The ASOR blog has a short, interesting post about an article in Hebrew that appeared in 1981 about what is now known as the Talpiot B tomb. As readers know, this tomb is home to the “Jonah” ossuary, so-called because James Tabor and $imcha Jacobovici argue that the ossuary bears the symbol of a fish spitting out a man on it. To my knowledge, every other scholar who has examined photos of it rejects that view, including me (see earlier posts for reasons why). The point of bringing this up is that the 1981 article describes the ossuary decorations as “(1) Architectural features (perhaps of the Second Temple?) and (2) An amphora (Heb.agartal).” This closely echoes more recent interpretations offered by scholars who reject the idea that we’re looking at a fish.
The article ends with a question that seems intended to tweak Tabor and Jacobovici for this oversight. Don’t anyone fall out of their chair, but I’m inclined to give them both a break on this. I don’t know anything about the 1981 source publication (Davar) except that it’s just a newspaper. Since it isn’t a scholarly journal or trade magazine of reputation in ancient studies, the oversight is understandable in my mind. Why would a scholar be looking at popular newspapers and magazines? Maybe I’m just hopelessly jaded when it comes to popular journalism, but for me this would be like an erstwhile grad student finding something thought long lost in an American museum basement and then checking to see if the Saturday Evening Post had published anything on the item. I doubt most minds would be thinking it necessary to look in a newspaper in such a context. I’m betting ASOR has many archaeologists in its membership that do not consult old editions of Israeli newspapers when they find something that may have seen the light of day once before.