $140 volumes that only libraries purchase. Publishing online and marketing one’s research with meta-tags and keywords that push this research to search engines puts the research in front of the eyes of other scholars and the public, spreading the ideas widely, and therefore maximizing the chance that a scholar’s new idea is adopted as a consensus view. This is the new paradigm of the creation, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge, and it is only made possible by the efficiency and speed of socially networked online publication.

In my book, Qumran through (Real) Time, I offered a challenge to universities:

The present research calls on scholars, publishers, dissertation committees, and departments of archaeology, architecture, and other related programs to make themselves more accommodating to newer digital forms of publication. As the word processor has replaced the typewriter, so too will digital and three-dimensional formats soon replace analog and two-dimensional formats for publishing archaeological materials. These new digital formats should not be seen as “alternative” or lesser means of publication, but as “progressive” media that are on the cutting edge of modern archaeological research. (Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 217-18.)

If we can convince tenure-granting committees of the benefits of online publishing, the profit motive or benefit will have been altered in such a way to incentivize digital publishing, which will in turn market and promote the research of scholars who publish digitally.

Now that we’ve identified the problem, allow me to offer three solutions to the question: how do we go from traditional, ink-on-paper volumes that tenure-granting committees love, but few people outside of professional conferences read, to online, digital publications that a) preserve the brand and credibility of the institution, the scholar, and the data; b) enhances the published research by disseminating results in such a manner that simply could not have been offered in traditional ink-and-paper printed volumes; and c) promotes that research online so it can compete with the information peddled by religious hucksters, alien enthusiasts, and the RNC (or DNC – either way, they’re both totally depraved)?

You have heard many other ideas about blogging here today. The three solutions I propose now directly address publishers, authors, and instructors.

The first solution addresses publishers. Quite frankly, we need more online journals, better online journals, and authors need to publish for them. There are many journals that have online presences like the Journal of Biblical Literature or the Journal of Semitic Studies, but one must pay or even join these organizations in order to read their online versions of these journals. However, online journals like the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures and Bible and Interpretation solicit credible, scholarly research and make it available directly to all audiences – scholars and the public alike – for free. I would like to suggest that online journals (who may or may not also publish printed versions) who make their content available for free will not only experience a wider readership, and thus experience greater exposure for the ideas of scholars publishing in them, but will gain a reputation as the source of new, credible ideas, and because of this will gain a loyal readership and may, if they have one, experience increased membership because people like to be affiliated with successful, credible organizations like the SBL. In this sense, the free dissemination of information drives a journal’s or an organization’s credibility.

In addition to requiring a dedicated editor to publish these journals, the problem with publishing online journals is soliciting quality material from credible scholars to publish with them. Therefore my second solution addresses authors.

"The Dynamics of Change in the Computer Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Ancient Inscriptions" by Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, USC.

"The Dynamics of Change in the Computer Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Ancient Inscriptions" by Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, USC.

When appropriate, authors need to publish data digitally using media that best convey the results of their research. This is especially true for those of us in the Digital Humanities doing digital research that can only be done with the rise of computers, virtual reality, and the internet. One excellent recent example of this is a paper published by my friend and colleague at USC, Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, entitled “The Dynamics of Change in the Computer Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Ancient Inscriptions,” available at the West Semitic Research Project’s Inscriptifact website. This paper, seen here, is a perfect example of a digital hybrid article.

Note how Dr. Zuckerman, with the help of USC’s Institute of Multimedia Literacy, created and article that preserves the look and feel of a traditional print media academic journal complete with page numbers, thereby doing nothing to undermine the credibility that is conveyed by the appearance of the traditional format. However, Dr. Zuckerman has embedded within the article digital media, including video animations that convey digital research and information that a traditional ink-and paper journal simply cannot. By publishing in this fashion, Dr. Zuckerman offers a transitional solution, which allays the fears of traditional scholars and publishers by preserving their format, but also harnesses the new technological advances available to scholarship. This form of publication will serve as a bridge or even perhaps the very vehicle transporting scholars from traditional forms of publication to the online world of digital publication.

My third solution addresses online instruction. It is now possible given technologies like iTunes U, to capture university lectures, assessments, and reading and resource materials in a digital format. Capturing these courses digitally via video lectures and free content management systems like Moodle, allows the technology sits atop the course, capturing it in such in a manner that it can be taught in person or online. By designing courses in this way, the same course can be taught by the same instructor to a room full of 100 students, or online to 10,000 students. This eliminates the apprehension exhibited by many tenured professors who worry that if online and distance education infiltrates brick-and mortar universities, they will have their jobs outsourced to online adjuncts or worse yet, to online, for-profit universities. Designing and capturing courses digitally, with an eye toward the hybrid or blended instruction, allows existing, experienced professors to become the distance learning instructors. By allowing the technology to capture existing university courses, the Digital Humanities can play a role in reclaiming undergraduate instruction from the for-profit universities and perhaps even eradicate them by offering better courses both in person and online.

I should also add that I believe the future of textbook publication is the future of online course management systems. The two will become integrated to such an extent, that the digital textbook will include online animations, hyperlinks to all key words and definitions, and assessments designed to test the reader’s comprehension of the material. The course management system, be it Blackboard, Sakai, or Moodle, will be the textbook. Students could pay to license the book, or will get the book as a part of the course tuition (creating a new pricing model for textbooks). In this manner, scholars and publishers can work together to embrace the changes on publishing, and write digital textbooks for courses that are inextricable from each other guaranteeing the integrity of the course content, and ensuring the jobs of the existing university faculty who agree to teach online.

If we can embrace this understanding of the Digital Humanities, and can convince university instructors – and specifically tenure-granting committees – to embrace digital publication as legitimate, then universities can establish the appropriate incentives needed to make online publication credible, and thereby save traditional universities from threats posed by cheaper, for-profit online solutions. The Digital Humanities will be less understood as a threat to existing disciplines within the Humanities and their scholars, and will be embraced more as a new tool in the ever-progressing evolution of Humanities instruction, if not a discipline in its own right.

Thank you.



On Using Digital Course Material to Publish Textbooks

Chronicle of Higher EducationThere’s an article in the October 8, 2010 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Ed by Jeffrey R. Young entitled, “As Textbooks Go Digital, Will Professors Build Their Own Books?,” that discusses using digital courses to build textbooks.

Young states:

McGraw-Hill Higher Education plans to announce its revamped custom-publishing system, called Create, with an emphasis on electronic versions of mix-and-match books. Macmillan Publishers this year announced a similar custom-textbook platform, called DynamicBooks. And upstart Flat World Knowledge touts the customization features of its textbooks, which it gives away online, charging only for printed copies and study guides. Other publishers have long offered custom-textbook services in print as well, though they have always represented just a sliver of sales.

It is only a matter of time before someone develops a system that takes course content rich with media that many instructors have developed via PowerPoint, Google Earth, videos, sounds, and turns it into a book. The problem is, of course, that in doing so, we are actually going backward with regard to technological development. It’s the equivalent of the instructor who asks a tech in the media lab to make a 35-mm slide from a digital image, or a vinyl record from a CD. Publishing digital content in a printed, “analog” book is backward. The only problem is that many tenure-granting universities still only acknowledge print-published volumes as “legitimate,” and thumb their noses at “digital” or “online” publications.

I discussed the problem in my book:

Thus, a problem of scribal technology persists. While technology for gathering and processing information has advanced almost exponentially, the accepted means of communicating this new information is stuck in a scribal format that is literally thousands of years old: the written word. Scholars have yet to adopt alternative means by which to receive and redistribute information developed and communicated in three-dimensional format. Far too many scholars are insisting that technologically minded scholars communicate digital information by analog means. Digital journals and online publications are a step in the right direction, but even these new digital publications are made to look like the traditional written pages of journals in many instances, rather than harness and utilize the interactive connectivity and visual capabilities available on the Internet.

While the three-dimensional modeling of archaeological reconstructions is an improvement upon its hand-drawn predecessor, the full power of three-dimensional modeling cannot be realized because three-dimensional models are rendered into static illustrations of what was an otherwise dynamic environment. While three-dimensional modeling is a vast improvement over two-dimensional representations, the lack of a means by which to fully experience the three-dimensional model leaves the interactive power of the three-dimensional model untapped. In order to fully harness the power of the three-dimensional model, a virtual reality environment must be adopted. Only when an effective means of communicating three-dimensional data is accepted by the academy will the potential of this new technology be fully realized.

Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 69-70

This research also realizes the overt incompatibility of publishing a book involving digital reconstructions in three-dimensional space in the traditional paper and ink format. It is, of course, highly ironic that this three-dimensional research is looked down upon by many, who prefer the time-honored, traditional medium of the printed book, which cannot fully convey the technological approach described within its pages. It is as incomplete as literally trying to describe a picture with a thousand words! Thus, the present research calls on scholars, publishers, dissertation committees, and departments of archaeology, architecture, and other related programs to make themselves more accommodating to newer digital forms of publication. As the word processor has replaced the typewriter, so too will digital and three-dimensional formats soon replace analog and two-dimensional formats for publishing archaeological materials. These new digital formats should not be seen as “alternative” or lesser means of publication, but as “progressive” media that are on the cutting edge of modern archaeological research.

Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 217-18.

(Yes, I recognize the irony of complaining about having to publish digital media in a print-published volume from the pages of a print-published volume. ;-)

The reason faculty still publish their classroom content as print-published books (and the reason publishers still offer published books) is because the money and academic prestige still lies in the print-published textbook, not in digital, online course.

Until a solution is discovered that makes money for “publishing” the digital material online, and offers the same tenure-improving prospects of a textbook, printed books will be favored in university settings. Until then, instructors will continue to take rich instructional and research media and print it on paper for placement on bookshelves.

Print on demand is a step in the right direction, but it will only be when university administrators, deans, and department chairs (that is, tenure-granting authorities) accept digital research as equally prestigious as the traditional print-published volume, and when nominal profit is available to the instructor providing the content that we will truly see an explosion in digital course materials available online. Until then, enjoy publishing your work with that prestigious publisher charging $150 per volume for your work, that only those who visit libraries will read.

i wonder if this talk will be any good? magness on cargill

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will give a lecture at Brite Divinity School on Thursday, February 25, 2010 entitled, "Robert Cargill's Qumran Digital Project."

brite divinity school has announced that dr. jodi magness, the kenan distinguished professor of teaching excellence in early judaism at the university of north carolina, chapel hill, will give a lecture in the moore building, room 201, on thursday, february 25, 2010 at 11:00 am entitled, ‘robert cargill’s qumran digital project.’

i’m wondering if she will view my research in a favorable light, or in a critical manner like she did at the recent new orleans sbl book review session, where she was among a panel of scholars that reviewed my book? will she take issue with my results (that qumran was established as a hasmonean fort and later reoccupied and expanded by a jewish sectarian community responsible for some of the dead sea scrolls in the caves nearest qumran), or my digital reconstruction modeling methodology (which is a completely transparent (via wireframes) reconstruction of all interpretations of all published scholars of every archaeological locus, distinguished by time periods), or both?

will dr. magness continue to argue that qumran was built as a sectarian settlement from the ground up?  will she argue that the dead sea scrolls were all written by essenes at qumran? some?

attend the lecture and find out!

for some background, read vol. 72, no. 1 in near eastern archaeology here. order the book online at gorgias or amazon.

i can’t wait to hear the podcast!

perhaps i’ll use my forthcoming march lecture in philadelphia entitled, ‘why the dead sea scrolls still matter’ to respond a bit. we’ll see :) -bc


update: also, don’t miss dr. magness’ main lecture on ‘the archaeology of qumran and the dead sea scrolls,’ thursday evening, february 25, 2010 from 7:00 -8:30 pm at the kelly alumni center at brite divinity school (texas christian university).

and i am told by brite that there will be no podcast. perhaps someone in the audience could tweet or blog the lectures?

The “Qumran Digital Model” Article in Near Eastern Archaeology Has Finally Arrived

Near Eastern Archaeology Vol. 72, No. 1

Near Eastern Archaeology Vol. 72, No. 1

my latest article entitled ‘the qumran digital model‘ has been published in the most recent volume (72/1) of in near eastern archaeology. it appears in the ‘forum’ section and is followed by a response by dr. jodi magness, my response to her response, and her response to my response (hence the name ‘forum’ ;- ). in the article, i summarize the problem of the archaeology of qumran and provide a solution to it, which draws from the digital humanities and the use of virtual reality to digitally reconstruct qumran, the site associated with the discovery of the dead sea scrolls. i offer my thanks to dr. magness and to dr. ann killebrew, editor of nea, for her patience and for the opportunity to publish in nea.

for those looking for the expanded version of this research, pick up my book qumran through (real) time: a virtual reconstruction of qumran and the dead sea scrolls, available from gorgias press. (it is also available from amazon and in paperback from gorgias press.)

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