From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In November 2002, the public display of an ossuary (an ancient burial vessel) inscribed James, the brother of Jesus, sent ripples of excitement, doubt and consternation through both the religious and scholarly worlds. But when scholars took a close look, they declared the inscription a forgery based on the lack of provenance and a tremendous disparity between the physical writing of the word James and the rest of the inscription. In her captivating chronicle, veteran journalist Burleigh (Mirage
) enters a dark world full of shady dealings, illicit collectors and monomaniacal archeologists. Along the way we meet an improbable cast of characters, including Oded Golan, the ossuary's owner; André Lemaire, an epigraphist who early on testified to the authenticity of the ossuary's inscription; Shlomo Moussaieff, a billionaire collector with a warehouse full of artifacts of uncertain value; and Israel Finkelstein, a maverick Israeli archeologist who questions the historicity of many biblical events. Burleigh draws readers in from page one and brilliantly captures the compelling debates about archeology's relationship to narratives of faith. (Nov.)
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Shrewd and piquant journalist Burleigh, whose last book, Mirage (2007), offers fresh insights into the discovery of the Rosetta stone, tells the full story behind one of the “greatest hoaxes of all times,” the ancient stone box that was presented to the world in 2002 as the ossuary that held the bones of Jesus’ brother, James. With brio and acumen, Burleigh follows the trail of antiquities fraud in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, visiting collectors’ lairs, biblical sites, and archaeological digs. She wryly profiles Oded Golan, the man responsible for the fraudulent ossuary, and Amir Ganor, the Israel Antiquities Authority investigator who broke the case, as well as a motley crew of scholars, tomb looters, dealers, true believers, and antiquities forgers. But Burleigh is most intrigued with the mix of science and wishful thinking that characterizes biblical archaeology as Israel struggles to preserve evidence of this bloodied land’s Jewish heritage, and Christians seek Holy Land artifacts that allegedly offer “physical proof of biblical stories.” In all, a provocative inquiry into the age-old pairing of faith and folly. --Donna Seaman