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The Ark of the Covenant: down through the ages it has inspired terror and obsession. This gold-encrusted chest held the Ten Commandments and gave Moses a direct hotline to God. With it the Israelites conquered the holy land and they built a new temple. Then in perhaps the greatest Biblical riddle ever the Ark of the Covenant simply vanished from scripture. Riddles of the Bible s2e3: The Hunt for the Ark of the Covenant, National Geographic 1997
God’s blueprint for the Ark was exceedingly specific. It was to be a portable wooden chest, about four feet long by two feet wide by two feet high. Made of an extremely resilient wood called acacia. And plated inside and out with pure gold. At the corners of the Ark there would be four gold rings into which gold-plated poles could be inserted for carrying. Its lid – God’s footstool – would be pure gold, with golden-winged angels called cherubim at each end facing each other. The Ark served as Moses’s direct hotline to God. ibid.
But by around 620 B.C. references to the most important artefact in the Jewish religion simply ceases ... But three decades after that, in 587 B.C. came another crisis ... The city and its temple were overrun and looted by Babylonians, led by the famous Nebuchadnezzar. ibid.
Hancock is among those who believe that the high priests in charge of the Ark somehow managed to save it before the city of Jerusalem was sacked along with the Temple of Solomon in 587 B.C. ibid.
Once upon a time a small boy slew a giant and saved his people. The Bible says he went on to conquer Jerusalem and give the wandering Israelites a home. His son Solomon the Wise built them a Temple, put the Ark of the Covenant in it and filled their coffers with wealth. David and Solomon made Israel a nation. Were they historical figures or mere legends? After three thousand years can any trace of these Biblical giants survive? Riddles of the Bible s2e9: Lost Kings of Israel
In Biblical times the warrior-like Philistines are an implacable enemy. Their champion, Goliath, wrecks terror upon the people of Israel. And even mighty Samson falls victim to their brutality. They capture the sacred Ark of the Covenant ... Where did the Philistines come from? Mysteries of the Bible s2e4: Arch Enemy: The Philistines
Out front was an enormous alter. Beyond that was a porch area that led into the inside of the Temple. There was a room – the holy place. And then beyond that the most sacred room: the Holy of Holies, where tradition says the Ark of the Covenant held the tablets of the law. Joan R Branham, Providence College
The story begins in 2001. A professor from the Jerusalem University receives a call from a mysterious person who refuses to give his real name. And asks this professor to come to a hotel in Jerusalem ... He opens up the briefcase. Takes out a gorgeous piece of black stone with ancient writing on it, and asks the two professors to authenticate the piece. Boaz Gaon, Ma-ariv Newspaper
We couldn’t find anything that would lead us to the conclusion that it was a forgery. Dr Amnon Rosenfeld, Geological Survey of Israel
The Temple was built to house the Ark of the Covenant. Horizon: King Solomon’s Tablet of Stone, 2004
In July 2001 a unique inscribed tablet of stone mysteriously appeared in Israel. It was an archaeological marvel that seemed to solve one of the Bible’s great riddles. Tested by some of Israel’s top scientists it revealed that in the heart of Jerusalem three thousand years ago one of the legends of the ancient world had really existed – the magnificent Temple of Solomon. ibid.
The geologists studying the stone found that the patina was continuous across the front of the stone ... The patina contained tiny flecks of gold. Just what you’d expect from a stone that had been through a fire in a temple lined with gold. In January 2003 the Geological Survey official pronounced the stone to be genuine. ibid.
Where did the stone come from? ... The whole area is far too politically sensitive for archaeology ... It was then that the saga of the stone became very mysterious indeed. ibid.
Oded Golan is a businessman and renowned collector. Owner of Israel’s largest collection of antiquities. He explained that he wasn’t the owner of the stone and that he didn’t know where it was. He had just been involved as a middleman. ibid.
In 2002 one very special ossuary appeared. Inscribed on the side were the words James, Son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. It was heralded as the first physical evidence of Jesus Christ and caused a worldwide sensation ... Strangely, the owner was Oded Golan. ibid.
The Israeli authorities were also suspicious. They raided Golan’s apartment and store-houses. There they found the ossuary perched on a toilet. And they also unearthed the illusive stone. ibid.
The focus of their attention was the patina ... Yuval Goren is a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University. And a geologist. He has a detailed knowledge of both Biblical archaeology and the rocks of the Jerusalem area. ibid.
How could the patina on the front of the stone be different from that on the back? ... The patina from within the carved letters. Strangely, it didn’t seem to be bonded to the stone in any natural way at all. ibid.
Alarmed by what he found with the stone Professor Goren turned his attention to the James’ ossuary. Again he found a similar story. A freshly cut inscription with an artificial patina applied over the top. On 18th June 2003 the Israeli authorities delivered their verdict. ibid.
In the summer of 2003 after the biggest archaeological investigation in Israeli police history Oded Golan was taken into custody. It was then that investigators realised they could be dealing with more than just the stone and the ossuary. When police searched Golan’s apartment they found a hidden workshop filled with tools and half-made artefacts. ibid.
It is very freshly cut. You can see even the little lines, the little parallel lines of either the chisel of even maybe a drill, an electric drill. Professor Yuval Goren
It is a little Pomegranate made of the tooth of the hippopotamus ... The inscription was engraved on it when it was already broken. It is probably a fake, probably a forgery. Yuval Goren
In recent years a series of extraordinary finds has been found in the Holy Land. These astonishing discoveries are linked to some of the most famous events in the Bible. They appear to be new evidence for the burial of Jesus. And for the legendary Temple of Solomon. The Solomon Treasures, 2008
And it was here more than twenty-five years ago in Jerusalem’s Antiquities Market that one of the most remarkable artefacts in the Holy Land’s history first came to light: it was a tiny object, just four centimetres long, badly damaged and no-one knew where it came from. But it would be hailed as a unique piece of history. It became known as the Ivory Pomegranate. It was thought to be the ornamental tip of a priest’s ceremonial staff. But what amazed the experts was the inscription: Holy to the Priests of the House of God. It suggested that this exquisite little object was used by priests in the first temple of Jerusalem, which according to the Bible, was built by King Solomon ... There was no independent evidence apart from the Bible that Solomon’s Temple actually existed. ibid.
According to Biblical history the Temple was destroyed by fire in 586 B.C. by invaders from Babylon. The Western Wall where Jewish pilgrims come to pray is all that’s left of a second temple built on the same site as King Solomon’s Temple by King Herod the Great. ibid.
So the Pomegranate was an extraordinary find. The tiny artefact with a large chip on one side was the first physical link to the first Temple of Solomon. But was the Pomegranate authentic? ... When the Museum tried to track down the owner, they came up against a wall: the Pomegranate had already changed hands ... The Pomegranate was returned to Jerusalem and there in the Israel Museum along with such priceless national treasures as the Dead Sea Scrolls it was given pride of place. An authentic link to King Solomon’s Temple. ibid.
The inscription on the shiny black stone describe repairs made to the Temple of Solomon by a king called Jehoash in the 8th century B.C. If it was genuine, it was priceless. Like the Ivory Pomegranate it seemed to confirm that Solomon’s Temple actually existed. Better still, it provided unique confirmation of events in the Old Testament ... All the stranger would reveal was it was found near the Temple Mount. ibid.
They found the surface contained tiny flecks of charcoal – which proved to be over two thousand years old. And they found tiny specks of gold – just what might be expected if it had survived a fire when the gold-encrusted Temple of Solomon was destroyed. ibid.
In 2002 one of these ancient bone boxes became the centre of world-wide media attention ... James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. The ancient bone-box was hailed as the final resting place for St James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. And the first archaeological evidence linked to Jesus himself. It caused a sensation ... And its owner was Oded Golan. ibid.
Oded Golan: Golan has been collecting ancient artefacts since he was a boy. He admitted he had been helping to sell the missing stone tablet but denied he had ever been its owner. But authorities were not convinced by the story. And what made them highly suspicious was that the same collector Oded Golan had recently been involved with another sensational discovery that suddenly appeared. ibid.
With allegations of fakery flying around, the authorities decided to crack down. Police and Antiquity Authority agents raided Oded Golan’s home. They found an incriminating photograph of the collector clutching the missing Jehoash tablet, which he had always denied owning. They made him hand it over then confiscated the ossuary too. The artefacts and their collector were about to be subjected to intensive scrutiny ... In charge of the investigation was Professor Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University. He began with the stone tablet ... But when Goren examined the patina he found it was different on the front to the back of the stone. The patina on the front did indeed appear to come from Jerusalem but instead of being bonded to the stone, it lifted off quite easily.