The Solomon Treasures (2008) - full transcript

Investigation into the controversial history of three extraordinary biblical artifacts discovered in the Holy Land. Are they genuine or fake?

(soft mysterious music)

In recent years,

a series of extraordinary
finds has been made

in the Holy Land.

These astonishing
discoveries are linked

to some of the most
famous events in the Bible.

They appear to be new
evidence for the burial of Jesus

and for the legendary
Temple of Solomon.

This is something
that biblical scholars

have been waiting for,
have been dreaming of,

for many years.

Here is a proof.

We can touch it, we can
smell it, we can go see it.

This is where we came from.

It's an earthquake,
a revolution.

Or is there another darker story

behind these mysterious objects?

(soft ethereal music)

Jerusalem, the Holy
Land's most important city.

For centuries it's
been the center

of a flourishing
antiquity trade.

Government Inspectors
try to monitor the trade,

but thousands of artifacts
change hands here every day.

Genuine pieces
2,000 or more years old

can be bought for a
few hundred dollars.

And many collectors
have learned not to ask

awkward questions about
how the dealer came by them.

And it was here more
than 25 years ago,

in Jerusalem's Antiquity Market,

that one of the most
remarkable artifacts

in the Holy Land's
history first came to light.

(soft relaxing music)

It was a tiny object, just
four centimeters long,

badly damaged, and no
one knew where it came from.

But it will be hailed as a
unique piece of history.

It became known as
the ivory pomegranate.

It was thought to
be the ornamental tip

of a priest's ceremonial staff.

But what amazed the
experts was the inscription.

(Man speaking in Hebrew)

Holy to the priests
of the House of God.

It suggested that this
exquisite little ornament

was used by priests in the
first Temple of Jerusalem,

which, according to the Bible,
was built by King Solomon.

If the pomegranate was
what its inscription claimed,

it was a revolutionary find.

Before it came to light there
was no independent evidence

apart from the Bible
that Solomon's Temple

had actually existed.

3,000 years ago, Jerusalem
was a small Iron Age city

whose ambitious
King, the Bible tells us,

decided to build a
house for his God.

In the fourth year

of Solomon's reign over Israel,

the construction of the
Temple of the Lord was begun.

The existence
of Solomon's Temple

is central to traditional
Jewish belief.

The house
which King Solomon built

for the Lord, the length
thereof was threescore cubits.

The breadth thereof, 20 cubits.

And the height
thereof, 30 cubits.

Over 12 meters
high and over 30 meters long,

the House of God would
have dominated the city

and its people.

(soft relaxing music continues)

Since then, Jerusalem has
suffered nearly 2,500 years

of turbulent history.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims

all claim a stake in the
city that features so large

in the history of their faiths.

A vast Muslim shrine,
the Dome of the Rock,

now occupies the site
where Solomon's Temple

is presumed to have stood.

According to biblical history,

the temple was
destroyed by fire in 586 BC

by invaders from Babylon.

(crowd murmuring)

The Western Wall, where
Jewish pilgrims now come to pray,

is all that's left of
a second Temple

built on the same site
as Solomon's Temple

by King Herod the
Great, 500 years later.

(crowd murmuring)

In a country where
cultural and territorial rights

are the essence of politics,

the story of Solomon's Temple

has special
significance for the Jews.

But there's no trace
of the Temple itself

and archeologists
are not allowed to dig

in such a politically
sensitive area.

(wings fluttering)

Archeologist Israel
Finkelstein has amassed

thousands of artifacts
from that period of history,

but not a fragment
of evidence to back up

the Bible's account
of Solomon's Temple.

There's no archeological
evidence for the simple reason

that we cannot excavate
in the Temple Mount.

I think also that
even if it was possible

to do something on
the Temple Mount,

there's a big question whether

we could have discovered
anything from the first Temple

of the biblical times,

because there was a huge
building operation there

in the time of Herod the Great,

and there's good reason to think

that everything was eradicated.

(soft ethereal music)

So the pomegranate
was an extraordinary find.

The tiny artifact with a
large chip on one side

was the first physical link to
the lost Temple of Solomon.

(dramatic pulsing music)

But was the
pomegranate authentic?

In Israel, many
genuine antiquities

find their way onto the
market from dubious sources.

Just beyond the walls of
the old city of Jerusalem,

Amir Ganor, Chief Investigator

for the Israel
Antiquities Authority,

is checking an underground
tomb from the time of Jesus,

the first century AD.

(loud scraping)

(door banging)

Israel has thousands
of ancient historic sites.

Many are untouched and
still contain valuable artifacts

from biblical times.

But all too often when
archeologists arrive to explore them,

they find that looters
have beaten them to it.

This is only one of
thousands of caves

that we have in this area.

And unfortunately,
most of them are looted.

You could see the
damage that they done here.

They took everything,
they destroyed this tomb.

(soft upbeat music)

The Holy Land's heritage

is being plundered for cash.

We assume that
95% of the antiquities

that now are in the
hands of the dealers,

they are stolen
property or they looted.

(soft upbeat music continues)

Most of the loot

is brought to the
Jerusalem Market

where the ivory
pomegranate first appeared.

The man who came across
it in the Jerusalem Market

happened to be one of
the world's leading experts

on ancient inscriptions,
Professor Andre Lemaire.

One of the sellers told me,

"I know an inscription which
belongs to somebody else.

"And would you be
interested to see it?"

He examined it closely.

This is a very small object.

You have to be aware
that it is only about

four centimeters high.

And the inscription is
still smaller, of course.

And looking at
it very carefully,

I found that from what I could
see, everything was okay.

There was no problem.

After inspecting

the engraved Aramaic text,

Lemaire had no
doubt it was genuine.

He published his report,

declaring it to be authentic
from the eighth century BC,

the time of Solomon's Temple.

(dramatic orchestral music)

The tiny pomegranate would
have played a humble part

in the magnificent Temple.

It would have been
carried on precessions

through the two great halls,

whose walls were paneled
in sweet smelling cedarwood.

If the pomegranate belonged
to one of the high priests,

it would have accompanied him

into the Temple's inner
sanctum, the Holy of Holies,

where winged cherubim
guarded the Ark of the Covenant

and the towering walls
were encrusted with gold.

But however humble its
role might've been then,

it was now the only artifact
to survive from the Temple.

(relaxing flute music)

The Israel Museum, home
to a world renowned collection

of biblical artifacts, was
now very keen to acquire it.

It was an object
of some excitement

because when first identified,

it was considered that
it might be an object

directly connected to the first
Temple, to Solomon's Temple.

And we really have
very little material

that comes from that
period from Jerusalem

and that can be directly
connected to that moment in history

and to the physical
existence of the Temple.

But when the museum

tried to track down the
owner, it ran into a wall.

The pomegranate had
already changed hands.

There wasn't a dealer in Israel

who seemed to know where it was.

The word was it had been
smuggled out of the country.

Then several years later
in 1987, out of the blue,

the museum received
a mysterious phone call.

(Man speaking in Hebrew)

The pomegranate
was now available,

but at a price.

(Man speaking in
Hebrew) million dollar.

Desperate to get their hands

on this unique piece
of Jewish heritage,

the museum bartered
the price down

to just over half a
million dollars in cash.

Israel's leading expert
was asked to check it out.

When he too decided
it was genuine,

the cash, provided by
an anonymous donor,

was paid into an anonymous
Swiss bank account.

The pomegranate was
returned to Jerusalem

and there in the Israel Museum,

along with such priceless
national treasures

as the Dead Sea Scrolls,
it was given pride of place,

an authentic link to
King Solomon's Temple.

(soft relaxing music)

For nearly 20 years,

it was regarded as the
only physical evidence

for the Temple.

Then in uncannily,
similar circumstances,

another extraordinary
artifact became headline news.

In 2002, the Chief Investigator

for the Israel Antiquities
Authority, Amir Ganor,

was given a special mission,

to track down a brand
new piece of biblical history

that had gone missing.

It was a hunt that
would take him

the length and
breadth of the country

and provide a major scoop

for a young Israeli
newspaper reporter.

The story begins in 2001.

A professor from the
Jerusalem University

receives a call from
a mysterious person

who refuses to
give his real name

and asks this professor to
come to a hotel in Jerusalem.

He arrives and
another professor,

he receives another call saying,

"We are changing the
location of the meeting.

"Please take a taxi
to a different hotel."

A person who he
has never met before

arrives with a briefcase.

The man with the briefcase

claimed to be acting
on behalf of a client.

He couldn't reveal
his client's identity,

but was sure the professors
would be very interested

by what he had
brought to show them.

(soft mysterious music)

He opens up the briefcase,

takes out a gorgeous
piece of black stone

with a ancient writing on it

and asked the two professors
to authenticate the piece.

The inscription
on the shiny black stone

describe repairs made
to the Temple of Solomon

by a King called Jehoash
in the eighth century BC.

(soft mysterious
music continues)

If it was genuine,
it was priceless.

Like the ivory pomegranate,
it appeared to confirm

that Solomon's Temple
had actually existed.

Better still, it provided
unique confirmation

of events described
in the Old Testament.

The professors wanted to
know who the owner was

and where the
object had come from.

(Man speaking in Hebrew)

(Man with sunglasses
speaking in Hebrew)

All the stranger would reveal

was that it had been found
near the Temple Mount.

They wanted to take the stone.

They wanted to, you know,

perform a thorough
investigation of it

and to authenticate it
or reveal it as a forgery.

The person refused, of
course, to give the stone.

Said, "That's
impossible because of,

"you know, complications."

There was no way the professors

could properly
authenticate the tablet

after such a brief examination.

You know, he takes the stone,

he puts it back
in his briefcase.

He says, "Thank you very much,"

to the two bewildered
professors and leaves them behind

in the Jerusalem lobby.

(dog barking)

(soft relaxing music)

The place where the tablet

had allegedly been found

was at the foot of
the Temple Mount,

the heart of Old
Jerusalem, where,

according to legend,
Solomon's Temple once stood.

(dog barking)

(soft relaxing music continues)

But how could anyone be
sure that a blackened stone

allegedly found
in a pile of rubble

was a genuine
3,000 year old relic?

The owner, whoever
he was, realized this

for shortly afterwards,

other experts were secretly
approached by intermediaries

and asked if they could
authenticate the tablet.

One of them, Geologist
Amnon Rosenfeld,

has spent his working life

studying the rocks
around Jerusalem

used by masons and
engravers in biblical times.

We were asked to
examine something

that should be kept secret
called the Jehoash Tablet.

Our starting point
was that this is a fake

and we should find some
signature of a forgery.

Dr. Rosenfeld
and his colleagues

were allowed to examine
the stone over several months

in his lab at the
Geological Survey of Israel.

We couldn't find
anything that lead us

to the conclusion
that it's a forgery.

We find many
criteria that point out

that it might be an
authentic inscription.

If the tablet was genuine,

it was precisely what
Jewish archeologists

have been seeking for ages.

I was very excited because
this type of inscription

is something that
biblical scholars

have been waiting for,
have been hoping for,

have been dreaming
of, for many years.

(soft upbeat music)

The inscription on the tablet

corroborated the Bible's account

of how King Jehoash decided
to refurbish the Temple.

The Book of Kings
tells us that repairs

were needed to the building,

which would by then have
been over a hundred years old.

From its benefactor.

They in turn shall strengthen
the damage in the house,

wherever damage may be found.

And this is how the
tablet records those events.

I repaired the construction

and I made the
repairs in the Temple

and the walls all around
and the side buildings

and the lattice work
and the trap doors

and the recesses in the doors.

Then I think that
we're speaking about

the same royal act of
repairs in the Temple.

And the language
is also rather similar.

analysis of the tablet

by the scientists
had revealed more.

They found the surface
contained tiny flecks of charcoal,

which proved to be
over 2,000 years old.

And they found
tiny specks of gold,

just what might be expected
if it had survived a fire

when the gold encrusted
Temple of Solomon was destroyed.

(soft mysterious music)

(Reporter speaking in Hebrew)

The astonishing revelation

was widely regarded as proof
that the tablet was genuine.

Everyone was
dumbfounded by this discovery.

I mean, it was like a, you know,

an alien spacecraft landing
in the middle of Jerusalem.

Here's a stone
with an inscription

that is actually quoted
from the Jewish Bible.

And that proves
that a Jewish Temple

actually stood in Jerusalem.

Here is a proof that
our national heritage is,

can be basically, you
know, we can touch it,

we can smell it,
we can go see it,

we can take our children.

This is where we came from.

The Israel Antiquities Authority

urgently wanted to know how
the owner, whoever he was,

had come by an
artifact of such national

and historical significance.

Amir Ganor, the
Authorities' Chief Investigator,

pumped his contacts in
the market for information.

He suspected it had
been illegally looted.

But the word on the
street told a different story,

as Journalist, Boaz
Gaon soon discovered.

I traveled to Jerusalem

and started to dig
and try and find out

who the owner of
this new tablet is.

And the people in
the antique industry

who, you know, do not
like to expose their identity,

they told me straight away
that they think it's a hoax.

(soft pulsing music)

Whether it was a hoax or loot

or the genuine article,
Amir Ganor was determined

to track down the owner
and the tablet itself,

which had now disappeared again.

He had many rumors to follow,

but it would take a long
time to get a clear picture.

We spent three
months on the road

to try to find this tablet.

The months of detective work

finally led him to Tel Aviv,

Israel's modern
commercial capital

and in a fashionable
residential quarter,

to the home of a businessman.

One of Israel's leading
antiquity collectors, Oded Golan.

Golan has been
collecting ancient artifacts

since he was a boy.

Here you are looking now

at the oldest, the
most ancient dictionary

ever found in the world.

I found it when I
was 10 years old.

He admitted he had been helping

to sell the missing
stone tablet,

but denied he had
ever been its owner.

He was a dealer,
Palestinian dealer,

who had a shop
in East Jerusalem.

Abayasa was his nickname.

So I didn't have
enough money to buy it.

And he asked me if I
can help him to sell it

or to offer it to somebody.

And I had actually
only one condition.

It should stay in a
museum for the public.

How much was he asking for it?

700,000 of dollars.

But the authorities
were not convinced

by the story.

And what made
them highly suspicious

was that the same
collector, Oded Golan,

had recently been involved in
another sensational discovery

that had suddenly appeared.

(soft relaxing music)

In the vast collection
of ancient treasures

held by the Israel
Antiquities Authority,

there are hundreds
of stone boxes,

all dating back to
the time of Jesus.

Simply engraved, some bearing
a name in Hebrew or Greek.

They had a macabre purpose.

They are ossuaries,

receptacles for storing
the bones of the dead.

In 2002, one of these
ancient bone boxes

became the center of
worldwide media attention.

Ya'akov bar Yosef
akhui di Yeshua.

The inscription translates
as, "James, son of Joseph,

"brother of Jesus."

For these familiar names
from the New Testament

to appear together seemed
a remarkable coincidence.

The ancient bone box was hailed

as the final resting
place of Saint James,

the brother of
Jesus of Nazareth,

and the first
archeological evidence

linked to Jesus Himself.

It caused a sensation

and was viewed by
nearly 100,000 people

at the Royal Ontario
Museum in Toronto.

Another extraordinary
biblical artifact.

And its owner was Oded Golan.

Two dramatic
artifacts were discovered

in the space of six months
by the same collector.

This was very, very
difficult to believe.

I mean, you know, what's next?

The shoes of Muhammad?

I have to admit it, it
sounds quite strange.

But if you have
the good context,

the good relationship,
you'll get the good stuff.

It's very simple.

He claimed he had
owned the ossuary for years.

In the mid-70s, I
bought several ossuaries,

actually three, and I
bought it in East Jerusalem.

So why had it taken him 30 years

to realize the possible
significance of the inscription?

The first person who
actually gave me the idea

that it could belong to
the family of Jesus Christ

was Professor Andre Lemaire.

Back in the 1980s,

Professor Lemaire
had been responsible

for authenticating
the ivory pomegranate.

20 years later, his
reputation as an expert

in ancient inscriptions proved
valuable to Oded Golan.

I was amazed with the name,

but mainly with the
appellation, brother of Yeshua,

James the brother of Jesus.

For me, there is no
problem about the fact

that the inscription is genuine.

Professor Lemaire's opinion

that the inscription was genuine

transformed the
Brother of Jesus' Ossuary

into an archeological sensation.

But not every
expert was convinced

the inscription was authentic.

I laughed. I
couldn't believe it.

You gotta be kidding.

It's not the same script.

It's not even a
complete script design.

Dr. Rochelle Altman,

it seemed that the inscription
had been cobbled together

from bits of
genuine inscriptions.

She thought the first
part of the inscription,

James son of Joseph,
was probably authentic,

but that the brother of Jesus

had been added
later by another hand.

Ya'akov bar Yosef is original.

This is the ossuary of this man.

All of a sudden here's this,

and this is totally
different script,

it's made out of different
pieces and pasted together.

And that's exactly
what we have here.

This thing's obviously a fake.

(Reporter speaking in Hebrew)

With allegations
of fakery flying around,

the authorities
decided to crack down.

Police and Antiquities
Authority Agents

raided Oded Golan's home.

They found an
incriminating photograph

of the collector clutching
the missing Jehoash tablet,

which he had always
denied owning.

They made him hand it over
then confiscated the ossuary too.

The artifacts
and their collector

were about to be subjected
to intensive scrutiny.

The Israel Antiquities
Authority set up a task force

to decide on the
authenticity of both objects.

In charge of the
scientific investigation

was Professor Yuval
Goren of Tel Aviv University.

He began with the stone tablet.

He wanted to establish
whether it could have come

from the site of Solomon's
Temple on the Temple Mount.

The stone surface should
provide valuable clues.

Over time, all objects
develop a patina,

a thin crust bonded
to their surface.

It's created by
chemical reactions

between the object
and its environment.

But when Goren
examined the patina,

he found that it was
different on the front

and the back of the stone.

The patina on the
front did indeed appear

to come from Jerusalem,

but instead of being
bonded to the stone,

it lifted off quite easily.

The patina is very loosely
connected to the stone.

Here you can see
how it reacts to

me scraping it
with a matchstick.

And you can see that it
easily peels off the letters

as opposed, again, to
the patina on the backside.

The patina on
the back was different

and appeared not to
come from Jerusalem at all.

(hammer banging)

He concluded that
someone had taken

an old stone from somewhere else

and carved an
inscription on the front,

which had then been concealed

under a new artificial patina.

He could even see evidence
that the carving was recent.

When the letters are cleared,

the inner part of the
letters is exposed.

And as you can see
here, it is very freshly cut.

You can see
even the little lines,

the little parallel lines,
of either the chisel

or even maybe some
drill, some electric bit or drill

with which the
letters were engraved.

Which is, of course, very
unusual for ancient inscriptions.

And what of the ancient charcoal

and traces of gold which had
convinced earlier scientists?

Goren concluded they
had simply been added

to the artificial patina applied
to the front of the stone.

And, therefore, I
believe that the inscription

is not genuine.

Then he turned to
the Brother of Jesus Ossuary.

The bone box itself
appears to be genuine.

The stone was covered
by a chalky patina,

just what he'd expect if
it had spent many years

in an underground tomb.

But the patina in the grooves

of the inscription
was different.

Like the Jehoash tablet,

it was not firmly
bonded to the surface.

It looked as if the engraver

had cut through
the original patina,

then filled in the grooves
with a new material

to make it look ancient.

On June the 18th, 2003,

the Israel Antiquities
Authority goes public.

Both objects are declared fake.

Certainly that the
patina in the letters

in both items is
a modern forgery.

It hits the headlines worldwide.

Experts who
authenticated the artifacts

have their names
dragged through the mud.

It was manipulated.

It was really very,
very politicized.

For me, it's clear
it is not a forgery.

(soft mysterious music)

But more damning
evidence now comes to light.

When police and
authority inspectors

raid Oded Golan's
premises again,

they find engraving
tools, chemicals,

and soil samples taken
from sites all over Israel.

Together with
scores of artifacts,

many look freshly
minted or half-finished.

They confiscated several
tools that they had in my home.

These kind of tools
are existed in the hands

of any collector and
any dealer in Israel.

But the evidence leads to Golan

being charged on 15
counts of forgery and fraud.

Four other dealers are
accused of being accomplices.

I never forged
anything in my life.

Of course I shall
have to defend myself,

but I have nothing to
do with forgeries at all.

Three years on, the
prosecution of Oded Golan

on fraud and forgery
charges continues.

And there's still
no end in sight.

But whoever was responsible,

it seems a sophisticated
fraud is beginning to unravel.

The scandal has provoked
anxiety about every artifact

supposedly from biblical times
that has come from dealers

or sources unknown.

Could they all be forgeries?

Yuval Goren has
checked scores of items

that museums and collectors
have acquired on the market.

He has concluded that
almost all of them are fake.

Some archeologists believe
there's only one answer

to the problem.

The antiquity trade
should be shut down

and its products
should be shunned.

Objects must come from

an archeological excavation
done by archeologists.

Then they are genuine,

there's no question about them.

Then they are okay

and you can use them
for historical research.

Then whatever comes
from the market is forgery

until otherwise proven.

This is a country
where the antiquities market

has been thriving ever
since Medieval Crusaders

came hunting for holy relics.

Some shops are as old
as the antiquities they sell,

but in this city, the
buyer should beware

and assume that if
material isn't looted,

it's probably fake.

Though not in this
shop, of course.

Rami, Where do you
get your antiquities from?

(Rami sighing loudly)

Well, probably you should
ask my dad about this.

We, I inherited them
really from my family.

We used to get them
from the people that dig,

but not anymore.

Why not?

Not allowed, against
the rules here in Israel.

Not allowed to buy
from people that dig.

Whether an artifact
is genuine or looted or fake,

there are ways of
enhancing its market value.

The collectors always
want special things.

This is authentic jar.

This is from the Iron Age,

from the seventh century BC.

If it's ordinary jar
without any decoration

or inscription, it would
cost something between

700, 2,000 dollar.

But if someone add some
inscription here in ancient Hebrew,

it will be cost hundreds
of thousands of dollars.

Adding an
inscription is less work

and less expensive than
faking a whole artifact.

And as investigators have
uncovered more fakes,

they feel a pattern is emerging

of ancient objects being
embellished with inscriptions

to enhance their value
and historical significance.

(chisel banging)

They even have a
good idea how forgers

are producing inscriptions
good enough to fool the experts,

using a standard reference book

published by the Israel
Antiquities Authority.

Details of inscriptions
from genuine artifacts

are copied precisely
then reassembled

as the template
for a new engraving.

This is Ya'akov, James
in ancient Hebrew.

(air whooshing)

Next, son of Yosef.

(air whooshing)

To create brother of Jesus,

letters are taken from
several ancient sources

to complete the template.

James, son of Joseph,
brother of Jesus

and it looks
completely authentic.

(chisel banging)

Any artifact of unknown origin
with a compelling inscription

has now become suspect.

So it was inevitable that
attention would return

to that priceless object
in the Israel Museum,

the ivory pomegranate.

The pomegranate was
now the only item believed

to have survived from
Solomon's legendary Temple.

Over 25 years had passed

since the pomegranate
had first been authenticated

by one of the world's
experts on ancient inscriptions,

Professor Andre Lemaire.

Since then experts
have discovered

that it wasn't actually
made of elephant ivory,

but came from a
quite different beast.

(soft relaxing music)

It is a little pomegranate

made of a tooth
of a hippopotamus.

But the big question was,

did the pomegranate really
come from Solomon's Temple?

When professor Goren examined

the surface of the pomegranate,

he saw little to suggest that
it was not a genuine artifact.

You can see that it is old.

It is worn.

There were
signs of a few repairs,

traces of what looks like glue.

But the patina looked ancient.

Then he turned his
attention to the inscription.

(speaking in
Hebrew), which means

holy to the priests
of the House of God.

And this is why this pomegranate

was considered to be
from the Solomonic Temple.

But the pomegranate
was badly damaged

sometime in its history.

You can see that
the break that took off

about 1/3 of the body
of the pomegranate.

Most of the
inscription is intact,

but a large chunk is missing.

The letters that are supposed
to spell out House of God

are just fragments on
the border of the break.

It was these that
caught Goren's attention.

He noticed that the
grooves cut by the engraver

appeared to stop short of
the break, which was odd.

He would have expected
them to be sliced cleanly

when the pomegranate
was damaged.

The lines are ending
before the edge of the break,

which means that whoever
engraved it was very careful

not to make other
breaks into the old break.

It looked to Goren

as if the inscription
had been engraved

after the pomegranate
had been damaged.

It is clear when you look
at it through the microscope

that the inscription
was engraved in it,

on it, when it was
already broken.

So someone must
have added the inscription

to boost the
pomegranate's value.

It is probably a fake.

It's probably a forgery.

But Goren's
analysis makes no sense

to the pomegranate's
champion, Professor Lemaire.

He make a mistake
because it is not his field.

Although the pomegranate
is authentic, it is ancient,

the inscription was most
likely engraved in modern times.

Yuval Goren is
working out of his field.

And in this case,

when even if it is a
professor at university,

if somebody is
working out of his field,

out of his specialty, he is
not especially to be trusted.

But the man

who first authenticated
the pomegranate

now finds himself in
a very small minority.

The pomegranate has
been declared a fake

and removed from display
in the Israel Museum.

(horn blowing)

But there's no let up in
the sensational claims.

Jerusalem can prove a
nightmare for archeologists

with major monuments
of three religions

crowding on top of each other.

And in a quiet residential
quarter called Talpiot,

apartment blocks
overlook one of the most

contentious archeological
sites in the world.

In a tiny rose garden,
a large concrete slab

conceals the entrance
to a 2,000 year old tomb.

The crudely built
structure offers no clue

to the potential importance
of what lies beneath.

Cut into the rocky hillside,

the tomb was discovered
accidentally in 1980

when the whole area
was still a construction site.

Before it could disappear
under the new buildings,

a small team of archeologists

was allowed to examine
the tomb and its contents.

Among them was Shimon
Gibson, then 21 years old.

His job was to map
the inside of the tomb.

(insects buzzing)
(birds chirping)

Well under this cement
slab is a shaft which descends

for a couple of meters
down into the ground.

At the bottom of the
shaft is an opening,

which is situated here, which
leads into a barrel chamber,

which is still intact.

It's really nice.

After 27 years, the
tomb is still here.

The tomb itself was full of
soil at least up to knee level

at the time of excavation,

which meant that the door
had been opened in antiquity

and that soil had flowed
in to the cave itself.

So this wasn't an intact tomb.

Questions about
when it was broken into

have recently
ignited speculation

about what the tomb
originally contained.

Since they were discovered,

the ossuaries from the
tomb have been kept

at the Antiquities
Authority store.

And it was there 27
years later in 2007,

that the names
inscribed on the ossuaries

provoked intense
media speculation

about the occupants of the tomb.

Most of the names are well known

from the New
Testament of the Bible.

Mariame, a form of Mary,
Mary Magdalene perhaps.

Jose, a short form of Joseph.

Maria, another Mary.

And then most astonishing
of all, Yeshua bar Yosef,

Jesus son of Joseph.

Could this be the resting
place of Jesus Himself?

The suggestion that
this might be the tomb

of the family of Jesus
received worldwide publicity.

Now the man involved
in the original excavation

wants to examine the tomb again.

Anything which is sealed up

creates a kind of sort of
atmosphere of conspiracy.

So I think opening up the slab

and allowing cameras to go down

and to have a look at the
tomb would be a good thing.

Permission has been
given to examine the tomb,

but it soon becomes
clear that some residents

don't want an excavation
in their backyard.

(crowd murmuring in Hebrew)

An area which is
there's a lot of emotion.

It highlights the problems

that can arise for
archeologists in a country

where religious
passions run high.

He's going to call the police

that he doesn't
want us excavating.

And he's quite angry.

(crowd murmuring in Hebrew)

Pressing on now

could provoke a
worst disturbance,

so the Talpiot tomb
remains sealed.

But from the map Gibson drew
of the tomb when it was opened,

we can still get a good idea

of how the remains of
the family were laid out.

(soft mysterious music)

There were bones and
skulls lying on the floor.

The ossuaries lay
in small chambers

cut into the walls of the tomb.

The one bearing the
name Jesus son of Joseph

was one of the smallest,

tucked in the back
of one chamber.

Most archeologists
are very skeptical

that this could have
been Jesus of Nazareth.

One thing I can
tell you for certain,

and that is that there were
no remains of a crucified man

in this tomb.

And the
coincidence of the names,

however striking, fails
to impress specialists

in this period of history.

These names are extremely common

among the local Jewish
population in the time of Jesus.

It's also problematic because
everything that we know

about Jesus and His family

indicates that they were
a relatively poor family

who could not have
afforded a rock-cut tomb.

If they had owned
a rock-cut tomb,

presumably it would have been
in Nazareth, their hometown,

not in Jerusalem.

We have good evidence for this

from other wealthy
families around the country.

And while the
historical controversy rages,

some scientists think
it would be a good idea

to re-examine the ossuaries

that came from
the disturbed tomb.

American researchers
now want to subject them

to forensic-style scrutiny,

especially the
most controversial,

Jesus son of Joseph inscription.

Because it looks like

these scratches are new.

They wonder whether dirt

that's been impacted
in the inscription

could be concealing
signs of recent tampering.

We're actually trying to
remove some of the soil

that's been impacted in the
inscriptions and scratches.

Not only that, try to
remove the soil safely

as not to destroy any patina.

The grooves of the inscription

contain traces of mud,
which have to be removed

if they are to examine
the inscription in detail.

It seems that
Jesus son of Joseph

may not be the only
name engraved on the box.

It appears that the name Yeshua,

if this is the actual name,

because it's a very
difficult name to read,

is not the original
name on this ossuary.

Yeshua appears to be
super-inscribed over an earlier name

that appeared before that.

It could be something
like (speaking in Hebrew),

or a number of possibilities,

but Yeshua was not the
first one in the ossuary.

The name, Yeshua
bar Yosef, Jesus son of Joseph,

has been inscribed very crudely

and incorporates some of
the underlying inscription.

Could this have an
innocent explanation?

Or has Jesus being carved later

as a deliberate deception
by adding a few extra strokes,

then using mud to
make them look older?

It's coming. Patina
is coming away there.

Maybe you're right
about the mud here

that it was put as a
disguise, you know?

To cover up things, yeah.

The existence of this
hardened mud inside,

we have to look for some
explanation known for it,

'cause we don't really
have a good explanation yet.

But that's what we're
in the process of doing

is trying to figure out
if this hardened mud

was something that somebody
pressed into the inscription

in order to make it
look better or whatever.

It's not very clear yet.

So now you're starting

to get some of the patina away.

If we're able to remove
the mud successfully

without damaging
the inscription itself,

this would hope to at
least dispel any ideas

that this has any
problems in terms

of some kind of tampering.

Take some of that there.

An area that
we know has been perfected

by tape and the mud.

But these questions

are not likely to be
answered just yet.

Worried that removing the mud

might risk harming the
ossuary's delicate patina,

the Israel Antiquities
Authority has now called a halt

to further investigation.

But whatever the eventual
conclusions about tampering,

the scientists' concerns
are symptomatic

of the widespread
anxiety and alarm

caused by recent
revelations of fakery and fraud.

I do think that the
recent sensational claims

have made a mockery of
the discipline of archeology.

(soft ethereal music)

When a real and important
archeological find is made

the public are
unable to evaluate

whether it's true or false.

In a country where
three powerful religions

stake their claim to
be the heirs of history,

where believers will
seize on any evidence

that backs up their faith,

archeologists have a tough
job separating fiction from fact.

(soft upbeat music)

This matters a lot to us

if we ever want to
live in a real world,

because what we have is
fiction invading the real world.

It stains archeological
research, first of all.

It stains the known
reconstruction of biblical history.

And there is a whole, a
complete contamination

of our research.

And I think that we need to
make a statement against this.

As scores of fake artifacts

have been sold around the world,

academic reputations
have been trashed

and millions of dollars
have changed hands.

But it's not just museums
and wealthy collectors

who are being defrauded.

Distorting history has profound
consequences for everyone.

You know, you feel betrayed.

You feel that you were deceived.

It's one thing to
lie about something

that is not important to people

and it's something else to lie

about something that is
intrinsic to their identity.

(dramatic orchestral music)

(upbeat mysterious music)