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).

In response to Simcha Jacobovici’s sensational claims of a “Jonah’s Great Fish” icon on a burial ossuary in Jerusalem, Duke University’s Dr. Eric Meyers states the following:

In fact, the image in the book is so poorly reproduced in my copy that one suspects it has been intentionally altered so that no one could see what the the image really is. Indeed, the image actually seems to resemble a nephesh, or tomb monument, like those found in many places in Jerusalem in the first century CE and depicted on ossuaries of this very period (so for example in fig. 13 or 30 of Rahmani’s A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries, 1994). A nephesh is the above-ground monument of a tomb that marks the tomb below and the one(s) buried there.

Dr. Christopher Rollston adds:

I must emphasize that I am confident the engraving is simply a standard “nephesh tower motif,” an ornamental motif that is fairly widely attested on the corpus of ossuaries. In fact, in Rahmani’s discussion of the ornamental motifs of ossuaries, the first ornamental motif he mentions is that which has the appearance of a tomb façade or nephesh tower. (Rahmani, L. Y., 1994. A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, p. 28).

By the way, the features of this ossuary’s ornamentation that Jacobovici and Tabor contend are the “fins of a fish,” are actually a standard feature of a roof, namely, the eaves (which, of course, are important for directing the water away from a building). Note also that eaves are visible in multiple of Rahmani’s drawings of ossuary ornamentation. In short, this is not a fish. It is a nephesh tower or tomb façade.

The initial thought that came to my mind was the so-called Tomb of Absalom (that we coincidentally discussed today in my “Jerusalem from the Bronze to Digital Age” class at Iowa). The shape of the figure resembles the shape of the Tomb of Absalom in Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley, which is dated to the 1st C. CE. I suggest that the “round” figure at the top of the ossuary image may be an attempted representation of a lotus flower, not unlike that which Kloner and Zissu state is carved into the top of the Absalom monument. (Kloner A. and Zissu B., 2003. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi and The Israel Exploration Society. Jerusalem (in Hebrew), pp. 141-43.) The round figure could certainly be interpreted as an attempt at the petals of a flower.

Likewise the lower panels of the image could be an attempt at a representation of the tomb’s pillars.

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

Note also that the sections of the “tail” of the “fish” correspond to the attempted representations of the stacked Greek architectural segments on the tomb’s (frieze, architrave, etc.):

'The Tomb of Absalom.' Peter Bergheim, a Jerusalem resident of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, took this photo, which shows how the rock rubble piled up even inside the tomb. The Bergheim family had a bank just inside Jaffa Gate. Photo by Peter Bergheim, courtesy of Joe Zias. (Available at: http://tfba.co/content/index.php/projects/34-tomb-of-absalom/46-the-tomb-of-absalom-reconsidered?start=9)

The Tomb of Absalom may not be the exact inspiration for the image on the ossuary, but it is in line with what Drs. Rahmani, Rollston, and Meyers argue above. And it certainly seems more likely than a “fish” spitting out a “human head.”

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

  1. You really have to be kidding Robert…you really think there is a resemblance…and you would need to put the monument upside down? With the ball top at the bottom…and some little fish swimming around…This is really too much…Try an amphora, you might get further…

  2. Whatever happened to, ‘I want to thank my friend and colleague…’ or ‘Thanks for your response…’? ;-)

    Question for Dr. Tabor:

    In your article (at Bible and Interpretation), you list two important images: Fig. 20 and Fig. 21.
    When I take these images and set them side-by-side, they don’t appear to match, even though the caption for Fig. 21 states that is a ‘blowup’ of Fig. 20.

    Can you explain the discrepancy?

    Robert Cargill

  3. Good point about the contrasts across the two figures, Bob. It will be helpful if James can clear that up.

  4. Hey Bob, sorry to have been so short…I felt I had written too much already on this blog for one day and was getting tired…nothing personal. Of course you are my friend and colleague :-) . I then saw that Andy and Chris and Eric were opening up a full debate and felt I should hold things until the NEA publication…

    There are no differences in the figures, just different camera angles and lighting. Believe me, we did the best we could and it is amazing what we were able to get. We have an accurate museum replica now and I will post it on my blog tomorrow: jamestabor.com. It gives more perspective. Still can’t see the upside-down tower…sorry. BTW, on the right side of the ossuary front-the fish (sic) is on the left side-there appears to be a “temple” structure…

  5. James,

    Thanx for your response.

    OK. 1. In the text of your article, you state that the ‘fish’ is ‘pointed head down’. But the green image does not give this context. Is it on its side? Is that another ossuary resting on the ‘tail fin’ of the ‘fish’? If so, how did you get an image of the entire ‘fish’ with no ossuary obscuring it in the blowup? (Did you ‘supply’ the ‘left’ portion of the ‘tail fin’ with Photoshop, or were you able to achieve the blowup image without the other object cutting across it?

    Also, why didn’t your ‘blowup’ capture the border that is apparent in Fig 20 (from your article below)? It seems to be etched just as deeply as the ‘fish’, but it is absent from the blowup.

    2. I spent the evening skewing perspective of Figs 20 and 21 in Photoshop. That is, I’m pretty good with digital images, and I can skew perspective to make an askew angle appear perpendicular. However, I was unable to get the images to match up, even when superimposing them. If I skew the top and bottom on the right (above), ‘pushing’ the side nearer to the camera ‘away’ to make it a perpendicular perspective, it still doesn’t account for the bend in the ‘tail’. (Again, you may have supplied/filled in that section in Photoshop.)

    Also, here seems to be missing a ‘section’ that I labeled ‘pillars’ that is missing.

    If a portion of the ‘tail’ is skewed to match that area, then the ‘tail fin’ is much shorter than the ‘blowup’.

    Also, if I skew that same side up, the cross-sectional lines across the ‘fish’s abdomen’ then skew out of parallel.

    The ‘abdomen’ seems to be much narrower in the ‘blowup’ image, and as I stated, the border (visibly prominent in the original) disappears in the blowup.

    It also appears that the areas just outside of the outline on the blowup has been feathered in Photoshop.

    If the ‘blowup’ image is an artist’s reconstruction, or if the image has been in any way manipulated for illustration purposes, please say so. Because the ‘blowup’ does appear to show telltale signs of Photoshopping (including rubber stamp pixelization in some areas.)

    Also, just to clarify, you’re stating that this ‘fish’ is on a vertical panel, facing the outside, with ‘fish head’ pointing down toward the floor? If so, what is the object covering up the ‘tail fin’? Another ossuary? A lid?

    Thanks for clarifying. Of all of your photos, the important one of the actual context of the ‘fish’ seems to be the most difficult one to read.

    Thanx again. -bc

  6. XKV, it is not enough to use the “perspective” to recreate an optical image, you need to take into account the optics. Since this looks like the image was made with a very small and wide lens, namely a “fish-eye” :)

    If you take this image:
    and align it up with the person’s face you’d say the proportions are wrong, and so it is not the same person.

    I hope this is clear

  7. If you actually want to understand what these symbols mean, you first need to understand ancient wisdom symbology. No one here seems to have a clue and thereby all assertions about symbols and their interpretations are without any factual support. The second temple period was the 11th 360-year cycle on the Hebrew calendar. That is why the Dead Sea Scrolls were buried in exactly 11 caves, during the 11th cycle, which also symbolized by the 11 stars in Genesis. The 11th cycle was also the beginning of the age of Pisces, and it is well know that the zodiac was used by those who buried the scrolls, as well as other groups throughout the region.

    If that is a fish, then consider that the ball is the sun at the spring equinox, which is how one determines the current age. The symbology of that image is not Christian, but most likely a time code pointing to the age of Pisces and related details. That is also the true source of the fish symbolism used by early Christians and later recast by Church leaders to hide the astrological source and associations with those most call the “Essenes.” Visit my website and download a free copy of my ebook to learn the basic rules for this ancient symbology. They prove your interpretations are completely erroneous…

    Here is Wisdom…

    Buddy Page
    Seven Star Hand

  8. Dr. Tabor,

    I understand the concept of ‘fish-eye’, and I also understand how to account for claims that something is a ‘fish(-eye)’ when it is not.

    (Ironically, a fish eye, which, as Dr. Goranson stated above, is conspicuously missing from your ‘fish’ above.)

    Even if I account for the ‘fish-eye’ camera, there are still aspects of the photo that appear to show evidence of manipulation.

    1. The ‘tail’ changes shape. It bends. It appears to have been altered so that it more resembles a fish’s tail.
    2. The zig-zag triangle and braided border design disappears from Fig 21.
    3. A section I label ‘pillars’ above (call it what you want) suddenly appears clearly.
    4. The object covering the left side of the ‘tail fin’ is absent, and the ‘fin’ appears. (You still haven’t explained what that is, and if you moved it with a robotic arm to produce the ‘blowup’ image (Fig. 21).
    5. The right edge appears to have been ‘feathered’ (where the zig-zag triangles and the braided border decoration in Fig. 20 should be.)
    6. The lower left ‘tail fin’, where the object covering the glyph would have been, shows evidence of ‘clone stamping’. The dark ‘shadow’ area just above where the removed object would have been is extended down along the side of the left ‘tail fin’.
    7. While the ‘head’ of the fish remains proportional, the ‘body’ of the ‘fish’ appears narrower in Fig. 21 than in Fig. 20.
    8. There is also evidence of pixelization in areas where I blew up the image size and increased contrast.
    9. Finally, there are digitally cloned/produced ‘engravers’ marks that I have isolated that demonstrate, I believe convincingly, that someone used a clone stamp to add nicks all around the ‘fish.’




  9. Pingback: Roundup of Biblioblogger Comments on the New Jacobovici Claims « The Musings of Thomas Verenna

  10. Taking in the consideration of the Greek translation and the other evidence I can see a very compeling story for this being much more than a Nephesh. Let the debate start! Me a relitive of the late Admiral Byrd have seen first hand how some SO CALLED experts will do anything to rewrite history. I guess if you come short in your own lifetime of reaching greatness next best thing is to trash the accomplishments of others .So beware of the MORONS on the internet . GOD BLESS AMERICA! Christopher Byrd ESQ.

  11. The head is altered too. The curve under the ball that contains the sticks is bigger on Fig 21. than on 20

  12. Pingback: ASOR coverage of the “Jesus discovery.” « Near Emmaus

  13. I have no “fish to fry” in this argument. I’m just an interested by-stander who loves these blogs. I think Mr. Tabor could well reply to the blog owner’s 12:29 pm post with “whatever happened to ‘I want to thank my friend and colleague.’” It seems like both sides have rather too much emotion invested. (And I’m not singling out this blog. Everything I’ve read seems to come from people who locked and loaded before they thought.)

    I had read Tabor’s piece yesterday, and wasn’t very convinced by his assertion that this is a fish.

    But if there’s anything it looks less like a rendering of, it’s a nefesh tower with a rectangular base. I find it hard to believe anyone could put forward such an assertion. It’s hard to even take seriously someone arguing that fish must always have eyes, while overlooking the fact that any child can draw a rectangle accurately. I’m not a biblical scholar, but perhaps one of the ones who frequents the blog could remind me of the phrase … something about straining at gnats.

    And Rollstone writing that those bristles look like the eave of a funeral monument to him? He seemed like a reasonable fellow when I had visited his rarely updated blog, prior to reading that. Silliness. I mean, yes, thatched eaves might come out like that. But a stone eave. Jesus may not be rolling in a Jesus Tomb, but let me tell you, my eyes are rolling.

    Rahmani’s figure 30 is interesting, but I’d like to see the tower it represents before passing judgement. It’s frankly difficult for me to think of the ancients building such a ‘tower’. Hourglass figures are extremely difficult architecturally. Perhaps a small monument carved of a single piece of stone could be crafted in that shape.

    I think people ought to step back and take a breath before writing about this.

  14. What’s ironic, Bob, is that for all your criticism of Tabor, you seem to be desperately rooting about for any explanation that would prove him wrong, no matter how unlikely.

    First thing you did was put up a ridiculous theory on your own blog that you had to disown by the end of the day. You are not acting as an impartial scholar, but as one who clearly has an dog in the fight.

    The image doesn’t exactly look like a fish, but then again, it looks more like a fish than a tower or a vase. Maybe it’s none of the above, but the vehement reaction is puzzling.

  15. Bob, take a look back and you will see that when you first posted your “tower” theory I was so very surprised you could think such a thing I suggested in a friendly way-try an amphora. I have to agree with Ryan above about the nephesh idea-who can not imagine anyone thinking such a thing or seeing any resemblance whatsoever. Yet you, Steve, Eric, Jodi, Robin, all went for that interpretation, even though, in my view at least, it totally stretches the imagination. The amphora possibility is one we have been discussing for months. I cover it in my paper which you may not have read, I mention it again in my post today, and I provide the very images that Anthony put on his blog today. In the end Rami and I rejected it for the fish/Jonah idea, for all the reasons I have mentioned, but in my mind at least it is not patently absurd. I feel now like there might be a possibility of some dialogue if the rhetoric could shift from personal accusations to the substance of these finds.

  16. Oh, I almost forgot that Chris also said he was convinced as well that this was a “standard tower motive.” So it was unanimous-the first six posts on this blog all saying “tower.”

  17. James,

    Perhaps my interpretation of similarity to Absalom’s Tomb stemmed from the fact that the original photo sent to the press was a doctored photo that was rotated to more resemble the natural disposition of a fish, lacked any indication of size, scale, or orientation (like a cm stick or compass point).

    I can only evaluate what you publish, and the caption under Fig. 21 from page 42 of your ‘Bible and Interpretation’ article, “A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem” on Feb 28, 2012 simply read: “21. Blowup of Jonah image.”

    The caption of the same image in your ‘Jesus Discovery’ book beneath Fig. 26 on p. 86 reads: “A composite representation of the ossuary image of Jonah and the big fish”. Again, no mention of digital touch-ups, just the word ‘composite’.

    Finally, the caption under the same image on your ‘thejesusdiscovery.org’ website (http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=13&wppa-occur=1) finally concedes it is a ‘computer enhanced’ photo.

    But in your initial article it was labeled a simple ‘blowup.’ But it was *not* a simple ‘blowup’: it was a digitally altered, Photoshopped image that had been removed from scale, rotated (to promote the interpretation of a fish), color enhanced/corrected, had its border digitally removed and replaced with clone stamped ‘engravers marks’ to make it look natural.

    In fact, I just noticed that you have re-published your Bible and Interpretation article (what happened to the original one?), and now, on pg. 42, there are now TWO images, including the addition of the ‘museum quality replica’ of your ossuary, AND THE ORIGINAL FIG. 21 IMAGE HAS NOW BEEN ROTATED 90 DEGREES CW INTO ITS ACTUAL ORIENTATION. On the original version of your article, the image was horizontal, with the ‘head’ of your ‘fish’ pointing to the right to better resemble the natural disposition of a fish. AND, the caption for Fig. 21 has been changed from “21. Blowup of Jonah image.” to now reading: “21. Museum replica showing placement of image on front panel and closeup of image”. The problem is, if you look at the two images in your NEW Fig. 21, the images STILL don’t match. The bottom image is not a ‘close up’ of the top. The top image is an artist’s reconstruction on a replica, and the bottom image is a Photoshopped image. Again, look at the tails: the bottom image has a bent ‘tail’ on the top left, and the image on the ‘tail’ on the replica is flat/straight.

    This is my point: which picture should we believe? Your artist’s rendition or your doctored, Photoshopped, ‘computer enhanced’ digital composite??

    And this is my other point: you released to the public a Photoshopped image. It was rotated. It had been altered in other ways, including having the tail reshaped to better resemble a fish. In fact, the ‘computer enhanced’ image you released to the press doesn’t even match the image you had inscribed on your ‘museum quality replica.’ Just look at them. As I demonstrate above, the images are different. But that’s what you gave the scholars to evaluate. And that’s what we evaluated.

    I at least had the professional integrity to admit essentially, ‘Well, based on the fact that the photo with which we were initially presented was Photoshopped and rotated and altered, I now see that an interpretation as a nephesh monument perhaps based upon the architecture of Absalom’s tomb is less likely than an interpretation as an amphora or krater.’

    As scholars, we must be willing to alter our conclusions based upon new (accurate, in context) evidence following a consensus of our trained peers. The question is: are you willing to do the same and heed the nearly unanimous voice of the archaeologists and scholars saying that it’s NOT a fish?

    And Dr. Tabor, please, please stop with the claims of personal attacks and accusations. You know I respect you as a scholar, and have made no such attacks against you personally. I even blew off the fact that you earlier did not appear to treat me with the same level of professionalism that you extended to others that disagreed with you just as adamantly (namely, Jodi, Eric, and Chris). You’ve tried this appeal to personal attack before with me (including a rather unfair accusation against me which you later retracted, much to my appreciation) and it backfired on you. I am not personally attacking you. I am simply and quite adamantly disagreeing with your conclusions, and critiquing your attempts to bypass your academic colleagues and the peer review process by rushing to print with a popular book co-authored with someone who admits he is ‘neither an academic or an archaeologist.’

    I disagree with you. And yes, I have pointed out what I believe to be some of the flaws in your argument (and the evidence of bad Photoshopping in your images). But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect you, or don’t like you, or can’t wish you a very happy birthday publicly. ;-)

  18. Bob,
    I assumed your interpretation of the image as a tomb was prompted by the other four experts who posted the same before you-not because you did not have the proper images. All we have are hundreds of video images from many angles and in different lighting to go on. Unfortunately that is the limitation of this research since we could not enter the tomb due to protests from the Orthodox. In order to give an idea of the whole image we asked CGI folks to produce a “composite” image, taking many of those images and putting them together. There was no intent to “deceive” or manipulate or make anything look more like a fish. All our consultants, including Rollston and Fine were given numerous color photos of both the image and the inscription taken right from our footage. They will tell you that we held nothing back. Their conclusion about this being a “nephesh” has nothing to do with not being provided the best quality materials possible. I have also sent images to anyone who has asked me for more. The museum replica, as we pointed out when it was released, is not supposed to be a precise copy, but it is close and intended to show how the ossuary might look in terms of where the various features are found, which is hard to imagine from close up stills. I thought the craftsmen did a marvelous job, actually carving these out of limestone by hand and then engraving them, surely a lost art for most artisans. I agree-for example on the tail, I think the left side in the photos is much larger and flairs out more than they have it. We had nothing to do with this, it was done by Discovery Times Square and we appreciate their efforts and I commend them on a fantastic job. We released those photos on the day the replicas were ready. The orientation of the image is described accurately in our book and in my report, though you are right, because the image was too big to fit on the page, in the first version, it got mistakenly flipped around. The book has it correctly. In fact, that it is nose down is one of the things that convinced us it was a fish, as I point out in my ASOR post from yesterday-because of the stick figure and its classic eastern oaanes posture. Those judgments had nothing to do with how the image was turned.

    As for the tone of this discussion let’s leave it for readers to judge, many of whom have already commented. I will continue to reply to my critics with respect as I have always done on my blog and in other posts.

  19. Why would an artist design an amphora structured such that it would be impossible to place and rest on top of a flat surface? And why would an artist design an up side down Nephesh tower with roof eaves totally not functional to prevent structural damage and make them look more like fins of a fish rather than eaves of a roof?

  20. Robert Cargill’s motives in this story seem “fishy” to me. Could it be that he is red-faced over his knee-jerk thoughtless reaction that convinced him the image was that of Absalom’s Tomb of all things. Talk about missing the Mark.

    Could it be that Cargill is jealous of the findings, and therefore is leading the ad hominem charge to lance the authors before proper analysis of the book’s claims are carried out?

    He even obfuscates his original “certain” interpretation of the image as Absalom’s Tomb with a convoluted explanation that would put the U.S. Tax Code to shame.

    This is getting interesting with some very interesting responding characters, and I do mean characters, not scholars.

  21. Robert Cargill’s photo-computer image probe is starting to remind me of the ‘Rodney King slow down speed up stop start visual argument that was made concerning that case.’ All in an effort to “prove” that Rodney was not viciously and illegally beaten up by police. Which obviously, was not the truth of the matter. Though! I will begrudgingly commend him for his exhaustive persistence.

  22. The figure may have been altered, but that’s beside the point. There’s nothing in the altering that substantially changes the basic interpretation of what it represents. To assert that Tabor was trying to deceive by reorienting the figure to a horizontal position strikes me as ludicrous. The shape of the fin or rim, as the case may be, does not make it either an amphora or a fish. Personally, I don’t see any resemblance to a nephish, from what I’ve seen. But it could plausibly be an amphora or unguentium. The reason I doubt it’s an amphora, however, is that the base is a ball and the streaks around the “mouth” are not a geometric design. It really does look like someone being spit out. But I think it has to be interpreted in context. If there is a door and window carved into the sides, then what does the figure represent? Is there something significant about an amphora or unguentium that is important enough to display? Or does it represent something about the inhabitant of the house, as sort of an identification? The Jonas story seems plausible and signifying that the person interred was resurrected strikes me as not much of a stretch. Or, if it’s an unguentium, does the ball at the bottom represent oil being poured out? If so, could that mean that the person whose bones are inside is from the “house” (given the house motif) of the annointed one, i.e., Messiah? I’m not an expert. Just asking.

  23. “The figure may have been altered, but that’s beside the point.”

    No, it is THE point.
    If you are making it up, it isn’t archaeology. It’s fiction.

    “The reason I doubt it’s an amphora, however, is that the base is a ball and the streaks around the “mouth” are not a geometric design.”

    It was a geometric and proportional design till it was altered. Rotating, highlighting, enhancing, any of that i can understand… but Tabor clearly changed the shape and direction of the outlines, head AND tail to make this art appear more fish like. You cannot coincidentally change a photo with Photoshop and make it look realistic.

  24. I am amazed that a “Mensan” (he passed the test) and a “digital humanist” (if there is such an animal - perhaps “someone who has worked in the field of digital humanities for a bit”) can have such ludicrous ideas regarding the ossuary [fish] image. The “Tomb of Absalom? A “tower”? And you are convinced of it? Really?

    And, to accuse a colleague of deliberate image manipulation. For shame. Surely a “digital humanist” could account for the perceived differences being due to lighting, angle and scale. At least you should have before your not too subtle accusation.

    It is not an amphora for the reasons stated by Mr. Nowhere plus the irregularity of the shape. No, Mr. Nowhere; the image was not altered, Photoshopped or otherwise modified - it is what it is. Just accept it. The other images are regular and in proportion, but the [fish] image is slanted with the [tail] being flared on one side.

    If a nephesh, tower, tomb, amphora or flask was the intended image, a much more regular, proportional shape would have been produced. So, it is something else. Might be a fish; maybe not.

  25. George,
    The image was obviously and significantly digitally altered. You stating that alteration doesn’t exist when the evidence is plainly shown is absurd. It is not a subtle alteration either, so no need for a subtle accusation.

    In fact, i am not making a accusation at all, George. I am making a charge. A charge of base manipulation, lying, making it up, or whatever pejorative you would like to use to describe Tabor’s “fishy” photo. So i would respectfully suggest that you direct your “shame” toward the party inventing evidence to manipulate the public.

    But you are right on this, it is what it is…. and when you get all the info… and a actual photo of the object, in context… it is clearly an amphora or vase. Case closed.

  26. It just looks like different camera angles and lighting.

    Also, there’s no such thing as a purely unaltered image. Even in the human eye this is true. All images are “altered” from the moment they enter the camera lens, and then again each time they are rendered, reproduced, etc.

    And there’s no way that’s not a fish, sorry.

  27. Well.. actually, I shouldn’t have stated on my previous comment that there’s no way that’s not a fish.

    Especially after seeing pictures of ossuaries with depictions of amphorae and vase like objects, I have no choice but to consider other possibilities.

    I should have simply said that I wasn’t convinced it was a nephesh. I was typing faster than I was thinking… my bad :)

  28. Camera angles and lighting do not make 3 = 4.
    Where did the extra parts come from? (the extra segments, the “tail fin”)
    Extra parts can only be stitched into an image with intent and Photoshop skill.

    It is not possible that this was an accident.

  29. I saw the article in Archeology magazine. I just want to ask if anyone has considered the possibility that the fish spitting out the man maybe symbolic of birth? (Fish being goddess symbol / female symbol). Asherah was called Lady of the Sea, the fish is often symbolic of the Great Mother Goddess, also “an inscription reading “MARA” in Greek letters (which Tabor translates as the feminine form of “lord” or “master” in Aramaic)” also in the same area.

  30. I don’t see a man, and the inscription looks more like an attempt to represent texture and pattern. Similar to the 3 column/V/Y sections of the body.

    Do birth depictions of this period generaly have large round encphaletic heads, multiple deformed appendages, and penis’s that hang to the ground?

    If someone in antiquity was educated enough to write, would they not have taken the time make it at least a little more legible, on a loved ones grave marker? Considering the importance of the written word and the rarity of the skill in antiquity, would the engraver not have made writing the centerpiece of the ossuary? “Here lies grandpa, praise be Jehovah, Joseph the Scribe” or similar. Why hide a inscription? It’s going in the ground for 2000 years.

    But if you orient the unaltered photo of the art in context, ball down, it looks just like a vase. Consider that it is more likely that grandpa liked his wine, and had good grand-kids who gave him his jug for the beyond. It does look awful dry in that box.

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