>According to a report published in The Jerusalem Post, Shuka Dorfman, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that “both Prof. Andre Lemaire of the Sorbonne and Ada Yardeni, Israel’s leading epigrapher, had been under suspicion” of being part of an “international forgery industry.” Dorfman once believed that Lemaire had ties to a forgery group responsible for faking archaeological items, including the James Ossuary.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Dorfman “divulged this information as part of the testimony he was giving at the Jerusalem District Court in the long-running trial of two men accused of dealing in fake antiquities.”
The following is an excerpt from the article:
Dorfman said the anti-theft unit of the Antiquities Authority believed the items were forged by an international group of experts and dealers that included the two defendants.
He said the suspects at one time included Prof. Lemaire, a paleographer at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Lemaire was the first scholar to study an ivory pomegranate believed to have been used in the First Temple. The thumb-sized pomegranate is inscribed in ancient Hebrew: “Sacred donation for the priests in the House of God.”
It was purchased nearly 20 years ago by a private philanthropist for $550,000 and donated to the Israel Museum after its authenticity was verified by experts.
Lemaire said he discovered the item in 1979 when an antiquities dealer in the Old City of Jerusalem showed him the tiny ornament over a cup of tea.
Lemaire photographed it and published his findings two years later in the respected Revue Biblique journal. In 1984, he published his findings in English, triggering worldwide interest.
In 2002, Lemaire published the first study of the James ossuary in the Biblical Archeology Review after seeing the burial box at the home of Oded Golan.
The pomegranate was later inspected and the inscription on it found to be suspect by a separate Antiquities Authority inquiry. Dorfman told the court they decided not to bring criminal charges against eight suspects identified in that case.
Lemaire was questioned by Antiquities Authority inspectors during a two-year investigation, but apparently was never told that he was under suspicion.
This case is becoming more bizarre as the trial develops in court. I am not familiar with all the evidence that have been presented in court, but I cannot believe that Prof. Andre Lemaire, a scholar with an international reputation, would be part of “an international forgery network.”
As The Jerusalem Post reports, Lemaire was only “suspected of being part” of the forgery group. Thus, there is no real evidence that he was involved in forged antiquity.
Before judgment is passed on any alleged involvement of Prof. Lemaire in the forgery of the James Ossuary or in any other archaeological forgery, one must wait until all the evidence is presented and the judge presiding over this case makes his ruling. I do not believe that Prof. Lemaire was involved with forged archaeological artifacts. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, Dorfman’s suspicions are baseless.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary