André Lemaire, the Sorbonne epigrapher, continues to strongly defend the authenticity of the inscription and has offered detailed responses to the ossuary detractors. Ada Yardeni, not on the IAA committee but one of Israel's leading experts in ancient writing, agrees. She points out unique features about the Aramaic phrasing in the inscription that no forger could have possibly known. She even offered a concluding comment, "If it is a forgery then I quit."8 To date not a single qualified epigrapher or paleographer has pointed out any evidence of forgery. In fact one member of the IAA committee who, against his better judgment, went along with the original vote now says he thinks the inscription is authentic. Other qualified experts have questioned the IAA geochemical tests on the patina. The IAA geologists have had to back down from their initially proposed theories as to how the allegedly fake patina was produced. One member of the IAA committee has said that she saw ancient patina in the last two letters of the inscription -- the very part that is supposed to be forged. The geologists from the Geological Survey of Israel who initially found the inscription to be authentic have not changed their position, nor has the scientific team at the Royal Ontario Museum that examined the ossuary after it was broken.9
The James Ossuary inscription is likely authentic. There is also reliable circumstantial evidence that it was looted from our Tomb of the Shroud either when it was first robbed in 1998, or perhaps just before we discovered it looted a second time in June 2000. Was it possible that we had unknowingly stumbled upon the Jesus family tomb?
The main inconsistency in Oded Golan's story has to do with when he acquired the ossuary. When the story first broke in October 2001 he told Shanks that he had had it for about fifteen years. He later gave a number of interviews in which he said he acquired it in the "mid-1970s" or about twenty-five years earlier. That would put the date back before 1978, when it was legal to buy such items. At one point he said he acquired it in 1967, just after the Six Day War, which would mean he had owned it for thirty-five years. But the rest of his story is consistent. He says that he bought it from an Arab antiquities dealer in the Old City of Jerusalem who in turn said it came from the area of Silwan, an Arab village south of the Old City where the Kidron and Hinnom valleys meet.
Oded Golan expanded upon his "Silwan" in an informal social conversation with Rafi Lewis at Golan's apartment in December 2002. (In June 2000, Rafi Lewis was Shimon Gibson's assistant and was with us the night we found our looted tomb.) Rafi had asked Golan whether "Silwan" included the Hinnom Valley and he replied yes, explaining that in fact the James Ossuary came from the Hinnom Valley. Of course Akeldama, in Hinnom, is the precise location of our Shroud tomb.10
According to Shimon Gibson, only two tombs were looted in the Hinnom Valley area in the 1990s. The first was not excavated and was resealed. There is no evidence that ossuaries were taken from that one. The second was our shroud tomb. Recall that my inquiries in the Old City shortly after we found the tomb indicated that the black market had been suddenly "flooded" with new ossuary materials.