Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

 

28 New Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments Sold in US

One of the 15 fragments that was recently sold and is now in an institution in the United States that hasn’t made a public announcement.

Credit: Photo courtesy Les Enluminures

Twenty-eight fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls that were purchased from the antiquities market have yet to be published, but are now sitting in three U.S. institutions, Live Science has found.

Forthcoming publications will describe some of these fragments within the next year, experts said. The 28 “new” fragments are part of a growing number of Dead Sea Scrolls that have appeared in the United States. At least 45 fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls have popped up in the U.S. over the past two decades.

Scholars have questioned whether some of these fragments are modern-day forgeries or if they come from caves in the Judean desert that were looted in the past few decades.

Often, anonymous individuals sold these fragments that have appeared in the U.S., claiming that they were once owned by Khalil Iskander Shahin, an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, Live Science found. Shahin collected many of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Bedouin people in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s; he often went by the name Kando, which his son William Kando now uses. [In Photos: Dead Sea Scrolls from the Antiquities Market]

However, William Kando has raised concerns about the number of scroll pieces claimed to have shown up in the United States. In conversations with Live Science, he said that while his family has sold some scroll fragments to collectors in the United States over the past few decades, the family didn’t sell them in the numbers that some collectors are claiming.

During the conversations with Live Science, William Kando also revealed that, after the Kando family sold scroll fragments to U.S. collectors, these artifacts were often resold multiple times, creating a tangled collecting history that makes it difficult to determine which of the 45 fragments the Kandos actually owned.

The Dead Sea Scrolls come from 12 caves, which contained thousands of scroll fragments and are located near the site of Qumran in the West Bank. Excavations of the caves by professional archaeologists uncovered some of the scrolls, while private Bedouin residents removed other scrolls, before selling them to Shahin.

The scrolls contain text from books in the Hebrew Bible as well as community rules, calendars and astronomical texts, among other writings.

Eleven of these caves were discovered between 1947 and 1956, and the discovery of a 12th cave was announced earlier this year. Archaeologists found that most of the scrolls in the 12th cave had been plundered decades earlier. More caves that contain (or once contained) scrolls could await discovery, said Randall Price, a professor at Liberty University in Virginia, who was one of the leaders of the team that excavated the 12th cave.

Altogether, there are nine unpublished Dead Sea Scroll fragments at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; four at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California; and another 15 fragments that were recently sold through a company called Les Enluminures on behalf of an anonymous seller and are now in an undisclosed U.S. institution. Sandra Hindman, the president of Les Enluminures, said that the institution has not yet made a public announcement and she is not at liberty to disclose the identity. [See Photos of Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments]

As the 28 unpublished scroll fragments are studied and described in scientific journals, more information will appear on what the artifacts contain. Already, multiple scholars who are concerned about the fragments have called for the publication of as much information on their collecting history as possible.

“Southwestern purchased nine Dead Sea Scroll fragments approximately seven years ago. We currently have a contract to publish them with Brill ,” a publisher of scholarly books, said Ryan Stokes, a professor of the Old Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Hopefully, the volume will be available in the next year.”

When Southwestern purchased the fragments seven years ago, the seminary stated in its news releases that the fragments included writings from the biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Daniel, Psalms and Deuteronomy. According to these past statements, one of the fragments holds passages from Leviticus 18, a biblical passage that forbids incest and homosexuality.

The four unpublished fragments at Azusa Pacific University include writings from the biblical books of Daniel, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and should be published soon.

“We’re hoping in the very, very, near future, with more feedback, our publication will come to light,” said Robert Duke, dean of the School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University. Before Azusa Pacific University purchased the scroll fragments, the university received assurances from William Kando that the Kando family had owned those fragments in the past, Duke said.

It’s not certain when the 15 fragments sold through Les Enluminures will be studied and published. The institution in the United States that now owns those fragments has not made a public announcement about the acquisition, Hindman said.

Spokespersons for the Museum of the Bible, Azusa Pacific University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Lanier Theological Library all told Live Science that their institutions had not bought the Les Enluminures fragments.

Les Enluminures sent a batch of black-and-white photographs of the fragments to Live Science. The images show what appears to be Greek text on some of the fragments, a language that has been seen on other Dead Sea Scrolls. Hindman said she believes all 15 fragments were once in the collection of Bruce Ferrini, a collector in Ohio who died in 2010.

Hindman said that her information indicates that the 15 fragments were originally sold by the Kando family in 2002 before being passed through a series of collectors. William Kando expressed concerns about this claim, saying that he sold seven fragments in that year to a man named Craig Lampe and that he thinks some of those fragments later went to a “library in California” (a description that better matches Azusa Pacific University).

Duke said that he’s not certain if Azusa’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments were among those sold by the Kando family to Lampe in 2002.

Some of the 15 fragments may be part of the same scroll, and it’s possible that in 2002, the 15 fragments were part of a few larger fragments that have since fallen apart Hindman said. She said she is convinced that the fragments are authentic. Lampe’s antiquities business is now run by his son Joel Lampe, who did not return requests for comment.

A number of Dead Sea Scroll fragments in America have already been published. These include 13 fragments that were published last year in the book “Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection” (Brill, 2016) and are now in the collection of the Museum of the Bible, which is set to open in November 2017 in Washington, D.C., just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol. [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]

In the book, scholars noted a number of suspicious features that might indicate the fragments are forgeries. The 13 scrolls were purchased in four lots from anonymous sellers between 2009 and 2014, according to the book. William Kando told Live Science that while a few fragments may have come from his family’s collection, not all of them are from the Kandos.

However, the case for forgery is not settled. Ada Yardeni, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is in an expert in the paleography of the Dead Sea Scrolls (the study of their handwriting), told Live Science that her analysis indicated that all 13 fragments are authentic.

Curators at the Museum of the Bible said that they are treating the scroll fragments at their institution as potential forgeries and are conducting scientific tests on them. The curators said they also plan to address the issue of authenticating Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the museum display.

Other Dead Sea Scroll fragments that have appeared in the past two decades in the United States have been described in scientific publications. These include: one fragment at Lanier Theological Library in Houston, one fragment at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio; a fragment from a collector in Pasadena, California, that scholars from the Foundation on Judaism and Christian Origins studied and published; and one published fragment at Azusa Pacific University.

Additionally, previously published fragments arrived in the U.S. in the mid-20th century and are now at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Syrian Orthodox Church’s eastern U.S. archdiocese.

Original article on Live Science.

http://www.livescience.com/58507-new-dead-sea-scrolls-sold-in-us.html

 

 

 

 

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2/8/2017

Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12. [Photo links below]

The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the collaboration of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia, USA.

The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.

Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Oren Gutfeld: “This is one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries, and the most important in the last 60 years, in the caves of Qumran.

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       Archaeologists Dr. Aaron Judkins & Bruce Hall 

The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

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                        Holding a piece of Qumran pottery fragment with Dr. Aaron Judkins and Dr. Randall Price 

Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Finding this additional scroll cave means we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

Dr. Gutfeld added: “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

Pottery shards, broken scroll storage jars and their lids — even neolithic flint tools and arrowheads — littered the cave’s entrance. Farther in, there appeared to be a cave-in.

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 Cloth found in the cave, which at one time wrapped a scroll.
After a bit of work with a small pickax, the team made a monumental find: an unbroken storage jar with a scroll. It was rushed to Hebrew University’s conservation lab, where it was unfurled in a protected environment.  It had no writing; it was placed in the jar to prepare it for writing. But the effort was not in vain. Scientists soon discovered the cave-in was intentional and it hid a tunnel about 16-20 feet in length. The team thinks looters ransacked the cave around the 1950s, pointing to pickaxes left in the tunnel as evidence. The team also found the cloth coverings and the leather strap that bound the scrolls the jars once held.
“I imagine they came into the tunnel. They found the scroll jars. They took the scrolls.”  “They even opened the scrolls and left everything around, the textiles, the pottery.”

The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

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Seal made from carnelian, a semi-precious stone

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Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia survey the cave.

This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.”

According to Dr. Randall Price, co-director of the dig from Liberty University,

“this is only the beginning of our search for more scrolls. Undoubtedly they are out there and we know of some 300 caves in the area. Our team is planning to return to excavate other caves in the near future.”

History has been made by Price and his team and even greater secrets lay ahead to be uncovered. According to a news release from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the excavations are part of “Operation Scroll,” a joint effort by the university, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria.

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Photos for download: (Credit for all photos to Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld):

Original press release by Hebrew University here: http://new.huji.ac.il/en/article/33424

Click here to read the article.

http://magazine3.journeyofpossibilities.com/13/

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Apocalyptic text is inscribed with ink in Hebrew over a large stone. It’s the Gabriel Revelation also known as the Dead Sea Stone – first published in 2007.

It was discovered around the year 2000 in Jordan near the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.
The so-called Gabriel Stone is authentic and very important for understanding the true roots of Jesus Christ’s messianic conception.

However, this ancient tablet with messianic overtones reputedly from before the time of Christ has been debated in archaeological and biblical circles. While one scholar claims the find could “shake our basic view of Christianity,” a Catholic Professor of Scripture suggests the tablet is actually evidence for the historical probability of Christian belief.

Now, this priceless and unique 2,000-year-old stone artifact is displayed at exhibition opened in Jerusalem. Gabriel Stone is a priceless and unique 2,000-year-old stone artifact, which traces depictions of the Archangel Gabriel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic sacred writings and scriptures. His role is – as a messenger to humans from God – was crucial in the three monotheistic faiths.

The stone is cut on one side, along which two columns – 16 cm wide and about 75 cm in height – are covered with text. The columns are separated by a gap approximately 3.5 cm wide. The inscription is composed of 47 horizontal lines and four vertical lines fixing the columns’ borders. The text contain of 87 lines of which 44 are in the right-hand column and 43 in the left-hand column. The last two lines of the left-hand column are much shorter than the rest, and their ending is marked by diagonal lines.

It’s uncertain if the text begins with the first line of the right-hand column. Was it preceded by text that is now lost? Or perhaps the whole composition was comprised of an additional stone or even more stones. However, archaeologists didn’t find traces of any binding substance (like for example cement) on it.

The Hebrew text is written in the first person that identifies himself three times in the first-person: “I am Gabriel”. He converses with a human figure – a visionary or prophet – to whom he, Gabriel, is apparently communicating a vision.

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The text – very prophetic and apocalyptic – also expresses anxiety over the fate of Jerusalem and reflects the crucial role of angels as intermediaries. It’s an attack on Jerusalem and the hope that God will see to the city’s deliverance for the sake of his servant David, perhaps referring to the Messiah of Davidic descent.

A fascinating aspect of the tablet is that the message is not inscribed by a chisel or stylus as is normal for stone; rather the message has been written with pen and ink. Writing on pottery shards with ink was common—the ancient-world equivalent of memos and instant messaging—but only one other ink-inscribed stone of the era, found at Qumran in the 1950s as part of the DSS archaeological excavations, is known to exist. The Gabriel Revelation stone is the first example of the angel’s name appearing in ink on stone, although earlier mentions of his name are found in the Dead Sea scrolls, according to Adolfo Roitman, curator of the “I am Gabriel” exhibit at the Israel Museum.  At the same time, museum director James Snyder said that “the Gabriel Revelation stone is, in a way, like a Dead Sea scroll written on stone and it’s unique in that respect.”

Controversy over the exact nature of the stone’s text remains. The second or even several “Gabriel Stone” fragments may still be out there, waiting to be discovered. Based on analysis of linguistic patterns and the shape of the script of The Gabriel Revelation stone, it was written towards the end of the first century BC, which means around the time of Jesus Christ’s birth. Thus, the inscription is a pre-Christian text.

The first part of the sacred inscription has the apocalyptic character; it’s about the ultimate destiny of mankind and the world; vanquishing of the Antichrist and its forces of evil. The second part focuses on death and resurrection. The text refers to three leaders – shepherds – sent by God to His people, who were killed in battle. Interesting are the words in the last part of the inscription. These words are the words of the Archangel Gabriel who orders his mysterious and unknown interlocutor – to return to life after three days and says:

“By three days, live.”

The Gabriel’s order written in the 80th line of the inscription, is followed by the further line that states that a leader – a “prince of the princes” – was put to death, and his corpse turned to dung among the rocky crevices.

Although researchers have long debated: who is the man resurrected by Archangel Gabriel, I believe this is a direct reference to the person of Jesus Christ crucified by the Romans and resurrected in three days as foretold by the ancient prophets of the Bible.

Will additional artifacts be found in the future such as the Dead Sea Stone?  New archaeological excavations are under way in Qumran this December. Click here to learn more about the Dead Sea Cave Archaeology Project.

 

The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone is a large boulder on the side of Hidden Mountain, near Los Lunas, New Mexico that bears an ancient inscription carved into a flat panel in the rock. The stone is also known as the Los Lunas Mystery Stone or Commandment Rock. The inscription is interpreted to be an abridged version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments in a form of Paleo-Hebrew. The tetragrammaton YHWH, or “Yahweh,” is written four times throughout the inscription. The stone is controversial in that some claim the inscription is Pre-Columbian, and therefore proof of early Semitic contact with the Americas.

The first recorded mention of the stone is in 1933, when professor Frank Hibben, an archaeologist from the University of New Mexico, saw it. Hibben was led to the stone by an unnamed Indian guide who claimed to have found it as a boy in the 1880s. The 1880s date of discovery is important to those who believe that the stone was inscribed by a lost tribe of Israel. However, Florencio Chavez, a former Los Lunas resident, reported being shown the rock by his grandfather, Simon Serna. Serna was born in 1829 and his father had claimed to seen the rock in 1800.

The Paleo-Hebrew script is practically identical to the Phoenician script, which was known at the time, thus not precluding the possibility of fraud. One argument against the stone’s antiquity is its apparent use of modern Hebrew punctuation, though amateur epigrapher Barry Fell argued that the punctuation is consistent with antiquity.[1] Other researchers dismiss the inscription based on the numerous stylistic and grammatical errors that appear in the inscription.

In 1948, William H. McCart an Albuquerque resident took an interest in the rock and sent photographs to Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer of the Semitic Museum at Harvard University. But in doing so, in order to get a better picture, he purposely scratched out the natural patina over the inscription thus effectively destroying the most valuable information & context on the stone! Dr. Hibben had stated first hand to an archaeologist friend of mine in the 1960’s that he did see not only patina covering the inscription in the 1930’s but also lichen growing on the stone! What a tragedy that this important information was removed by an amature wanting to get photographs.

In 1949, Dr. Pfeiffer made a first known translation of the strange writing. Being an authority on the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible) he concluded that the inscription was a copy of the Ten Commandments. He thought that the inscription was written in the Phoenician, the Moabite, and the Greek languages. Indeed, some local native American Indians, as a result of his work, have been referring to this rock as the Phoenician Inscription Rock. Professor Pfeiffer never stated at that time whom he thought carved the message. Many locals have been calling this site the “Ten Commandments Rock” ever since. Further speculation involved the authorship of that rock inscription. Some even considered it to be an inscription from a member of one of the lost tribes of Israel.

However, Robert L. Pfeiffers translation has not remained unchallenged. Notably two translators rejected the idea that the rock inscription had something to do with the Ten Commandments. In 1964, Robert L. LaFollete wrote a translation which resulted in a travelers story carved on the rock using Phoenician as well as some Hebrew, Cyrillic and Etruscan letters. LaFollete translated this story in English as well as in the Navajo language. Dixie L. Perkins published another translation in 1979. This time under the assumption that the writer was of Greek origin and that he was using old-Greek and Phoenician letters. Perkins translation, too, challenges the Ten Commandment version, again resulting in another travelers story. (1) However, Mrs Perkins stated in her foreword to her translation that she only studied Latin and Greek, not however Hebrew. It remains clear that Dr. Pfeiffer’s translation is the correct one and has been verified by other scholars.

The writings on the Los Lunas stone use a combination of Samaritan and Greek letters. Greek? That’s interesting. The Book of Mormon says nothing about Greek. The Greeks didn’t conquer Palestine until more than 200 years after Lehi and Mulek left Jerusalem. But the language of the stone uses good Greek grammar, and makes Samaritan mistakes that would be natural grammatical mistakes for a person of Greek learning, and unthinkable for a Hebrew. But what of the language? The particular combination of characters matches perfectly a Samaritan-Greek dialect that has been discovered in Alexandria. Doesn’t this mean the person who wrote it was most likely not a Hebrew? No, on the contrary. It could be a Phoenician influence.

Other Phoenician and old-Hebrew inscription samples
Another way to narrow down the problem of the age is to compare the Los Lunas inscription with other Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew inscription samples from the Mediterranean Middle East. In general, if the Los Lunas inscription is old-Hebrew, it is no younger than 600 B.C.E. because after that old-Hebrew came to be gradually replaced by the square-Hebrew alphabet. The old-Hebrew and Phoenician characters used to be almost identical from 1100 B.C.E. to 600 B.C.E. Thereafter, mainly the Phoenicians continued to use this old alphabet, until their Mediterranean colonies were destroyed by the Romans during the Punic wars of the 2nd century B.C.E.  As mentioned in the Epigraphy section, the closest matching Phoenician or paleo-Hebrew writing samples are those from the Eshmunazar Sarcophagus (4th century B.C.E.) or those of the Bar Rakab Inscription and the Nerab Stelae.

What about Mormon Influence?

There is further speculation involving the authorship of the rock inscription. There are some that claim that the stone was carved by someone in the Mormon Battalion as they may have passed through that area. It is claimed that some of the members of the Mormon Battalion participated in the school of the prophets where ancient Semitic languages were studied. The stone could have been just the etchings of a bored solider, which would explain some of the typos and errors in the text. Others have expressed the thought that perhaps some Mormons may have carved this message in an attempt to support their views of an ancient pre-Columbian semitic history in North America. However, a simple research on Mormon Web sites reveals absolutely nothing about this rock inscription. It is not used by their church as a proof for the existence of ancient Nephites in America. For a certainty it is not written in so-called “reformed Egyptian” language.

The overwhelming number of Phoenician and Greek letters and words found in Los Lunas are more of a direct link to Old World (Bronze Age) employ. Again, though there are some dating overlaps seen between Los Lunas and Mormon Brigade, from the 1840’s to the end of the 1850’s, the concentration was on the Great Utah Basin and their early establishment in the area. Finally, I do not see a strong connection in the Mystery Stone and the Mormon community for the simple reason, there is not the faintest hint to any Christian Confession. The Mormon faith, nor any of the array of Christian denominations; especially, of early American age would omit such an opportunity for Christological profession. In addition, no names of individuals mentioned in the Book of Mormon have every been found in ancient inscriptions.

Nevertheless, the Mormons examined the stone in the 1950’s to see if it was theirs. They sent out the Archaeological Society of Brigham Young University from Provo, Utah. The Mormon team critically examined the stone and in 1954 published an article which concluded the inscription was quite recent because of the lack of patina in the letters. Consequently, they dismissed it altogether. I had one person email me who was interested in the Los Lunas Mystery Stone. He stated that he was Mormon & had been so all of his life. He had never heard of the stone within the Mormon community and was intrigued by those claiming that it was of Mormon influence. He personally visited the site & concluded that this indeed had nothing to do with the Mormons- independently verifying the 1950’s expedition!

In the Mormon community, I would love to see someone pursue that; someone like the wonderful scholarship provided by Dr. Brian Stubbs. What Dr. Stubbs has contributed to is the awesome connection between Hebrew consonal roots (and Hebrew plural construction) to languages of both ancient America; especially Indian languages squarely in the Los Lunas matrix. Another scholarly contribution in this area of Hebrew root connections and Ancient Americas is David Deal’s work in Mayan syllabary and words.

There is no evidence that supports the existence of the Nephites in Mormon archaeology. FARMS, a scholarly group associated with BYU, has no scholarship dealing with the site and does not make any evidentiary use of it. The stone is simply not connected to Mormon influence. The connection between the Stone and the Mormon community is circumstantial from both an alphabetical and historical perspectives.

“It can be stated definitely that there is no connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon. There is no correspondence whatever between archeological sites and cultures as revealed by scientific investigations and as recorded in the Book of Mormon, hence the book cannot be regarded as having any historical value from the standpoint of the aboriginal peoples of the New World.” F.H.H. Roberts, Jr, Smithsonian Institution, 1951

The first step in deciphering the Los Lunas Inscription was to identify the letters.  Native American Indians in the New Mexico area never developed a character-based alphabet. They were mainly carving petroglyphs on rock surfaces. These are quite different and are more like little pictographic drawings than writings. The inscription itself was done in old-Hebrew or Phoenician letters, as can be seen from the following (to the right)  character chart:

Many modern scholars now seem to agree that the rock inscription is indeed an abridged version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. Among others, these include: Cline 1982 (2), Deal 1992 (3), Stonebreaker 1982 (4), Underwood 1982 (5), Cyrus Gordon 1995 (6), and Skupin 1989 (7). In 1996, Prof James D. Tabor of the Dept. of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, interviewed Professor Frank Hibben who is a local historian and retired archaeologist from the University of New Mexico. Hibben is convinced that the inscription is ancient and thus authentic. He also stated in the interview that he first saw the text in 1933. (see Tabor 1996: An Ancient Hebrew Inscription in New Mexico: Fact or Fraud” (8), see also J.Huston McCulloch 1997: “The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone” (9) ).

Dr. Cyrus Gordon, a historian of ancient Near Eastern civilizations, has promoted the idea that such people’s reached the New World for the past several decades. The historical and archaeological evidence is not unimpressive and has been well documented by Barry Fell in his major study entitled “America B.C.” (10)

Is there a Crypto-Jewish Connection?

Given the long history of crypto-Judaism in Spain, it seems logical to consider the question whether there is a connection between the native New Mexicans and those of the 15th-16th century Iberia. In the 1490’s, Spain & Portugal began the forced conversion of Jews which became increasingly violent. Approximately 100,000 Jews converted at the point of the sword. This resulted in about one-third of converts; but insincere converts at that. A significant portion of these so-called converts continued to practice the ancestral Jewish faith illegally & in secret. Another 100,000 refused & were killed, while another 100,000 escaped.  (11) What started as a campaign for religious conformity evolved into the establishment of racial and ethnic discrimination. At the end of the 14th century began the expulsion of the Jews driving them into Germany, Russia and Central, South, & North America.

The timing of Columbus’s expedition, which coincides with the expulsion of the Jews, begs the question whether Columbus himself was a Jew. What we do know is that at least one of these converts can be found among the crew of Columbus first voyage to the New World. His name was Luis de Torres and was specifically recruited because of his knowledge of Hebrew. (12)

While there is ample evidence beginning in the 1580’s of increasing crypto-Jewish immigration into New Spain, there is little evidence of settlement into New Mexico under Luis de Carvajal and the Failed Colony of Gaspar Castano de Sosa in 1579-1591, Juan de Onate in 1595-1607, or by Diego de Vargas in 1692.  Later during periods of persecution by the Mexican Inquisition in 1591, crypto-Jews migrated to frontier areas of northern New Spain to look for safe haven elsewhere.  So the question remains. Were there any Jews living in New Mexico under Spanish rule? Rabbi Floyd S. Fierman, a dedicated investigator of Jewish history in the Southwest US, faced this question in 1960. He turned to France V. Scholes, a leading historian of colonial New Mexico. Fierman reported the Scholes’s view that “there appears, in fact, to be very little positive evidence regarding Jews in 17th century New Mexico and Arizona.” (13)  The only circumstantial evidence for the first Anglo-Jew in New Mexico seems to be a person named Paul Levi, presumably of French background, who lived in Spanish colonial Santa Fe as early as 1773.

There is abundant evidence however for the migration & settlement of German Jews in the 18th century; specifically between 1840-1860.  One estimated places 15,000 Jews in the US in 1840 but only about 16 of them on the census in New Mexico by 1850.  However, the census was probably incomplete & thus would not accurately reflect the correct number. By 1860, a figure of 43 were numbered. The census for Los Lunas was very small showing only 12-16 residents there including one Moses Sachs. A survey by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1877 estimated the total number of Jews in the US at 190,000 and assumed that the great majority came from Germany. (14) What is known currently is that German-Jewish immigrants made up the entire Jewish population of New Mexico in 1850. (15) Jews still only accounted for only two-tenths of one percent in 1860 with New Mexico ranked at the bottom of the population census. Clearly, Jews did not come to New Mexico in large numbers before the Civil War.

The main residence of the Jewish community centered around Santa Fe in 1860 with the census reflecting other areas such as Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Taos, & Los Lunas. One district in Santa Fe even became known as “Little Jerusalem”.  It is clear that the German-Jews in New Mexico did not hide their Jewishness nor seek to forget it although prior to 1860 there is no evidence or sign of public religious expression or that they sought to follow the Mosaic Law.The first clear indication that they had not abandon their belief systems & customs was in 1860. An article written in The American Israelite in 1881 recalled the first “Yom Kippur” held at Santa Fe at the home of Levi Spiegelberg in 1860. One family who migrated to New Mexico from Old Mexico in the late 1890’s and with a clear memory of their Jewish traditions, closed their curtains every Shabbat & still lit candles to Moses as a saint. Eventually with its continued growth,  the first bar mitzvah ceremony in New Mexico took place in Santa Fe in 1876 and the first synagogue was built in Las Vegas, NM in 1886- the Temple Montefiore.

So is the Los Lunas Mystery Stone connected to the crypto-Jews of New Mexico? There is very good evidence that the Mystery Stone was made by  the Crypto-Jews migrating out of Germany from 1840-1860. Hidden Mt. may have reminded them of Mt. Sinai and therefore they depicted the abridged version of the Ten Commandments in Paleo-Hebrew in remembrance of the Mosaic Law.

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References:

  1. Dixie L. Perkins, “The Meaning of the New Mexico Mystery Stone”, Sun Publishing Company, Albuquerque 1979
  2. Donald Cline, “The Los Lunas Stone”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 10 (1982 part 10)
  3. David Allen Deal, “Discovery of Ancient America”, Kherem La Yah Press, Irvine CA, first published in 1984. 1999 3rd Edition available from David Deal (davebigdeal@cox.net).
  4. Jay Stonebreaker, “A Decipherment of the Los Lunas Decalogue Inscription”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 18 (1989)
  5. L. Lyle Underwood, “The Los Lunas Inscription”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 10 (1982, part 1)
  6. Cyrus Gordon, “Diffusion of Near East Culture in Antiquity and in Byzantine Times”, Orient 30-31, 1995
  7. Michael Skupin, “The Los Lunas Errata”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 18 (1989)
  8. James D. Tabor, “An Ancient Hebrew Inscription in New Mexico: Fact or Fraud”, United Israel Bulletin Vol. 52, Summer 1997
  9. J.Huston McCulloch “The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone”, 1997, mcculloch.2@osu.edu
  10. Fell, Barry; “Ancient Punctuation and the Los Lunas Text,” Epigraphic Society, Occasional Publications, 13:35, 1985.
  11. Hordes, Stanley, “To the End of the Earth”, 2005, Columbia University Press, New York. pg. 18
  12. Ibid. pg 25
  13. Tobias, Henry, “A History of the Jews in New Mexico”, 1990, University of New Mexico Press, Albuqueque. pg. 7
  14. Ibid. pgs. 27- 28
  15. Ibid. pg. 29