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Israel jails 'James' ossuary case figure

Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 23, 2003

JERUSALEM - Police have arrested an Israeli antiquities dealer suspected of creating two forgeries that shook the religious and archaeological world, including a burial box purported to be that of Jesus' brother James.

Odad Golan also is suspected in connection with a shoebox-sized tablet inscribed with forged instructions for caring for the Jewish Temple.

Golan appeared in a Jerusalem court Tuesday, one day after police arrested him at his home in Tel Aviv on suspicion of forging and dealing in fake antiquities.

In court, police unveiled forgery equipment they said was found in Golan's home, including stencils, stones and partly completed forgeries.

Golan last year told a French collector about the two disputed artifacts, which raised questions from the start. After exhaustive studies, the Israel Antiquities Authority declared that they were forgeries last month.

The burial box, or ossuary, bore the inscription, "James, the brother of Jesus," leading to speculation that it referred to the brother of Jesus of Nazareth.

The inscription was deemed a fake, but the artifact had been valued at $1-million to $2-million based on the claimed link with Jesus.

The "Joash inscription" tablet, because of its wording, was purported to offer rare physical evidence backing up the biblical narrative.

Uzi Dahari, a member of the committee that studied the "James ossuary," called the inscription "a contamination of the archaeological science.

"It's breaking my heart to see such things," he said.

Despite the findings, Golan insisted that the artifacts were authentic. He was unavailable for comment Tuesday because he was in police custody.

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