Israel dismisses Jordanian claim over 'illegally held' antiquities

14:21, April 04, 2011      

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An Israeli archaeological official on Sunday discounted Jordanian claims that Israel holds ancient metal plates that, according to Jordanian counterparts, are "the most important discovery in the history of archeology."

The Jordanian government is demanding that the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) returns what officials in Amman claim might be the greatest archaeological discovery in the area since the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known manuscripts that parallel the Hebrew Bible.

Jordan says that between 2005 and 2007, a Bedouin smuggled 70 ancient metal plates, known as codices, into Israel, according to The Jerusalem Post. The codices are composed of five to fifteen credit card-sized lead and copper pages, joined together by lead rings. They are written in Hebrew and ancient Greek and have not been deciphered.

A British archaeological team led by Egyptologist and religious archaeologist David Elkington discovered the artifacts last month. Elkington believes they were written by contemporaries of Jesus. Moreover, the team said it is certain that they are one of the first records of Christian presence in the area.

Though most of the archaeologists in Israel deem the artifacts as a hoax, Ziad al Saad, the director of Jordan's Department of Antiquities was adamant on the authenticity of the codices during an interview with the British News Channel BBC last month. "They are perhaps the most important discovery in the history of archaeology," he said.

The IAA declined to comment on the issue, although sources inside the ministry told Xinhua that they are most likely to be fake.

Jordanian authorities maintain that these small tablets were found in the northern part of the country and should be immediately returned, comparing the codices' historical and archaeological importance with that of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The codices remain in possession of the Bedouin man, who has reportedly hidden them at an unknown location, according to the report.

Source: Xinhua

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