Biblical Archaeology Review 35:2, March/April 2009

Strata: Professionally Excavated Cross Charged as Forgery

The forgery scare that has attacked unprovenanced inscriptions in Israel like a virus (Professor Eric Meyers of Duke University has claimed that 30 to 40 percent of inscriptions in the Israel Museum are forgeries) is now spreading to artifacts that have been professionally excavated in England.

In 1990, near the Somerset town of Shepton Mallet, British archaeologist Quentin Hutchinson of Birmingham University excavated a fourth-century A.D. Roman grave in which he found an amulet in the form of a cross made of silver beads surrounding a circular disk pierced with holes to form the Greek letters chi and rho, the first two letters of the Greek word Christos (“the anointed one”).

The uniqueness of the find made the amulet and the site instantly famous as early remnants of Christianity in Britain, but it also raised doubts about the amulet’s authenticity.

As reported in the December 2008 issue of the British magazine Current Archaeology, a team of scientists at Liverpool University led by Dr. Matthew Pointing recently performed a series of sophisticated metallurgical tests on impurities in the silver of the amulet and concluded with “99 percent certainty” that the cross does not date from Roman times. According to the scientific report, this type of silver was not produced until the 19th century.

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