In late December 2004, four Israelis and one Palestinian Arab were indicted in Jerusalem on charges of running a massive forgery ring over several decades. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Israeli police claimed the ring had created a host of Biblically-related ancient artifacts with forged inscriptions involving millions of dollars, some of which are exhibited in the prestigious Israel Museum. The trial opened in September 2005 and continued for five years through 116 sessions, 133 witnesses, 200 exhibits, and close to 12,000 pages of testimony from witnesses.
In October 2010, closing arguments finally wrapped up in “the forgery trial of the century,” to determine whether or not the James Ossuary, the Yehoash tablet and other ancient artifacts were forged by two defendants. Trial judge Aharon Farkash pored through the evidence over the past 15 months, and on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, finally delivered his verdict.
In his verdict, the judge acquitted the case’s two remaining defendants, Tel Aviv collector Oded Golan and antiquities dealer and scholar Robert Deutsch, on all major counts of creating and selling forged antiquities, most notably the now-famous first-century C.E. bone box (or ossuary) inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” a small inscribed ivory pomegranate allegedly used in Solomon’s Temple, and the Yehoash tablet, which, if authentic, would be the first royal inscription of an Israelite king ever found.
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