Monday, March 12, 2012

Anomalies in the Talpiot Tomb B Photographs

While I was looking at the Kloner's 1981 photograph of the ossuaries that are now the focus of Jacobovici's and Tabor's book, website and documentary, Talpiot Tomb B, I noticed something puzzling as I compared those photographs with the new photographs taken with the robotic arm and the snake camera.  I do not have a thesis in this post but I do have some questions.  They are the kinds of questions that may be cleared up when we have access to more photographs and live footage.  However, on the basis of the photographs, map, sketches and labelling we have at this point, some things are not making sense to me.

It will be easiest if I draw attention to the anomalies in series of steps.  Then if I am making mistakes or reading things wrongly, it should be straightforward for one of those involved to draw attention to where my missteps are.

(1)  First, take a look at the Complete Findings from the Patio Tomb, Photo 1 in the Press Kit Photos section of the Jesus Discovery Website (cf. James Tabor's Preliminary Report, p, 38, fig. 16). This helpful map of the tomb shows ossuary 5 (the "Resurrection Inscription" ossuary) in front of ossuary 6 (the "Jonah" ossuary) in kokh 3.  The same page features two pictures of kokh 3, with ossuary 5 in front of ossuary 6.   One thing is clear from those two pictures -- ossuary 5 has a flat lid and ossuary 6 has a domed lid.  These two ossuaries are also depicted like this in the museum replicas, ossuary 5 with a flat lid (Preliminary Report, p. 40, fig. 19) and ossuary 6 with a domed lid (p. 42, fig. 21).

(2) Next, go to the Preliminary Report, page 32, figure 7. This picture is supposed to represent "inside ossuary 5, kokh 3".  Tabor explains "We were able to see inside one of the ossuaries that had a piece of its end broken off  (presently in kokh 3, ossuary 5)".  He notes that the chalk mark "5" is seen inside and that this mark was made in 1981. Tabor and Jacobovici, The Jesus Discovery likewise describes this as ossuary 5.*  What I don't understand is how this can be ossuary 5.  In this picture, ossuary 5 has a domed lid  and not the flat lid that we saw above in (1).  Moreover, there are no signs of the "end broken off" in the pictures of ossuary 5. These do not appear to be the same ossuary.

(3) Now go to the 1981 Photo of Ossuary 4 (right) with faint inscription in Greek on the Jesus Discovery Website. This is kokh 2, arranged as it was in 1981, with ossuary 5 on the left and ossuary 4 on the right.  At this point, it is necessary to point out that the numbering and positioning of the ossuaries changed between Kloner's hasty 1981 survey and the recent survey, and the differences can be seen straightforwardly by comparing Kloner's 1981 map (Preliminary Report, p. 30, fig. 3) with Tabor's 2012 map (Preliminary Report, p. 38, fig. 16).  Luckily, in this case, ossuaries 4 and 5 have the same numbering in 1981 and 2012.  With that important point to one side, take a careful look at ossuary 5 on the left in this picture. Notice that again it has a domed lid and it is broken.  It looks nothing like ossuary 5 with the flat lid we saw above in (1).

(4) Now return again to the Complete Findings on the Jesus Discovery Website.  Look at the picture of Ossuary 4 at the bottom.  It is described here as "Plain (Not fully explored)", (though contrast Tabor, Preliminary Report, p. 14, "ornamented").  It is not easy to see, but it clearly has a domed lid and it looks like it has a piece that has been repaired in a kind of wide "U" shape.  This is curious because the 1981 Photo of Ossuary 4 depicts a ossuary with a flat top, not a domed top, and an elaborate decoration that you can just see on its facade.  It is clearly not "plain". What we can see of ossuary 4 in the 2011 photograph does not look anything like ossuary 4 from 1981.  In fact, if anything, it looks like the picture of ossuary 5 from 1981, to the left of ossuary 4.  That has the domed top and the broken, wide U shaped hole.

(5) I can only go on the photographs that we have so far, but at this point I can't see how the broken ossuary with a domed lid (1981's ossuary 5) can be the same ossuary as the apparently in-tact ossuary with a flat lid (2011's ossuary 5) that is now sitting in front of the "Jonah" ossuary .  Similarly, 1981's ossuary 4 cannot be 2011's ossuary 4.  In relation to this, I have some further questions:

  • When one looks carefully at the 1981 Photo of Ossuary 4, the patterning on the facade, which is only just visible, looks identical to the patterning on the museum replica of ossuary 5 (Preliminary Report, p. 40, fig. 19).  Could it be, then, that Kloner's ossuary 4 is actually Jacobovici and Tabor's ossuary 5?  Better pictures of the corners of ossuary 5 from 2011 could help to confirm or deny this.  I repeat that I am only posing the question on the basis of the scant evidence that I can see.

  • Ossuary 2 in kokh 2 (2011; "Highly Decorated") also looks like it has similar markings to the 1981 Photo of Ossuary 4.  However, the resemblance is not as close as it is to the museum replica; also ossuary 2 has a domed lid and not a flat lid.

  • The lid on the floor in the 1981 photograph of kokh 1 looks similar to the lid that we see under (2) above, i.e. the lid that is described as belonging to ossuary 5, kokh 3.  It is claimed that this ossuary was originally in kokh 2, though, and not kokh 1.  It may not be the same lid.

I apologize for the somewhat technical nature of this post.  It emerges from my attempt to understand the findings presented, and to work out how the 1981 investigation coheres with the 2011 one.

* "Although we were not allowed to move anything in the tomb, not even a hair’s breadth, one of the lids of Kloner’s ossuary 5 was ajar and we could actually peer inside with our cameras and see bones. The circled chalk mark “5” was still visible inside the bone box," Tabor, James D.; Jacobovici, Simcha, The Jesus Discovery (Kindle Locations 1006-1008). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


Paul Regnier said...

If you look carefully at ossuaries 2 and 4 on the "complete findings from the patio tomb", you can see they are actually two photos of the same ossuary, taken from different angles.

Look at the speckles on the top right hand corner of the ossuary in both photos and a whitish mark on the bottom right hand side of the lid. The marks match up.

Perhaps a designer somewhere got mixed up with all the photos of 2,000 year old boxes. So if ossuary 4 is really ossuary 2, does that solve some of the problems?

James D. Tabor said...

Mark you are a man after my own heart. I spent most of last summer working on the IAA photos and trying to correlate with what we find today in terms of the seven ossuaries now in the tomb. For a few weeks I was pulling out my hair for just the reasons you mention. The lids made no sense at all. It became clear as I investigated further that the lids are not in each case back on their originals and gradually we were able to sort most of them out. Fortunately we have photos of ALL nine of the kokhim in order, with ossuaries in situ, precisely as on Kloner's map. In most cases there was always a tell-tale sign we could identity in the 1981 ossuaries to allow us to cross-reference with what we saw. For example, ossuary six--the Jonah one, with the "grid" pattern on the end, is clearly ossuary 1 on Kloner's map. The other two in that kokh are not absolutely certain but I try to sort it out by elimination in my paper. Ossuary 5 on Kloner is also our ossuary 5 today--the one with the 4 line Greek inscription. it is easy to spot because of the broken end which is still there today, plus the #5 written inside--but today it is in kokh three rather than kokh 4--and it is pushed into the skeletal remains you see on Kloner's map, along with the Jonah ossuary. Ossuary 4 on Kloner's map, the one with the faint Greek name, is now our #4--right next to the MARA (our #3). Ossuary 7 is still in place, etc. I can go through your post in more detail but the key is the lids are not critical here. All the ossuaries were taken out, all the lids removed, and whoever put things back, I assume the religious, did it rather haphazardly. If you are really wanting to get into this I can send you the whole series of 1981 photos showing things kokh by kokh. It is quite a puzzle but one that can be 90% solved (Ossuaries 2 and 3 in Kloner we can't be sure of, as we can see any markings, etc. but we have a guess. The MARA by the way is fortunately turned--it is #6, Kokh 6 on Kloner, and you can even see the faint unfinished rosette.

Mark Goodacre said...

Paul: thanks but no, ossuary 4 is in the back of that picture; that picture is showing ossuary 2 at the front too. i.e. that's kokh 2 that contains ossuarys 2, 3 and 4.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for taking time to respond, James. Yes, agreed on Kloner's ossuary 1 -- it has to be your ossuary 6. Ossuary 5 is less clear to me, though. One of my key queries is this: your Preliminary Report, p. 32, fig. 7 supposedly shows the inside of ossuary 5, photographed in 2011, but that's a domed lid, isn't it? So I don't get how it can be the ossuary 5 that we are looking at from the outside in the 2011 photos, where it has a flat lid.

I'd love to see copies of all of the 1981 photographs. If you have time, that would be fantastic.

James D. Tabor said...

Mark, I think I did not make things clear in my last comment. What has happened is that some of the lids are switched when the ossuaries were put back. This means that one can not go by the lids in comparing things in the 1981 in situ photos and the way they are today...The reason we were able to identify ossuary 5 as our ossuary 5 is not because of the lid but the broken side. It is the one with the 4 line Greek inscription and the end is clearly broken off. That is how we were able to film inside, through that broken end hole plus the lid is ajar, though today it is turned around the other way, unbroken end facing outward, but yes, with different lid. Some of the lids are chipped from crowbar prying, some do not fit the ossuaries they are on and are setting ajar. I hope this is clear. The only two we are not absolutely sure about are Kloner's 2 and 3 though we have narrowed them down to two possibilities--see my article.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, James for your comment. I completely understand about the lids being switched around in 1981. My question, however, relates to an anomaly in your team's 2011 pictures:

-- Preliminary Report, p. 37, fig. 7: if I read you correctly, this is taken in 2011. Domed lid.

-- Preliminary Report, p. 37, figs.14 and 15: this is taken in 2011. Flat lid.

Ian said...

From the in-situ snake camera photographs from 2011 on the press kit and preliminary report, the only ossuary with a crack facing the direction of camera travel (given the degrees of freedom of the camera in the photo) that would admit of entrance by the camera is labelled #4. This has a domed lid and collapsed wall on the right hand side relative to the camera entrance point, both characteristic of the fig 7 from the interim report. Fig 7 also shows the lid shifted to the left relative to the base (relative overhang greater on right than left), which is characteristic of the external shot of #4. I'd suggest that this internal photo is of #4, not #5. As you say, mark, the externals of #5 show no domed lid, and no entry point, except the tiny sliver of a crack on the *left*, which seems too small go get the snake into, and at any rate figure 7 is taken from the right hand side.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Ian. It's good to see that you are seeing similar things to what I am seeing. I can't see how Tabor's fig. 7 can represent the inside of ossuary 5. I hadn't considered the issue of how the snake camera got inside, angle from the right etc.; that's interesting.

James D. Tabor said...

Just getting back here. Let me take a look at it again. I think missed your point. Maybe something got mislabeled.

James D. Tabor said...

Okay, thanks are correct. I think fig. 7 is mislabeled, obviously. I will check with our GE guy who gave me these inside shots. What I do know is that our ossuary 5/kokh 3, the one with the Greek inscription, has a large chunk broken out of it on the end, like you see in the 1981 photo. That is how we were able to identify it. I assumed, since the snake camera is way inside, that the photo of the bones was taken through that hole, but now I realize it has to one with a domed lid as you point out--duh! I think they must have just peered in through a lid ajar, right now I am thinking it has to be ossuary 2 on our map, kokh 2. We are not sure how the Kloner team ended up numbering them so the 5 threw me off I think, plus the broken in side, right next to the Jonah ossuary, that shows in our photos. I will send you a copy of that one. Thanks for your sharp eye Mark. It will teach me not to assume. My main point was that the archaeologists had removed the ossuaries and marked them, ready for transport, as explained in the book, but I assumed this was then number 5 because of the broken out end.

Tom Verenna said...

James, forgive me, but weren't you there when these photos were taken?

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks, James, for the clarification and for your grace and good humour in adjusting your opinion on this one. Years of staring at minor agreements in the Synopsis have made me something of a "details person" and it can be a curse as well as a blessing!

A query about the identification of fig. 7 as ossuary 2: that ossuary looks more tightly closed in the available picture than ossuary 4 that is behind it in kokh 2. Ossuary 4 does have a big gap there at the front right, and the trajectory of the camera would make sense of fig. 7. Just asking the question here; it's difficult to tell on the basis of the existing photographs. But could the camera guy have remembered the kokh correctly but mistaken which ossuary it was?