thoughts on the new hoard of bar-kokhba coins discovered in a judean hills cave

A hoard of Bar-Kokhba coins recently discovered in a Judean desert cave.

A hoard of Bar-Kokhba coins recently discovered in a Judean hills cave.

the discovery of a large hoard of roman and jewish coins dating to the period of the bar-kokhba revolt was announced wednesday, sept 9, 2009 at a press conference at hebrew university in jerusalem.

congratulations to boaz langford, amos frumkin, boaz zissu, hanan eshel, and earlier cave explorer gideon mann on their work over the years and this recent find.

the discovery:

stephen smuts over at biblical paths has an excellent blog about the hoard of bar-kokhba coins discovered in a cave in the judean desert. i shall not attempt to replicate it here. avi joseph at gnews and brian blondy at the jerusalem post have also reported on the find. according to the jerusalem post:

The massive discovery marks the first time Israeli researchers have ever found a large hoard of ancient coins from this era. The gold, silver and bronze coins, 120 in all, were discovered in an undisclosed location within the ‘Green Line’ of Israel. The unlocking of the almost inaccessible cave also yielded iron weapons, storage jars, oil lamps, a juglet, a silver earring and a glass bottle.

many personal treasures left by jewish refugees were discovered. however, there was one particularly glaring object that was absent from this cave: there were no scrolls. (at least the archaeologists have not reported the discovery of any scrolls or written documents tucked away with this obvious cache of domestic valuables.) i found the absence of scrolls striking, especially since the article repeats the interpretation of the cache of objects as the remains of fleeing jewish refugees:

The artifacts are believed to be solid evidence proving the theory that Jews found refuge in the Judean Hills during the time-period.


Prof. Frumkin added “this discovery verifies the assumption that the refugees of the revolt fled to caves in the center of a populated area in addition to the caves found in more isolated areas of the Judean desert.” The researchers believe that the Judean Hills cave served as a hiding place, with its proximity to the ancient city of Betar, for a dozen or more Jewish fighters.

interesting. again, there were no written manuscripts discovered hidden and among all of the other personal ‘valuables.’ this begs the question: did jewish refugees carry with them scrolls while fleeing jerusalem? were scrolls as common as ‘weapons, storage jars, oil lamps, a juglet, a silver earring and a glass bottle’ among jewish residents fleeing jerusalem? were scrolls not considered valuable? or were they so valuable that they were not carried and buried with the rest of a fleeing jewish refugee’s personal possessions?

most poignantly: what does the absence of scrolls say about the minority theory that claims the dead sea scrolls are not the product of a qumran community, but rather the belongings of jewish residents fleeing jerusalem?

Coins dating to the period of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt.

Coins dating to the period of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt.

now of course, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. but, there is no doubt that jews fled the roman suppression of both the great revolt of 70 ce and the bar-kokhba revolt. archaeologists have discovered dispatch letters from bar-kokhba himself, marriage contracts and land deeds, weapons, storage jars, oil lamps, juglets, jewelry, glass bottles, textiles, and many, many coins. but the fact that there is evidence of jews fleeing jerusalem and hiding objects in the desert does not necessarily mean that the dead sea scrolls discovered near qumran are among the objects hidden by jerusalem residents. when one couples this new discovery, in which just about everything but scrolls was discovered among the hidden personal treasures of jewish refugees, and one adds in the years of research demonstrating the congruity of ideology within the dead sea scrolls (especially the sectarian manuscripts), and one couples with this the evidence of obvious reoccupation and expansion at qumran, it all bolsters the tested, albeit aged and still not disproved majority theory that the dead sea scrolls are indeed a product of the jewish residents of qumran.

but i digress.

political undertones:

as always, one cannot help but sense that political undertones of the statement in the jerusalem post article that reads:

With this find, Prof. Zissu said that the distribution of the coins in the region helps to further “indicate the geographical extent of the Jewish presence outside of Jerusalem” during the Roman occupation of the land of Israel. Prof. Zissu further explained that “since there is not a definitive historian (from the era), we have to rely on the information we find from the coins and discoveries.”

it seems that every archaeological discovery made ‘within the green line of israel’ offers some evidence on jewish presence in the holy land. jewish presence in israel and palestine in ancient times from the iron age through the bar-kokhba revolt is undisputed. however, it is always interesting to observe that this presence is regularly, yet not so subtly highlighted as rationale for a continued presence in the west bank today.

some thoughts and predictions:

fun fact: bar-kokhba (and his coins) was my initial choice for a dissertation topic before the qumran visualization project came along. that decision determined my (and unfortunately, another’s) fate for the last four years.

let me guess: jimmy barfield will revise his ‘scientific’ arson investigation-inspired methodology and claim that this is one of the lost treasures of the copper scroll.

i can’t wait: norman golb (this time, without the assistance of his son) will self-publish some pdf and slap it up on his university of chicago website attempting to link this find somehow, someway to his slowly dying theory that the dead sea scrolls aren’t really from qumran. just wait for it…  it’s fascinating to see golb’s support disappear with his son’s 80+ aliases. but again, i digress…

congratulations again to archaeologists langford, frumkin, zissu, eshel, and the rest of the team and the university!

the insanity continues: jim barfield and the copper scroll project get another jpost article

Jim Barfield, leader of the 'Copper Scroll Project' testing a metal detector in preparation for his search for the treasures of the Copper Scroll

Jim Barfield, leader of the 'Copper Scroll Project,' testing a metal detector in preparation for his search for the treasures of the Copper Scroll.

the insanity continues.

apparently, the copper scroll project is listening to the criticisms made on this blog here and here and here and on the bible and interpretation site here and here and on jim west’s blog here and here and here and here and on dr. jim linville’s blog here and eric cline’s comment on the asor blog and on todd bolen’s blog here and on steven smuts’ blog here and here and on richard bartholomew’s blog here and here and here and here and on….. well, you get the picture.

jimmy barfield is listening, and is now attempting to refute the scholars that are beginning to question openly his copper scroll project and their findings (including their claim that the copper scroll was written during the time of jeremiah, and that all of the treasure is buried beneath ‘the pyramid with the top cut off’ (i.e., the tower), and that the copper scroll was the only dead sea scroll to be discovered in a ‘legitimate’ excavation by archaeologists). in the past few weeks, we’ve had some gems, such as what barfield stated in the ‘setting the record straight’ section of his august 2009 update:

b. With all respect to those with the stacks of letters behind their names displaying their degrees, we lowly firefighters have learned to work and play well with others. We on the project have, and will, always try to remain respectful of others no matter what their level of education. The objective is to learn from each otherr [sic]- not attempt to humiliate or discredit those that are progressing. That simple trait may have been a key factor in the success that the Copper Scroll Project has enjoyed to this point.

mr. barfield, i’m not trying to embarrass you. that is your own doing. i am simply trying to show readers why the iaa doesn’t call you anymore, why no scholar accepts a single thing you are saying, and why your circular reasoning makes no rational sense.

but there is more. for instance, barfield responded to my pointing out that he studied with vendyl jones:

d. The research about the history of the Copper Scroll is my own. Although Vendyl Jones does agree with me on many points, the determinations are mine and not influenced by Vendyl in any way. It is my studies into the Dead Sea Scrolls and my Biblical research that shaped my conclusions to form the Copper Scroll report.

e. With all respect to Vendyl. He is not, nor has he ever been, a member of the Copper Scroll Project or the team.

or this one in response to my questioning why the copper scroll project went back and overdubbed the name of the archaeologist ‘working with them’ (they occur at 0:28, 1:26, 2:18, 3:50, and again at 5:11):

g. We removed the name of the IAA archeologist from the site to allow him to focus on his job and not have to answer loads of distracting questions.

or this one in response to my pointing out that barfield has never been the leader of an excavation:

h. We on the Copper Scroll Project had no authority over the excavation, nor did we pay the IAA one single shekel for what was done at the sites.

now, the copper scroll project has released an entire video that appears to have been shot before in response to scholars’ calls for evidence. (i shall address this in another post.)

but make no mistake: jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project folks are listening.

the problem is, the iaa is listening too. as i have said in earlier posts, the iaa has completely disowned jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project. of course, they had a meeting with yizhak magen and yuval peleg, and barfield and company were sure to take lots of pictures of them keenly looking at barfield’s ‘research.’ as a result, barfield and his team were allowed to watch magen and peleg’s ongoing ten-year excavation, but at no time did they lead the excavation. likewise, magen and peleg completely disagree with barfield’s interpretation, and said as much in this week’s jerusalem post:

“We have dug all over Qumran,” Magen said. “This stuff isn’t there.”

magen went even further:

Yet Magen, one of the leading archeologists on the project, has confirmed to Metro that the digging has ceased.

“We did tests and we didn’t find anything,” Magen said. “There is nothing there.”

When asked why the permit for the excavation remained active, Magen clarified that while the dig was technically ongoing, Barfield’s “theory did not hold up.”

“For 30 years, each person has come with their own theory,” he added. “And they amount to nothing.”

however, something in the article struck me as odd. according to shelly neese:

Peleg, with Magen’s consent, agreed to be the archeologist for the excavation.

the wording in the sentence appears vague, and perhaps intentionally so. the article nowhere says that the iaa endorsed or sponsored the dig. perhaps this is because the west bank, where qumran is located, falls under magen and peleg’s authority as the representatives of the civil administration of judea and samaria. or, it could be that magen gave peleg permission to let barfield and company tag along. neese’s article makes it appear that peleg was working for barfield and his dig. barfield has already stated that the iaa was not paid ‘one single shekel’ (august 2009 update). however, observers usually have to pay somebody to tag along, and barfield has already stated on the copper scroll project fund raising page that:

The CSP has set up a 501(c)3 just for this purpose and has established four separate budgets ranging from the bare bones of $18,185 up to $148,000. Depending on the amount that can be raised will determine how many volunteers and how much equipment will be available for the excavation. The IAA will require trained staff to do the excavation along with Yuval Peleg, the archeologist who will be managing the dig.

in fact, barfield specifically said he was raising money to pay for the following:

Depending on what is raised will determine which budget they will go with. Understand this. If the cave opening is where Jim thinks it is…all it will take is four men, a couple of shovels and a lot of work to reveal the opening for a magnificent find. It is the cost of food, shelter, the IAA staff and transportation that makes the cost soar.

somebody got paid for something!! your supporters gave you a lot of money to pay for something, but you are stating that the iaa got nothing.

where did all the money go? did you give it to the iaa? did you pay your archaeologist? or did you pocket the money?

which is it?

how *not* to pad your ratings: the copper scroll project facebook marketing scheme

The Copper Scroll Project Facebook Page. Note the red arrows pointing to a picture of the Ark of the Covenant and to a paragraph encouraging supporters to navigate to the linked Jerusalem Post article and provide positive comments on it.

The Copper Scroll Project Facebook Page. Note the red arrows pointing to a picture of the Ark of the Covenant and to a paragraph encouraging supporters to navigate to the linked Jerusalem Post article and provide positive comments on it.

just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

i have reported several times on the copper scroll project, a group led by retired arson investigator jimmy barfield, who claims to have ‘cracked’ the ‘code’ of the copper scroll. recently, fellow christian zionist and copper scroll project supporter, shelly neese, wrote a fluff piece for the jerusalem post, lauding the amateur ‘ark-eologist’s’ expedition:

[Barfield] then boarded a plane, and delivered his report directly into the hands of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Jerusalem. Given his lack of archeological background, his Christian faith, and the fact that the IAA confronts treasure hunters every day, I asked if they treated him skeptically. “Once they saw my report,” [Barfield] replied laughingly, “they just moved me to the head of the class.”

the jerusalem post article was interestingly followed immediately by a number of short praises from a number of people. it was eerily reminiscent of the raphael golb’s internet smear campaign, in which golb used multiple aliases to praise claims made by himself and his father, university of chicago professor norman golb, using different aliases, and to criticize claims made by others on news items with which he disagreed. of course, there is no reason to believe that those leaving comments on the jerusalem post article are aliases. however, they do appear to be the work of a group of several individuals with similar ideological and theological beliefs as jim barfield.

some of the comments read:

1. This will make the Arabs take notice
When the contents of the Copper Scroll are located it will so infuriate the Muslims. They will make up some lie to explain it. Then they will probably start a war over it! Good hunting! Yom Teruah would be a good time to find it! Blessings on Jim, his Team, and the Antiquities officials involved!
Clint B – USA (08/21/2009 23:20)

2. Copper Scroll Project
What an amazing moment it will be when the first sunlight in thousands of years reflect off of the wings of golden angels. I only wish that I could witness the sight!! What a blessed day it will be for Israel and all of the world. All of heaven will burst in song and the stars will dance to the beat, for the mystery will be revealed and there will be no more question about the truth concerning the existence of Solomon’s Temple and the proof that Israel is indeed the Jewish homeland.
Karen Chatham – USA (08/22/2009 05:47)

11. It’s all in HaShem’s timing
Mr. Barfield has truly been used of HaShem to crack the code of the copper scroll. The treasures will be unearthed in HaShem’s timing. This is an incredible story and more Israelis need to learn about this. Thanks for covering this.
Ellie – (08/23/2009 05:49)

14. Copper Scroll Project
What an exciting time we live in as we watch one of the most incredible finds ever is at hand! May YAH bless and keep all those he has chosen for such a time as this!
Mike Winger – USA (08/23/2009 08:42)

15. Copper Scroll Project
I really think Jim has insight on the copper scroll interpretation. I have been keeping him in prayer for wisdom and guidance. My prayer is that whatever he decides, on going public with any information, he only does it after he has himself heard from the Father on exactly what to do, so that he can confidentally say that he knows that he knows that what he is doing is directly from the Father. This is a matter of such importance, that one cant afford to say “I think I am doing the right thing.” Gods work done Gods way will always succeed in perfect timing. I really appreciate his work.
Randy Hahn – USA (08/23/2009 09:37)

16. Ciopper Scroll Project
We support the Copper Scroll Project and the work Jim Barfield is doing in Israel. Only God can ultimately locate the articles Jim is searching for and we are trusting HIM to use Jim Barfield to do exactly that. His humility and love for the Lord are paramount to the work that is being accomplished.Wish we were with him, if nothing more than to enjoy the experience.
Kathy Curtis – USA (08/23/2009 14:42)

18. Copper Scroll
God has a time for everything. These things will be accomplished if and when He has willed it, through the work of people like Jim Barfield. I can’t help but be anxious to see it. Thanks for this article.
Paul Laymon – US (08/23/2009 16:10)

22. Copper Scroll Project
I believe this project is very important to Jerusalem and of course all of Christianity. I am very proud of the work and commitment my son Chris, has involved himself with. This is a very important project. Thanks, also to the guidance of Jim. God’s speed to all! Zara Zerby USA
Zara Zerby – USA (08/23/2009 19:04)

23. Cracking the Code.
What a wonderful story. Please keep us informed about his progress. Good luck and may G-d be with those who are involved in this search.
mimi – USA (08/23/2009 19:

32. What wonderful people these guys are. I am touched by their love of God, Torah and the children of Israel.
God bless and prosper their hands.
Jacob – USA (08/24/2009 09:26)

46. Keep up the good work!
Those who are led by the Spirit of G-d are sons of G-d. Keep on being led Jim! I am looking foreward to all that G-d has planned for you and this project. You are an awesome person, and one of the nicest people I have ever met. Keep up the good work.
Leah Parker – USA (08/26/2009 09:04)

54. What? No alphabet soup after Barfield’s name? Then how…?
HaShem’s ways our not our ways. Man has his own set of rules to judge credibility or dole out their OK on some insight from The Holy One. But it was David who killed Goliath, not the men of skill in war, and not with armor and sword that they tried to weigh him down with. Granted we live amongst dens of thieves, but we think HaShem has shown Barfield something, and if egos can be set aside, common sense says to give this a chance.

and my personal favorite:

38. Question for all you skeptics
The Israel Antiquities Authority approved this! Don’t you think he had EXTRAORDINARY evidence? Enough evidence to overcome his unlikely background? I don’t think the IAA is in the business of approving Archeological digs based on just a hunch from a southern-red-neck ex-fireman!
Clint B – USA (08/24/2009 17:57)

i assumed that barfield had somehow made his followers aware of the jpost article. my hunch was proved to be correct when i visited the copper scroll project facebook page. because one must have a facebook account to see most pages on facebook, and because google doesn’t pick up pages that are not made public in its searches, many cannot see the copper scroll project facebook page. however, because i’ve been on facebook since 2005, i revisited the copper scroll project’s facebook page. there i found two befuddling items (see image above):

  1. it appears that they are after the ark of the covenant after all (top red arrow)!
  2. amazingly, it appears that jimmy barfield publicly urged his followers to go to the jerusalem post page and pad the ratings by adding positive feedback (bottom red arrow). he stated:

One last request….could you all go to the end of the article at the link below and please rate it…..the higher we get on the ratings the better the chance will be that they do the next article. Shelley Neese has another article just waiting in the JPost office if we can get enough of you guys to help out…so…if you would please give it a high rating…we need support from Israel. Thank you, Jim

so, jim barfield instructed his followers to go to the jerusalem post article and praise it. this certainly explains why so many of the comments stated that they were praying for mr. barfield and included the spelling the word ‘god’ as ‘g-d’ (a practice that many torah-observant christians and jews practice). i confirmed this by cross-referencing the names of those making the jpost comments with the names of people on facebook that have become ‘fans’ the copper scroll project facebook page. some of the names on the facebook ‘fans’ list made comments on the jpost article, confirming the theory.

barfield put them up to it!!

so here’s a note to anyone wanting to promote their own sensationalist (and false) theories:

  1. don’t make claims you can’t back up.
  2. don’t ask your church friends to give you money for trips to israel.
  3. don’t pretend to be leading an archaeological excavation when you’re not.
  4. and for the love of all that is good and digital, don’t, under any circumstance, go to a public-facing website and openly encourage your followers to pad the numbers!

new article by dr. robert cargill: pseudo-science and sensationalist archaeology: an exposé of jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project

Dr. Robert R. Cargill appearing on Discovery.

Dr. Robert R. Cargill appearing on Discovery.

the bible and interpretation website has published my latest article entitled, “pseudo-science and sensationalist archaeology: an exposé of jimmy barfield and the copper scroll project.” it is a call to arms for biblical scholars and archaeolosgists to address publically the sensationalist claims made by amateur archaeologists and pseudo-scientists.

Members of the academy must take individual responsibility and make conscious efforts to rebut examples of obvious disinformation whenever and wherever they arise. Likewise, archaeologists must band together and coordinate their efforts to meet these misleading claims as strongly and consistently as possible. For in a world where Wikipedia allows anyone to say just about anything, scholars must move beyond their comfortable arenas of peer-review and professional conferences, where they talk only to one another, and redouble our efforts to reach out to the public directly. We must counter irresponsible claims with measured responses, debunk and discredit them, and offer alternative theories from a spectrum of reliable scholars who, while they may at times disagree, can support their various claims with scientific facts, tangible data, and sound reason.

and in case you were wondering if this is about money (perhaps a mere finder’s fee and some texas funding) the attention (news articles and tv spots), and religious ideology (the ark of the covenant? really?), just watch:

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