Problems with the “Yeshua (?) bar Yehosef” inscription

Original report to the IAA:

In our preliminary report to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the so-called Jesus son of Joseph ossuary has mud, pressed deeply into the strokes of the letters of the inscription. The dried mud remained a problem in discerning the nature and the succession of letter strokes which were applied to the ossuary:

Preliminary Observations for an Ossuaries Report of the Talpiot Tomb

(Submitted to Miki Saban of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

By Stephen Pfann and Steven Cox

“On Thursday, May 3, 2007, four members of the University of the Holy Land staff visited the Israel Antiquities Authority storage facility at Beth Shemesh in order to study four inscribed ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb. (The UHL staff members present were: Dr. Stephen Pfann (epigrapher), Steven Cox (forensic scientist), Stephen Pfann, Jr. (CGI/digital reconstruction) and Glenn Zehr.

Under the supervision of IAA warehouse supervisor, Miki Saban, his assistant opened the lids of ossuaries 80.500 (Mariame kai Mara) and 80.503 (Yeshua (?) bar Yehosef). The containers of samples that were gathered by Steven Cox during the filming a year ago, and which we had left in the ossuaries, were no longer in the ossuaries. (Also, the quantities of soil, pulverized bone material and seeds that were in ossuary 80.500, and are visible in the film, are now missing.)


3. CJO 704 (80.503) YESHUA (?) BEN/BAR YEHOSEF.

3.1 Surface condition and measurements.

We measured the ossuary and made a rubbing of the inscription on tracing paper. Similar to the inscription of ossuary 80.500, there are a couple of small black ink spots on its surface around the lettering, but not so numerous as on ossuary 80.500. The ossuary appears to have been broken and repaired since the previous visit a year ago.

3.2 Inscription.

We examined all parts of the inscription with optivisors and a boom-supported stereomicroscope. The incisions in the chalk surface were distinguished by width, and the steepness of the sides. However, the depth of the trough and the form of the bottom was nearly impossible to measure since dried mud now nearly fills most of the strokes of this inscription. The source of this mud is problematic, since no other ossuaries from this tomb have such a problem and since the mud was not present during the viewing one year ago. Moreover, the mud is most prominent in the grooves of the inscription, but not so much in other scratches on the ossuary.

3.2.1 General characteristics of incisions.

The incisions in the BEN/BAR YEHOSEF part of the inscription apparently were made by the tip a knife with a rounded, dull point. Most vertical strokes were relatively wide with gently sloping sides and a shallow, rounded trough. The horizontal strokes were thin and shallow. All three strokes of the letter “H” were made with the narrow line of the tip. The best letter in which to see the variable width of the knife tip is the final letter “F,” where an entire rounded stroke is made without lifting the knife from the surface.

3.2.2 Unique characteristics of incisions.

In the first part of the inscription, strokes similar to those of BEN/BAR YEHOSEF appear, but connected with an earlier name which was later over-inscribed by the name YESHUA. The strokes that can be identified as part of the name YESHUA are made with an entirely different instrument. Its incisions have steeper more pronounced sides. However in certain cases, strokes from the earlier inscription have either been touched up or utilized “as is”, as part of the later inscription. Also, the cursive form of the script of YESHUA contrasts that of the rest of the inscription.

3.2.3 UV light test.

The presence of the dried mud was immediately apparent under the UV light source. Mud and soils absorb UV light with the result that the letters appear almost black on a slightly fluorescing limestone surface. Again, the presence of the dried mud in the incised inscription is unique among the ossuaries of this tomb.”

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