AMMAN - Preliminary lab results indicate that a collection of metal books unearthed in northern Jordan may indeed represent the earliest Christian texts ever discovered, according to experts.
According to the Department of Antiquities (DoA), initial carbon tests to determine the authenticity of lead-sealed metal books billed as the greatest find in biblical archaeology since the Dead Sea scrolls have been “encouraging”.
“We really believe that we have evidence from this analysis to prove that these materials are authentic,” DoA Director Ziad Saad told The Jordan Times.
The tests, carried out at the Royal Scientific Society labs, indicate that the texts may date back to the early first century AD, at a time when Christians took refuge from persecution on the east bank of the Jordan River.
The codices, which were retrieved by Jordanian security services from the black market last month, are believed to be part of a greater cache of 70 lead-sealed books allegedly uncovered in Jordan and smuggled across the River Jordan into Israel.
The majority of the texts are currently in the possession of Hassan Saeda, an Israeli bedouin farmer who claims that the books, which may tell of the last days of Jesus Christ, were uncovered by his shepherd grandfather some 90 years ago.
Jordanian authorities, however, believe the codices were unearthed four years ago in a cave near the northern village of Sarhan and are property of the Hashemite Kingdom.
The texts made international headlines in March when Jordanian authorities and British author David Elkington announced their existence in a bid to prevent Saeda from selling the cache to a private collector and to launch a campaign to repatriate the books.
Efforts to repatriate the texts from Israel are pending the final results of the carbon dating, currently being carried out at the University of New Mexico, the Getty Conservation Institute and Sheffield University.
This is interesting. How can you have carbon 14 dating done on lead? Doesn't that experiment require the burning of a sample of the material and then reading the radiation levels to determine its age? Since when is lead an organic material? Does lead use the process of photosynthesis and produce carbon dioxide? No, it does not. So I wonder what the story is here? Who is feeding this information to the press?
I think someone still wants to make some money from these things and decided to wait a few months to try again.
HT: Thomas Verenna