Friday, March 16, 2007

Jesus Tomb Part Almost the Last: New Epigraphic Claim and Boredom

This will probably be my next to last post on the topic of the Jesus tomb. An epigrapher has published an article saying the "Mary Magdalene" ossuary is no such thing, and that the inscription has been misread when in reality it isn't one inscription at all. This re-analysis suggests there are two female names on the box written at different times, the result of the box being a multiple burial. This would sink the whole argument if correct. Of course the director of the documentary notes an epigrapher did the original work and reading.

I can't comment on that, I'm not a Near Eastern archaeologist or epigrapher or linguist. I'm going to finally get around to watching the documentary next week. I had my Introduction to Archaeology students watch and report on it for extra credit. Anyway, my experience in epigraphy is with Maya epigraphy, which is a much younger field of study, and one still in development. So I can't apply the tendency for shifting readings in Maya epigraphy on to this case.

I'm somewhat surprised by the reaction to the Jesus tomb. I thought this would have caught more fire, ala The DaVinci Code. But there has been roundly rejected in the media and from what I can tell in much of the blogosphere. I don't think millions of people have all of a sudden developed a love of authoritative academics squelching extraordinary claims, or have become much more critical thinkers than usual. I think the answer proposed by documentary and book were just not popular. Doesn't mean those findings are correct, there are plenty of good reasons to think they aren't.

But I will note that for the first time, I've seen the people behind this documentary resort to one of the common themes of Spooky Paradigm research, the notion of democratizing science, taking power from the hands of the scientific establishment that ignores anomalies it doesn't like. From the article linked above.

Jacobovici attributes most of the criticism to scholars' discomfort with journalists "casting light into their ossuary monopoly."

"What we're doing is democratizing this knowledge, and this is driving some people crazy," he said.

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