Israeli Consul General Meir Romem inspects the ancient stone box that was purported to hold the bones of James, brother of Jesus, when it was on display last year at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. (AP Photo/Frank Gunn / June 13, 2012)
A limestone box bearing the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" in Aramaic appears to be genuine, the prestigious Biblical Archaeology Review in a long story written by editor Hershel Shanks. The ossuary, dating from AD 63, has been highly controversial, with Israeli authorities claiming it is a forgery and prosecuting antiquities dealer Oded Golan, who originally sold it. That trial ended in March when a judge acquitted him of forging the inscription on the ossuary, saying that the prosecutor had not proved claims that the ossuary was a fake. Shanks has provided no new evidence of the ossuary's authenticity, but he does refute some of the government's key arguments in that trial.
The 20-inch-long box is slightly trapezoidal in shape, wider at the top than the bottom. The lid is slightly convex. Such boxes were used in the 1st century to hold bones after a person's flesh had melted away in a cave. The controversial box was discovered in a private collection by paleographer Andre Lemaire of the Sorbonne University in Paris, but it has never been clear where the box was originally found. The discovery was first announced in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review in October 2002 and, shortly thereafter, the ossuary was placed on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in conjunction with a religious meeting.