By Hershel Shanks
Editor, Biblical Archaeology Review
This report is designed to enable readers to make their own decision about whether the famous Ivory Pomegranate Inscription is authentic or a forgery. For more than a decade the pomegranate had been on display in the Israel Museum and was widely believed to be the only surviving relic from Solomon’s Temple. The inscription on the shoulder of the pomegranate reads: “(Belonging) to the Temple (literally, house) of Yahweh, Holy to the Priests.” In the bottom of the thumb-size pomegranate is a hole, presumably for a rod on which the pomegranate could be set, forming a kind of wand or scepter.
In 2005 a committee of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Museum found the inscription to be a forgery, claiming that the forger artificially stopped short of an ancient break in the pomegranate when he engraved the letters. If that is true, the inscription is a forgery. But if the letters do go into the ancient break, the inscription must have been engraved before the break occurred and the inscription is authentic. This report presents photographs of these controversial letters taken through a microscope. You don’t have to know Hebrew or be an expert in ancient Hebrew epigraphy to look at the pictures and see whether the letters stop short of the break or go into the break.
This report presents the photos taken through the microscope, and tells you how to look at the photographs and what to look for to decide whether the inscription is a forgery. Decide for yourself whether the partially preserved letters of the inscription go into the break or stop short of the break, whether the inscription is authentic or a forgery. The scholars were unsuccessful in doing this; at the end of the day, their differences remained. Form your own opinion. Follow the analysis and view these photos yourself.
Read about the context of this controversy to better understand the meeting at the Israel Museum on May 3, 2007.