Monday, August 24, 2009

The Copper Scroll, Code Cracked?

The Copper Scroll is certainly one of the most intriguing of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The only text inscribed on two copper sheets, it lists the location of sixty treasures apparently in Judah in the period before the First Jewish Revolt in A.D. 70.  Many scholars believe that the list is authentic, but despite numerous efforts of the years no one has ever found any of the treasure.

The Jerusalem Post reports on an Oklahoma fire marshal named Jim Barfield who believes that he knows the location of not just one or two hiding places, but 56 of them.

After looking at the scroll for five minutes he deciphered the first location, and twenty minutes later he identified the next four locations. He and his wife took their first trip to Israel to confirm whether the sites and places that he had identified actually existed. "I wanted to make sure I wasn't just imagining things," Barfield said. It took six months for Barfield to crack the code for the rest of the locations.

This guy is pretty good.  He was able to figure out the locations without ever being to Israel, without knowing the language that the inscription is written in, and without having any background in archaeology or geography.

It’s nice to know what others think about his discovery:

He says that all of the archaeologists, rabbis, and historians presented with his research have been convinced. "It is so simple." He says. "They just all thump their heads."

Unfortunately, we only get it in Barfield’s words.

I don’t know enough to say that this guy is a fraud, only that he sounds like one.  If he actually has found something, he should go dig it out and then report on it.  But if he’s a publicity hound, I can write the script for the next few years: initial attempts will be stymied by various obstacles, during which time he’ll do many interviews and attempt to raise lots of money.  When he finally digs at one of his spots, he’ll find nothing – no treasure and no indication that any treasure was ever hidden there.  He’ll claim that it was stolen in antiquity (another round of interviews and appeals for cash) and start planning for a second excavation.  Efforts to dig will be hindered by various obstacles, during which time he’ll do many interviews and attempt to raise lots of money.  Etc.

The article itself is worth reading as it provides interesting and accurate information about the Copper Scroll.  You can find an introduction to and translation of the scroll in Florentino Garcia Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 2nd ed., pages 459-63.  An excellent reference is the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 volumes).

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8 Comments:

  • i'll say it: it's all bogus. in fact, archaeologists around the country are speaking out against this kind of pseudo-archaeology.

    asor is aware and is dealing with it. everything he claims is essentialy unsubstantiated.

    the copper scroll was not written in the time of jeremiah - it's mishnaic hebrew.

    there are not 50 locations under the floor of qumran.

    read this transcript and tell me: http://wp.me/pm5VN-b9

    By Blogger Robert R. Cargill, at Mon Aug 24, 01:43:00 PM  

  • Robert - thanks for the comment and link. You wrote, "archaeologists around the country are speaking out against this kind of pseudo-archaeology," but that's different than saying X and Y scholars have stated that Barfield's theory is false. If IAA sanctioned an excavation, then they must have a reason. The guy sounds like a fraud, but it appears that he has succeeded in deceiving some otherwise reputable organizations including the IAA and the Jerusalem Post. If you, ASOR, or others are successful in dealing with this, perhaps we won't be hearing from this guy for years to come.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Mon Aug 24, 02:13:00 PM  

  • Todd -- You must be psychic, for your prediction is spot on...and most of it has already taken place: Barfield has already done ALL of the first part of your script: "initial attempts will be stymied by various obstacles, during which time he’ll do many interviews and attempt to raise lots of money. When he finally digs at one of his spots, he’ll find nothing – no treasure and no indication that any treasure was ever hidden there. He’ll claim that it was stolen in antiquity (another round of interviews and appeals for cash) and start planning for a second excavation." See http://www.copper-scroll-project.com/ for all of his various postings (and Bob can give you links to some of the postings that have been taken down). The story is much more convoluted than the "IAA sanctioned an excavation"...but it will come out eventually, probably sooner rather than later...

    By Blogger digmegiddo, at Mon Aug 24, 07:42:00 PM  

  • the 'iaa' never sanctioned 'their' excavation, as the site is in the west bank, and barfield did not lead it. you'll note that barfield always carefully sates that an archaeologist (unnamed) from the iaa 'obtained the proper permits.' the permits have to go through the civil administration for 'judea & samaria' (the west bank).

    barfield was an observer on the digs. he had some meetings, and was always sure to take lots of photographs with credible (and some in-credible) people. he'd then plaster his website with the pictures to give the illusion that they all 'agreed' with his research. see? http://www.copper-scroll-project.com/index.html

    i said much of this a few months ago here: http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/copper.shtml

    the iaa saw the claims barfield was making and cut off all communication. now, he is taking his appeal directly to the public.

    shelly neese, who wrote the jpost article, runs a xn zionist website: http://www.tjci.org/about/index.htm

    it's all bad news. read his claims carefully; he's not just some nut, but is carefully attempting to pass himself as one who is legitimately doing an archaeological expedition.

    one more thing: note they have recently pulled their fund raising page (cached here: http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:RimuDAdLE5AJ:www.copper-scroll-project.com/copper-scroll-project-funding.html+copper+scroll+project+fund&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari) and replaced it with this: http://www.copper-scroll-project.com/copper-scroll-project-funding.html

    he flies to israel several times a year. who is paying for all that? by the looks of his (now deleted, but cached) funding page, his donors and supporters.

    folks at the iaa have disowned him because he pretended to be leading an expedition.

    i'm all for holding religious beliefs. and i'm all for people having dreams and ideas and theories. i'm all for people pretending to be indiana jones. but what barfield is doing is bad for legitimate archaeology, especially when he sets himself up as some sort of authority and leader in the field.

    By Blogger Robert R. Cargill, at Mon Aug 24, 08:05:00 PM  

  • Todd - Are you sure this isn't from the Onion News Network? :-)

    By Blogger benj foreman, at Tue Aug 25, 02:15:00 AM  

  • I must have come across more positive than I intended. I thought I did everything but call this guy "Ron Wyatt." I will try harder next time.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Tue Aug 25, 08:39:00 AM  

  • There's more here:
    http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/cargill2_08261.shtml

    J. Lancaster

    By Blogger Jim Lancaster, at Thu Aug 27, 10:11:00 AM  

  • All this says to me is that since you all disagree on Barfields research, you need a page to try to discredit him. I have seen and read his research and I see it as creddible. And if God agreed with all you very wise professors with your big degrees, then he woulnt choose the foolish to confound the wise. Since this has to be approved by by the blog author, I will be surprised if this gets posted. RHH

    By Blogger Unknown, at Sun Feb 12, 10:43:00 PM  

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