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BBC News: “Jordan Battles to Regain ‘Priceless’ Christian Relics”

on April 2, 2011
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BBC News: “Jordan Battles to Regain ‘Priceless’ Christian RelicsInternational intrigue, ancient symbols and codes, flash floods in remote archaeological sites, a 2,000-year-old buried secret, and the truth about early Christianity: are they all plot elements of the latest blockbuster page-turner?

To the contrary, this story is nonfiction, as leaden documents said to have been discovered a few years ago are now the center of an ownership dispute. The phrase “said to have been” is key, however: another party claims the documents have been in his family for a century.

According to the Jordanian government, the documents—books made of thin leaves of imprinted lead—were uncovered in a remote cave about five years ago when a flash flood revealed where they had been buried (for 2,000 years, reportedly). The man who says the documents are family heirlooms is a lying smuggler, Jordanian officials insist.

It seems that we are looking at . . . maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.

Rightful ownership aside, Jordanian antiquities head Ziad al-Saad calls the documents “perhaps be more significant than the Dead Sea Scrolls” in opening a window into early Christianity. “[T]he initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at . . . maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology,” he added.

The documents are apparently written in an ancient Hebrew code, but symbols imprinted in the lead sheets suggest a connection to early Christianity.* Specifically, one sheet bears an image of what is thought to be Jerusalem—with a crucifix prominently pictured outside the city walls. The site where the documents were found, and the fact that they are leaden books rather than scrolls, also links them to early Christian groups.

Nevertheless, other archaeologists remain understandably skeptical of the artifacts, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, while some sources have raised questions about the credentials of one researcher associated with the discovery. Obviously, far more research is needed to evaluate the authenticity of the documents, and if authentic, archaeologists will still have to decode and interpret the content of the books.

*The Dead Sea Scrolls include sections from the Old Testament. Those scrolls were written before Christ and the New Testament, and thus predate Christianity.

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