My internship on the ‘Forging Antiquity’ Project

For the first half of 2017, Vanessa Mawby participated in the ‘Forging Antiquity’ Project as an undergraduate intern within Macquarie University’s PACE Program. Below she reflects on her experience during the internship.

This semester I was given the opportunity to work as a project intern on the ARC Discovery Project, ‘Forging Antiquity: Authenticity, forgery and fake papyri’, through the Macquarie University PACE program, with A/Prof. Malcolm Choat, and Dr. Rachel Yuen-Collingridge. Primarily, I was tasked with creating an index of the ‘Recueil d’anciennes écritures’, a 16th century manuscript by Pierre Hamon, and reuniting the copies he made with original manuscripts and artefacts. The process was a little grueling but rewarding nonetheless, and honestly, it felt like detective work.

On opening the manuscript you are immediately bombarded with all sorts of crazy scripts and alphabets. Hamon labels some as ‘Latin’, but they looked so foreign, I had to take his word for it. Another immediate hurdle was learning to read Hamon’s own challenging cursive script, in which his difficult 16th century French was written. But as the weeks rolled by, Hamon and I developed a working relationship where I was becoming accustomed to his way of writing, and slowly deciphering the alphabets. I’m not exaggerating when I say that with every alphabet/deciphered, there’d be actual whoops of joy in the office.

The next big step was locating the manuscripts from which Hamon had copied the alphabets and sample texts appearing in his own collection. We knew a lot of them were likely to be held now by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France archives, but I’m going to be honest; trawling through the thousands of manuscripts and other artefacts in the archive, and painstakingly comparing them to Hamon’s work seemed a task too large to even approach. Luckily for me, I was equipped with an article by H. Omont, which gave a partial guide to which artefacts Hamon was copying, and in some cases, even a BnF archive number.

After numerous twists and turns leading to dead ends, medieval runes, and even Roman inscriptions, the index was mostly complete and it was time to turn to translating a Latin work by Bartholemew Germon, an 18th century Jesuit scholar, who discussed the authenticity of an extract of the charta plenariae securitatis which appears in Hamon’s manuscript. After weeks of dealing with Hamon’s fascinating and strange manuscript, it was almost a relief to be reading Latin, albeit 18th century Latin.

ForgeryPaperTeam
Vanessa Mawby (left), with Rachel Yuen-Collingridge and Malcolm Choat, Markers of Authenticity Seminar Series, 2/6/17, Museum of Ancient Cultures, Macquarie University

To complete my semester as a project intern, I presented a short paper alongside my supervisors at a Markers of Authenticity seminar hosted at Macquarie University. I’d never presented before, let alone with a team, so it was a nerve-racking experience to say the least. But I found that presenting as a team provided a safety net for me, and the successful presentation showcased our collaborative work.

If this internship has taught me anything about forgers and the relationship between disciplinary practice, it’s that there’s so much more to the ‘forger’ and their ‘forgeries’ than can be immediately assumed. Instead of generating new texts from scratch, as I had previously supposed, the ‘forgeries’ in Hamon’s manuscript display his method of excerpting texts and stitching pieces together to create new texts, which are only minutely different from their authentic counterparts. This discovery broadened my understanding of the many ways in which forgeries can be made.

Next semester, although completing my PACE activity, I will be staying on the project as a research assistant for the next phase of the project on Constantine Simonides. It’s sad to be saying good-bye to Hamon, but I don’t think any of us will yet be able to say, ‘case closed’.

Vanessa Mawby

Authenticity, forgery, provenance, and ethics at the 2017 SBL Annual Meeting

This year’s Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, to be held in Boston on November 18–21, features a bumper crop of sessions, panels, and papers on issues to do with authenticity, forgery, provenance, and the ethics of studying the past. No less than four sessions are devoted to these themes, alongside papers addressing these matters in sessions of the Qumran, Redescribing Early Christianity, and Digital Humanities program units, and a book review session on Candida Moss and Joel Baden’s new book on the Green collection and Museum of the Bible. It promises to be a fantastic meeting for those interested in these issues: indeed, one could nearly construct an entire meeting attending papers about this. Even more amazingly, only two of these sessions currently clash, but it’s a serious clash, and I hope it can be rectified.

Thanks to all those who have organised these panels and shown how important these issues are. It’s going to be a great meeting!

For convenience, I list below the relevant sessions that I have noticed – for full details, including abstracts, head to the online program booklet. There’s probably sessions and papers I missed – apologies in advance, and do let me know so I can update the post (for a list of edits see the end of the post). And I haven’t even checked the AAR schedule yet.

S18-235– Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
11/18/2017
1:00 PM to 3:15 PM

Theme: Authenticity and Dating

Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester, Presiding

Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University and Tommy Wasserman, Orebro School of Theology
The Cable Guy: Constantine Simonides and his New Testament papyri

Andrew Smith, Shepherds Theological Seminary
Analysis of Ink from Ancient Papyri through Raman Micro-Spectroscopy

Kipp Davis, Trinity Western University
Dead Sea Scrolls papyri, scribal features and questions of authenticity

Charles E. Hill, Reformed Theological Seminary
Dating and Breaking Up (the text): Textual Division as a Non-Paleographical Aid in Dating Biblical Texts

 

S19-140 Public Scholarship in the New Media
11/19/2017
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Robert Cargill, University of Iowa, Introduction

Panelists:
Nina Burleigh, Newsweek Magazine
Ariel Sabar, The Atlantic
Caroline T. Schroeder, University of the Pacific
Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

S19-238 – Qumran
11/19/2017
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Theme: Discovering and investigating manuscript and scribal features of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Alison Schofield, University of Denver, Presiding

Oren Gutfeld, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Randall Price, Liberty University
The Discovery of a New Dead Sea Scroll Cave at Qumran

Ira Rabin, BAM Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing
Material analysis: authentication or forgery detection?

Arstein Justnes, Universitetet i Agder
Yet Another Fake? A Pre-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls-like manuscript

Sarah Yardney, University of Chicago
Assessing Current Methods for Reconstructing Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: A Quantitative Approach

Eibert Tigchelaar, KU Leuven
A Critique of Frank Moore Cross’ Typological Development of the Jewish Scripts

 

S19-206 Avoiding Deception: Forgeries, Fake News, and Unprovenanced Material in Religious Studies
11/19/2017
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Hosted by the Student Advisory Board

Why is provenance important? Although the forgery of documents and artifacts has always been a primary concern in religious studies, recent events surrounding the colloquially designated “Jesus’ Wife Fragment” and various unprovenanced fragments touted as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls have propelled scholars into a new era of forgery studies. While some may suppose that scholars are easily able to identify and disprove such items as forgeries, the complicated landscape in which such materials surface and are distributed has necessitated the adaptation of scholarship to remain diligent in preserving authentic items of history for study. This panel will address the challenges facing scholars in identifying and disproving forgeries in our current era. Invited speakers will similarly offer a space to examine the complexities and current status of forgeries in religious studies, identifying ways scholars can navigate the field without perpetuating erroneous materials in their scholarship.

Joshua Matson, Florida State University
Adrianne Spunaugle, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester
Arstein Justnes, Universitetet i Agder
Kipp Davis, Trinity Western University
Jennifer Knust, Boston University
Christian Askeland, Museum of the Bible

S19-335 Redescribing Early Christianity
11/19/2017
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Theme: Pseudepigrapha, Deception, and Heresy

Sarah Rollens, Rhodes College, Presiding

Mark Letteney, Princeton University
Authoritative Forgeries and Authentic Apocrypha in Late Antiquity

Anna Cwikla, University of Toronto
The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter as a Pseudepigraphon

Glen J. Fairen, University of Alberta
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Wrote Them: Taking Seriously the Heresoligical Invention of Marcion

William Arnal, University of Regina, Respondent

 

S20-136 Provenience and Policy
11/20/2017
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Theme: A panel and discussion about the SBL Policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts and Its Implementation

Christine Thomas, University of California-Santa Barbara, Presiding

Daniel Schowalter, Carthage College,
Introduction

Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester
Policy and Papyrology

Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Policy and Cuneiform

Sidnie White Crawford, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Policy and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Erin Darby, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Policy and Archaeology

Susan Ackerman, Dartmouth College
Issues of Provenience and Policy in ASOR

 

S20-246 Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible
11/20/2017
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Theme: The United States of Hobby Lobby

In this session, invited discussants will respond to Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden’s Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby (Princeton UP, 2017).

Mark Chancey, Southern Methodist University, Panelist

Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University, Panelist

Peter Manseau, Smithsonian Institution, Panelist

John Fea, Panelist

 

S20-322 Hebrew Bible, History, and Archaeology
11/20/2017
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Theme: Forgery and Writing Provenance in Writing Histories of Ancient Israel and Judah

Laura Wright, Luther College, Presiding

Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Washington’s Museum of the Bible, ASOR and SBL’s Policies on Pillaged Antiquities, and Modern Forged Inscriptions

Michael Johnson, McMaster University
A Case Study in Professional Ethics concerning Secondary Publications of Unprovenanced Artefacts: The New Edition DSS F.Instruction1

Roberta Mazza, University of Manchester
Market of cultural heritage mass destruction? A survey of the contemporary trade in ancient manuscripts from Egypt

Kathleen Nicoll, University of Utah and Matthew Suriano, University of Maryland – College Park
Cross-disciplinary perspectives on unprovenanced artifacts: Reexamining the authenticity of the so-called Jehoash Inscription as a case study

Robert Duke, Azusa Pacific University
New data for scholarship: Why unprovenanced items should not be dismissed

 

S21-116 – Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies
11/21/2017
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Theme: Reading, Publishing, Gaming: academic digital challenges

Paul Dilley, University of Iowa, Presiding

Richard Bautch, St. Edward’s University
Gameplay, Biblical Text, and What Drives the Prophet: How Students Turned Call Narratives into a Video Game

James F. McGrath, Butler University
Can the Dynamics of Canon Formation be Replicated through Game Mechanics? An Experiment in Gamified Pedagogy

Katherine Jones, George Washington University
Likely Lies: A Statistical Analysis of the Prevalence of Modern Forgeries

Claire Clivaz, Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
Academic publishing in an Open Access world : a partnership approach

John Dyer, Durham University
The Habits and Hermeneutics of Digital Bible Readers: Comparing Print and Screen Engagement, Comprehension, and Behavior

*Edited on 15/6/2017 to add the full participant list for ‘Avoiding Deception’ panel, and on 16/6/2017 to add the session on ‘Public Scholarship in the New Media’.

 

 

 

Following the trail of Simonides to the State Library of Victoria

Recently we visited the State Library of Victoria (who we thank for their help and hospitality) to inspect a small archive of papers relating to the mid-nineteenth century manuscript forger Constantine Simonides. The papers once belonged to the London chemist and prominent microscopist Henry Deane, and chronicle his attempts to test the authenticity of some of the manuscripts which had been alleged to have been forged by Simonides, principally the palimpsest manuscript of the Kings of Egypt by Uranius, as well as some of the papyri from the Joseph Mayer collection in Liverpool.

Wyburd, Francis John, 1826-1893; Henry Deane (1807-1874), President of the Pharmaceutical Society (1853-1855)
Henry Deane Sr, a painting by Francis John Wyburd (1826–1893) in the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum (https://artuk.org)

Although these manuscripts are now universally agreed to be forgeries, and the Uranius had already been declared to be such by German scholars well before Deane began to examine it in 1862, the issue of their authenticity was very much alive in England in the early 1860’s, chiefly promoted by John Eliot Hodgkin, a Liverpudlian businessman and collector antiquities, who was the chief supporter of Simonides and his manuscripts in England at this time. Hodgkin engaged Deane, as well as his fellow scientists Francis Wenham and Richard Beck, to determine the authenticity of the manuscript. While the others declared it a forgery, Deane wrote a report asserting it was genuine. The manuscript of Deane’s report, along with briefer reports from Wenham and Beck, is now contained in the State Library, along with a small archive of letters, mainly from Hodgkin to Deane, concerning the latter’s work. These range over 1863 and 1864, and chronicle the progression in Deane’s opinions on the Uranius from his firm statement of its authenticity in 1863, to a complete reversal of this position – to the dismay of Hodgkin – in the following year.

1250 Deane
The old Deane and Co building, Clapham. Source: http://paintedsignsandmosaics.blogspot.com.au. Image: Sebastien Ardouin

What are these papers doing in Melbourne, far from Clapham Common in London where Deane had his Pharmacy (which functioned as a chemist up until 1986, and whose sign can still be seen at 17 The Pavement Clapham)? Deane’s son, Henry Deane Jr, emigrated to Australia in the 1880’s, where he worked over the succeeding decades to build the railway network in New South Wales, including the (now sadly dismantled) Sydney tram system. He retired to Victoria, and made a gift of his father’s papers on the Simonides affair to the then Public Library of Victoria. His name lives on round Sydney in Henry Deane Plaza in the city, and a swish cocktail lounge in Millers Point.

These papers help tell a small part of the story of the attempt to scientifically authenticate the Simonides manuscript, which will be supplemented by the other side of the correspondence, which we will read again in the British Library when we visit England in September. And as we continue this work, we’ll bear in mind this connection with 19th century Australia, and the story behind these letters being in Victoria.

Malcolm and Rachel.