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Barry Fell and the Los Lunas Inscription

[This is from a discussion on Usenet and is posted here by permission of the author].


During the course of this discussion the question has come up of whether Barry Fell has had a fair treatment from the "academic world." I would like to address that issue here as I am enroute to explaining what I consider to be conclusive arguments as to why one of Barry Fell's claims, the Los Lunas inscription, is a fraud.

Over the years I have asked a number of acquaintances to comment on various aspects of what it would take to get a paleo-Hebrew inscription written southwest of Albuquerque by anyone who could have lived in antiquity. Following are the folks who were most helpful to me.

The first person is an archaeologist who lives in Pennsylvania. He wrote his doctoral disertation on lithics at Bab ed-Dhra which is on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. He worked there under Paul Lapp.

Another person is a Ugaritic scholar from Scotland. He offered helpful comments on whether Jews could have arrived on the Iberian Peninsula prior to the turn of the current era. So far the earliest sound evidence is an ossuary inscription which dates to the 3rd century CE.

Another person is a linguist who had been living in Michigan up until this last week. She and her husband are moving to Greece. She offered insights into the punctuation of the Los Lunas text.

A 4th person is an Egyptologist who lives in California. His contribution to this discussion was on whether it was feasible to expect an ancient ship to cross the Atlantic. For those of you who believe that all they had to do was follow the stars, consider the inaccuracy of ancient maps.

Finally, a key consultant of mine is a Dead Sea Scroll scholar who lives in Europe. I will mention his contribution to this issue shortly.

There are three key problems with the Los Lunas inscription. The first is that the text can not be dated to ancient times. A technique of measuring desert varnish was used by George E. Morehouse. His test rendered a date of 500 to 2000 years before the present. The wide range of dates should give a clue to the inaccuracy of the test. Even in the best conditions the test is unreliable and gives dates far older than what is known for the object tested.

The second is that the writer did not know the technique for writing an inscription which ws to be displayed prominently. Ancient scribes would first write their message in chalk or something similar before they scratched the message. The writer of Los Lunas knew neither this technique nor his Hebrew very well because he forgot where he was in one of the most popular passages in the Hebrew Bible. Sometimes he shortened the text, but in one case he flat lost his place and had to include a caret.

Carets and the like are not unknown in antiquity. But the upside down V mark does not appear in any Hebrew text before Medieval times. It may appear in Codex Sinaiticus (I have not had the chance to check yet), but it does not occur in Hebrew texts.

The caret mark in the Los Lunas inscription has a peculiarity about it. There is a dot underneath it, a period at the end of a sentence. This dot and others like it are the most crucial pieces of evidence that Los Lunas was written by someone who did not know ancient writing techniques. Prior to the turn of the turn of the era, Hebrew used dots not as markers for the end of a sentence but as word-dividers.

The writer of Los Lunas did his best. But I doubt that he would have figured that a century later there would be so easy access to so much information that would show his writing for what it is.

Virgil Brown

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