About Andy Vaughn

Executive Director of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR)

April Theme: Fakes, Looting, and Artifacts Lacking Context

The ASOR Blog (asorblog.org) is pleased to announce a new “theme” for the month of April—Unprovenanced Artifacts and Possible Forgeries. The ASOR Blog will continue to post other items of interest that are submitted by the ASOR Staff and ASOR Members, but (just like we did in March) we will solicit posts on the “theme” for the month and also encourage unsolicited submissions on the theme from our membership. The guest editors for the month will be ASOR executive director Andy Vaughn (asored@bu.edu) and Professors Lynn Swartz Dodd (swartz@usc.edu) and Christopher Rollston (crollston@ecs.edu). Submissions should be sent to Andy Vaughn with a CC to Kevin Cooney (asorpubs@bu.edu). Continue reading

ASOR Funding for Regional Lectures

Exciting New Funding Opportunity from ASOR

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) has recently decided to allocate funds in support of members who are organizing lectures and events throughout the year. The decision is prompted by an interest in increasing ASOR presence in events throughout the year and in promoting ASOR’s mission of public outreach.

Preference will be given to proposals for special programming at the regional meetings (including co-sponsoring a regional lecture event) that enhance ASOR membership and visibility, as well as to proposals for lectures/events beyond the regional meetings that promise to attract an audience of potential new ASOR members. Continue reading

The Response of the Israel Antiquities Authority to the Verdict by the Jerusalem District Court in the Matter of the Forgeries Trial

"Johoash Inscription" that most scholars have determined is a modern forgery; photo credit: courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

This morning (Wednesday, March 14) the verdict was published in the prosecution’s case—the State of Israel vs. Oded Golan, Robert Deutsch, et alia—Criminal Case 482/04. [This post is taken from the IAA website and re-posted on the ASOR Blog]

In response to the decision by Judge Aharon Farkash of the Jerusalem District Court, the Israel Antiquities Authority announces the following: The Israel Antiquities Authority respects the court’s decisions. The Israel Antiquities Authority praises the efforts of the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office in the case and is proud of the State’s determination in looking out for the broad public interest in the country and abroad, which states it is forbidden to meddle in the history of the peoples that lived and live in the Land of Israel.

The prosecution’s efforts resulted in the conviction of one defendant in this case in the past, and today the court acquitted Oded Golan of forgery and fraud charges on a basis of reasonable doubt, and found him guilty of three counts of violating the Antiquities Law and possession of suspected stolen property. The charges in some of the offenses were cancelled due to the statue of limitations. According to the judge, “The absolute truth was not a guiding light for Golan”. Continue reading

Eric Meyers’ reaction to the verdict in the forgery trial in Israel

Reaction to Golan Acquittal, Professor Eric M. Meyers, Duke University

The verdict announced today, March 14, by Judge Aharon Farkash in Jerusalem, acquitting Oded Golan and Robert Deustch of all major charges comes as no surprise. The James ossuary first came into public view some ten years ago in Toronto when a special exhibition was mounted at the Royal Ontario Museum coterminous with the conventions of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Schools of Oriental Research. I was among the very first to question the wisdom or such an exhibition after the artifact had a questionable provenance and had come to the public’s attention with such hoopla, which is not the normal way for important artifacts or subjects to be vetted. Speaking at a plenary session of SBL I also drew attention to portions of the inscription which seemed questionable at best and to the rush to judgment that this was the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. Secondary burial in an ossuary was a common form of inhumation in late Second Temple times that continued on for some time after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE in the Galilee. It was the dominant form of burial at the Jewish necropolis of Beth She`arim near Sepphoris where Rabbi Judah the Prince was buried in the 3rd c. CE. Continue reading

NEA issue (from 2006) that discusses Talpiot Tomb available for free for a limited time

ASOR is pleased to announce that it has made an issue of Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA 69:3/4 [2006]) available for free on JSTOR for the next month. This issue of NEA contains articles by leading scholars that examine the hypothesis that a Talpiot Tomb belonged to Jesus’ family. The issue contains articles by Eric M. Meyers, Shimon Gibson, Sandra Scham, Christopher Rollston, and Stephen J. Pfann. The issue also contains an extensive response by James D. Tabor.

Continue reading

The Talpiyot Unguentarium

Dr. Joan E. Taylor, Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London

It is easy to feel in this quest to identify the picture of a ‘whale’ a sense that we are all staring at the same ink-blot and seeing different things. The architectural edifice/tower/tomb monument theory does not quite work, because there are little ‘flaps’ on each side, the sides are concave and the circular blob is not explained well. In addition, as James Tabor has said, no one would draw a tomb monument upside down on the side of an ossuary. However, no one would draw a fish in this position on an ossuary either. Instead, viewed the right way up, there is a simpler solution: the picture depicts a small receptacle often used in tombs, called an unguentarium. Continue reading

Comments from Prof. Steven Fine on the “Jesus Discovery”

I was a member of a team assembled last summer by a major media outlet to evaluate this project. Sitting in a stately conference room, Mr. Jacobovici, Professor Tabor and Professor Charlesworth presented their discoveries for the consideration of an internationally renowned group of scholars. The members of the evaluating team then offered our professional evaluations of this project. Continue reading

Prof. Robin Jensen Refutes Any Claim that She Concurs with the Interpretation in “The Jesus Discovery”

From Prof. Robin Jensen, Vanderbilt University

In December, 2010, I was asked to participate in a National Geographic film project that—I was led to believe—would investigate the image of Jonah in early Christian art. I was asked to fly to Rome in January in order to be filmed in the catacombs and comment on the figure of Jonah as it appeared in the iconographic décor of those underground cemeteries. It was made clear that my expertise in ancient Christian art, especially in regard to representations of Jonah, was the reason for this invitation.
Continue reading

On ‘Absalom’s Tomb’ in Jerusalem and Nephesh Monument Iconography: A Response to Jacobovici and Tabor by Robert Cargill

Robert R. Cargill (robert-cargill@uiowa.edu)
Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies, The University of Iowa

Images of the 'Tomb of Absalom' (1 C. CE Jerusalem) flank an image carved into a burial ossuary.

Images of the 'Tomb of Absalom' (1 C. CE Jerusalem) flank an image carved into an ossuary. Photo credits: Left: Brian796 (http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/brian796/2/1264692913/the-tomb-of-absalom.jpg/tpod.html). Center: MSNBC Cosmic Log (http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/27/10521007-new-find-revives-jesus-tomb-flap) Right: Ariel Horowitz on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Avtomb.JPG).

Continue reading

Jodi Magness responds to the “New Jesus Discovery”

Professor Jodi Magness
Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

As usual, the arrival of the Easter season this year is heralded by a sensational archaeological claim relating to Jesus. In March 2007, we learned from a TV documentary and accompanying book that the tomb of Jesus and his family had been discovered in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood. The producer was undeterred by the fact that not a single archaeologist – including the tomb’s excavator – supported this claim (for my comments see http://www.archaeological.org/news/279; also see Eric Meyers’ response to the current claim). Now the same producer has identified remains of early Christian followers of Jesus in a tomb nearby. What is the basis for this new claim? Photos taken by a robotic arm that was inserted into the tomb supposedly show a graffito depicting a whale incised on an ossuary, and an inscription containing the Tetragrammaton and the word “arise” or “resurrection.”

Continue reading

Eric Meyers’ review of “The New Jesus Discovery”

Review of “The New Jesus Discovery”
(Simon and Schuster 2012, ISBN 978-1-4516-5040-2)
Eric M.Meyers, Duke University

For nearly two millennia Christians have venerated the site believed to be where Jesus was buried. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built at a place where liturgical celebrations were held in honor of Christ’s death and resurrection, even before the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Emperor Hadrian in 135 CE built his Capitoline temple there, and a shrine to Aphrodite was built adjacent to it. Constantine, the first emperor to embrace Christianity (in the 4th c. CE), decided to build a church there to commemorate the Resurrection. The temple was thus torn down; construction of Constantine’s church began in 326, and the church was dedicated in 335 CE according to Eusebius of Caesarea (Life of Constantine, 3:28). No other site in all Christendom has been more venerated and more often authenticated than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Nonetheless, on the basis of very little evidence James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici would have us throw all of this tradition away and identify a Jewish family tomb in East Talpiot, several kilometers south of the Old City on the road to Bethlehem, as the “new” family tomb of Jesus.

Continue reading

Brief Reflections of an Epigrapher on Talpiyot Tombs A and B

Professor Christopher A. Rollston, Emmanuel Christian Seminary

Much can, and no doubt will, be said about the proposal (and new volume) of Professor James Tabor and Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici that Jesus of Nazareth was married to a woman of Magdala named Mary, that they had a son named “Judas” and that their tomb has been found in East Talpiyot (Jerusalem).  Of course, this all started several years ago with the same individuals proposing the same basic thing about a tomb dubbed “Talpiyot Tomb A.”  Recently, these same scholars investigated a tomb that they have dubbed “Talpiyot Tomb B,” and they believe that this new tomb demonstrates the veracity of their previous conclusions. Continue reading

Meyers and Rollston are guest editors for ASOR’s coverage of the “New Jesus Discovery”

Professors Eric Meyers and Christopher Rollston will be the guest editors of the ASOR Blog for the month of March. ASOR plans to invite scholars in ASOR and the field to react to the proposals made by Professor James Tabor and Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici in their new book, The New Jesus Discovery. The ASOR Blog will host responses from scholars throughout the month of March, and these responses will be moderated by Meyers and Rollston. The discussion will start today (Tuesday, February 28th) with several posts from Meyers and Rollston: Continue reading

ASOR Announces Search for ASOR Treasurer

Announcing a Call for nominations for the position of Treasurer of ASOR. This position will commence upon election and run through December 2015. A complete description of the position may be found at Article IV, Section 9 of the ASOR bylaws (http://www.asor.org/about/bylaws.html). Importantly and essentially, we are seeking someone who is either a CPA or has CFO experience (or both) with a desire to further the mission of ASOR. The successful nominee will train under the current Treasurer (Sheldon Fox) from election until January 2013, when the three-year term commences. The Treasurer works closely with the Executive Director and the Boston Staff and serves on the Executive Committee.

Nominations will be accepted until the position is filled (April 2012 Board meeting); vetting will begin on ASAP. To nominate someone please contact Gary Arbino, Chair of the Officers Nominations Committee (garyarbino@ggbts.edu). If you have questions, feel free to contact Gary Arbino or any of the other members of the Committee (Carol Meyers [carol@duke.edu], Joe Seger [jds1@ra.msstate.edu], Susan Sheridan [ssherida@nd.edu], as well as Tim Harrison [tim.harrison@utoronto.ca] and Andy Vaughn [asored@bu.edu]). ASOR is an Equal Opportunity Employer. ASOR affirms its commitment to equality of opportunity and pledges that it will not practice or permit discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Board actively seeks candidates who represent the diversity within its membership for positions of leadership.

ASOR announces search for ASOR Vice President

Announcing a Call for Nominations for the newly created Office of ASOR Vice President. This position is elected by the ASOR Board of Trustees and will serve until January 2014. It is assumed that the Vice President will be promoted to the position of ASOR President in January 2014, for a three-year term. The Vice President’s primary responsibilities will be to Chair the Chairs Coordinating Council and serve on ASOR’s Executive Committee. The Vice President shall also perform such additional duties as the Board of Trustees, the Executive Committee, the President, or the Board Chair may from time to time prescribe. In the event that both the President and Chair of the Board are unable to be present to discharge the duties of the President, the Vice President shall perform the duties of the President.

Nominations will be accepted until the position is filled (April 2012 Board meeting); vetting will begin on February 1, 2012. To nominate someone please contact Gary Arbino, Chair of the Officers Nominations Committee (garyarbino@ggbts.edu). If you have questions, feel free to contact Gary Arbino or any of the other members of the Committee (Carol Meyers [carol@duke.edu], Joe Seger [jds1@ra.msstate.edu], Susan Sheridan [ssherida@nd.edu], as well as Tim Harrison [tim.harrison@utoronto.ca] and Andy Vaughn [asored@bu.edu]). ASOR is an Equal Opportunity Employer. ASOR affirms its commitment to equality of opportunity and pledges that it will not practice or permit discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Board actively seeks candidates who represent the diversity within its membership for positions of leadership.


BASOR 363 (August 2011) available online for subscribers

ASOR is pleased to announce that BASOR 363 (August 2011) has been posted online at Atypon Link. This issue (and 4 years of back issues) is available to BASOR online subscribers and members who have chosen an online subscription as part of their membership.

You may access the table of contents for free here (members and subscribers will have complete access):


The issue contains articles by Sharon R. Steadman (“Take Me to Your Leader: The Power of Place in Prehistoric Anatolian Settlements”), Itzhaq Shai, Aren M. Maeir, David Ilan and Joe Uziel (“The Iron Age Remains at Tel Nagila”), and Eyal Regev “Royal Ideology in the Hasmonaean Palaces in Jericho”), and Benjamin Adam Saidel (“The Camera and the Pipe: Adjusting the Terminus Ante Quem of the Red-Slipped and Burnished Disc-Base Tobacco Pipes from Suba, Israel”).

The issue contains reviews by Edward B. Banning, Catherine Commenge, Louise Steel, Bill T. Arnold, and Pauline Albenda.

As a reminder, ASOR members who have chosen an online subscription receive the current year’s journals plus the last 4 years of ASOR journals as part of their subscription. For details on ASOR membership and how to get access to BASOR, JCS, and NEA, please see the following URL:


16th Annual Graduate Symposium-call for papers

The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations’ Graduate Students Association (University of Toronto) presents…

The 16th Annual Graduate Symposium—Open Call for Papers
Near and Middle Eastern Studies in the Midst of Revolution
March 5-6, 2012
Deadline: January 9, 2012


The Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations Graduate Students Association of the University of Toronto invites proposals for the 16th Annual Graduate Symposium to be held on March 5-6, 2012. Since 1997, the NMCGSA Symposium has provided the opportunity for promising graduate students to share their original research with the broader scholarly community in a conference-like forum, and to publish their presentations as proceedings. By annually bringing together specialists in archaeology, history (both modern and ancient), anthropology, comparative literature, religion, philosophy, art, and political science, the symposium provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary discourse focused on the study of the Near and Middle East. The 2012 symposium aims to highlight this diversity in order to foster communication and exchange across disciplinary boundaries. While we encourage submissions that are related to the recent Arab Spring movements, we are nevertheless open to any variety of topics that pertain to the realm of Near and Middle Eastern Studies. We are also open to reviewing unorthodox proposals.

Submitting a Paper: Presenters are asked to submit an abstract of 250 words by e-mail attachment no later than January 9, 2012. Submissions should also include the following information in the body of the email: presenters name, program (M.A, Ph.D.), year of study, research focus, university/department, complete address, telephone number, email address, title of paper, and audio-visual requirements. Presentations must not exceed 20 minutes. The abstracts will be reviewed by committee and presenters will be informed of their acceptance no later than February 8, 2012. For purposes of anonymous adjudication, please do NOT include your name or other identification on the abstract attachment. If your paper is being submitted as part of a proposed panel or considered under a specific theme, please include the panel title or the proposed theme under the title of the paper on the abstract.

In order to foster greater scholarly dialogue, partial funding will be made available to five graduate students from North American universities to assist with travel costs. For eligibility please visit the symposium web site.

Please send us your submissions via the following e-mail address: nmcgsasymposium@gmail.com


ASOR annual meeting supersaver rates end Sept 23

ASOR’s annual meeting supersaver rates end at midnight on Friday, September 23 when most registration fees will increase $30. Please register for the annual meeting by following the link on the ASOR home page (www.asor.org).

ASOR has secured additional rooms over the annual meeting dates at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. Please book your room online by following the link on the ASOR home page. Please note that making your hotel reservations and conference registration are two separate steps.

Please do not hesitate to contact the ASOR office by phone at 617-353-6570 or at asormtgs@bu.edu should you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco this November.


ASOR Newsletter 61.1 (Spring 2011) posted online

ASOR is pleased to announce that the ASOR Newsletter 61.1 (Spring 2011) has now been posted online at the ASOR home page (www.asor.org). We anticipate that the issue will be mailed within a week.

As a reminder, the ASOR Newsletter is available online for free at www.asor.org. In addition, ASOR journals are available via Atypon Link: the last 4+ years of ASOR journals are available to ASOR members who have chosen an online subscription on Atypon Link. For details on ASOR membership and how to get access to BASOR, JCS, and NEA, please see the following URL:


ASOR Search for NEA editor

Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA), a publication of the American Schools for Oriental Research (ASOR), is seeking an editor for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2012, for twelve quarterly issues. NEA is a peer-reviewed, illustrated publication intended for non-specialists. The journal accepts submissions pertaining to the prehistory and history of the Near East. The duties of the position include: maintenance of an editorial office for the journal; solicitation and acquisition of manuscripts suitable for publication; implementation of a peer review process for the evaluation of manuscripts; collaboration with the managing editor, the art director of the journal, and the ASOR publications director; chairing an editorial board; actively promoting the journal online; and editing and proofreading each issue. The duties also include timely publication of journal issues and providing quarterly reports to the Chair of the Publications Committee. The Editor of NEA will have editorial control over the journal, within the parameters of the editorial mission established for NEA by ASOR. The successful candidate should anticipate managing a transition to an online article submission and review process and have a strategy for increasing the presence of NEA on the internet. Ideally, the Editor should have knowledge of the production and distribution processes common to print and electronic journals. The Editor of NEA currently receives a stipend as well as reimbursement for travel expenses to ASOR’s Annual Meeting. These funds also could be reallocated to provide release time at the successful candidate’s home institution. ASOR will negotiate details regarding administrative support and other basic infrastructure in collaboration with the successful candidate. The search committee requests proposals from applicants outlining a vision for the future of the journal, which includes the candidates plan for the following: 1) increasing the journals online presence; 2) promoting the journal outside ASOR; 3) transitioning to an online article submission and review process; and 4) increasing the journal’s appeal to the educated enthusiast. Applications from a single editor, coeditors, or an editorial team will be considered and accepted until the position is filled. All applications received by September 6, 2011 will receive full consideration. The candidate’s application package should consist of the aforementioned vision statement and a current CV. These materials, and any other inquiries, should be submitted via e-mail to Dr. Jeff Blakely (jblakely@wisc.edu).