Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jordan attempts to recover codices alleged to be almost 2,000 years old

As reported by Adrian Blomfield in the Daily Telegraph on March 29, 2011:

Jordan has vowed to use all means at its disposal to recover a set of artefacts allegedly smuggled into Israel that it believes could constitute the most important Christian texts ever found.

A British team of archaeologists last week announced the discovery of a hoard of ancient texts that they claim could have been written by contemporaries of Christ and whose existence is hinted at in the Bible's apocalyptic Book of Revelation.

Cast in lead and copper, the sealed texts, known as codices, have already become the subject of intrigue worthy of an Indiana Jones plot line.

Stories of subterfuge abound, with at least one of the British archaeologists reportedly facing death threats as they try to rescue the artefacts for posterity from privateers intent on breaking them up and selling them on the Black Market.

Other experts, meanwhile have dismissed the codices as an elaborate hoax and criticised the British team, led by David Elkington, an Egyptologist, and his wife Jennifer.

But for the Jordanian government, which has backed the Elkingtons' work, the codices are an invaluable piece of world heritage at least on a par with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Jewish texts found in an Israeli cave in 1947...

...Jordan's quarrel is not with the Israeli government, but with Hassan Saeda, a Bedouin farmer in the Galilee, who has possession of the codices and is keeping them in hiding.

According to the Elkingtons, Mr Saeda received the artefacts from a Jordanian Bedouin who discovered them in a cave at some stage between 2005 and 2007, much in the same way the Dead Sea Scrolls were found 64 years ago.

Mr Saeda denies the claim, saying the codices have been in his family's possession since they were found by his great-grandfather, an assertion challenged by the Jordanian government, which said it would "exert all efforts at every level" to get the artefacts repatriated...

...A piece of leather found with the metal books was shown by carbon dating tests to be just under 2,000 years old, potentially placing its provenance within Christ's ministry, while a metallurgical examination on one of the codices found that it was also very old.

Israeli archaeological sources have been dismissive of the find, suggesting that Mr Saeda has appeared "every few years" trying to sell the codices. They said examinations had shown them to be forgeries.

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