30.1.12

Ivory Pomegranate


The Ivory Pomegranate is a thumb-sized decorative object acquired by the Israel Museum. A Hebrew inscription is engraved around the shoulder of the thumb-size pomegranate that reads, "Holy to the priests, (belonging) to the Temple of [Yahwe]h."

Some researchers believe it adorned the High Priest sceptre within the Holy of Holies. They also consider it a genuine artifact proving the existence of Solomon's Temple.

The Ivory Pomegranate is a small ornamental bone object engraved with a short inscription in paleo-Hebrew. The inscription is inscribed in circular fashion along the shoulders of the pomegranate which is the shape of the fruit in blossom stage.

The ivory pomegranate is a priceless Semitic artifact from 13th century BCE and its inscription probably dates from the 8th century BCE.

The pomegranate was popular as a cultic object and was not unique to the worship of Yahweh.

The thumb-sized ivory pomegranate measuring 44 millimetres (1.7 in) in height, bears an ancient Hebrew inscription that reads, depending on the point chosen as the beginning in the circular inscription, "Belonging to the Temple [literally 'house'] of ---h, holy to the priests" or "Sacred donation for the priests of [or 'in'] the Temple [literally 'house'] of ---h".

Inscription on the ivory pomegranate

"[Belonging] to the Temple of [Yahwe]h, consecrated to the priests"

Inscribed Pomegranate from Solomon's Temple
Ivory, 8th century BCE
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The thumb-sized pomegranate is believed to be the only existent relic from Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. Around the shoulder of the pomegranate there is a carefully incised inscription in early Hebrew characters, part of which is broken off, which reads: "qodes kohanim I-beyt [yahwe]h". "Sacred donation for the priests of (in) the House of [Yahwe]h." "House of Yahweh" most probably refers to the Temple in Jerusalem. The pomegranate was Solomon's favorite motif and decorated the capitals of the two freestanding columns at the entrance to the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 7:21).

An Amazing Artifact. The tiny ivory pomegranate is an ancient relic and can be seen on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. If you ever visit the museum, just ask for the pomegranate. Everyone knows exactly where it is kept, under high tech surveillance. Postcards and small jewelry items of the pomegranate are available in the museum store. A little booklet accompanies the jewelry with the following inscription: "This piece of jewelry is an actual-size replica of an ivory pomegranate, dating to the 8th century BCE, probably a remnant from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the only existing artifact from the First Temple known to us today. The ancient Hebrew inscription reads: Belonging to the Temple of (Yahveh) Holy to the Priests." (Discovery News, 2006).

Prof. Roman's Conclusions, 2008. An Israeli scientist employed by the defense in the Jerusalem forgery trial has concluded that the inscription on the famous ivory pomegranate ("[Belonging] to the Temple of [Yahwe]h, consecrated to the priests") is authentic.
If the inscription is authentic, the pomegranate is probably the only surviving artifact from Solomon’s Temple.
Professor Yitzhak Roman of the Hebrew University examined the pomegranate under a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to reach his conclusions. In the 1990s he was the academic director of Hebrew University’s SEM.
A committee led by Tel Aviv University’s Yuval Goren had previously concluded that the inscription was a forgery because three critical letters adjacent to an ancient break stopped before the break. The forger was apparently fearful of breaking off more of the pomegranate if he went too close to this fracture. The pomegranate itself is admittedly genuine. However, Professor Roman’s examination showed that the three critical letters, contrary to Yuval Goren’s finding, did in fact go into the ancient break.
This was the same conclusion reached by an examination of the pomegranate at the Israel Museum sponsored by the Biblical Archaeology Society on May 3, 2007: The three letters clearly go into the break.
In addition, Professor Roman examined the patina inside the letters of the inscription. The committee that found the inscription to be a forgery had concluded that this patina was somehow glued into the surviving letters of the inscription. Professor Roman found 11 different elements (some just trace amounts) in the natural patina. But he found no evidence that the patina had been glued (Anchor Stone International, 2009).

The ivory pomegranate was discovered in 1979 by André Lemaire. Many scholars believe the ivory pomegranate is the only artifact that survived from Solomon’s temple (first temple period). The inscription, which was partially destroyed, reads “Holy to the priests, belonging to the Temple of Yahweh.” It currently resides in the Israel Museum.
The ivory pomegranate came under fire as a forgery. The collector who owned them, Oded Golan, was indicted on forgery charges. The trial lasted ten years and the court determined that the Israeli Antiquities Authority had not proved that the artifacts were forged. To the contrary, many famous scholars have already given their stamp of authenticity to the pomegranate (Biblical Archaeology, 2012).

References
André Lemaire, "Une inscription paleo-hebraique sur grenade en ivoire," Revue Biblique, Vol. 88, pp. 236-239.
_____. "Probable Head of Priestly Scepter from Solomon’s Temple Surfaces in Jerusalem," Biblical Archaeology Review, January-February 1984
Don D. Srail, Pomegranate or Almond Bud, 19.1.1997
Is This Inscription Fake?, Biblical Archaeology Review, September-October 2007
Yitzhak Roman, Text on a Pomegranate, Case no. 482/04, District Court, Jerusalem: Expert's Opinion, The Institute for Technology and Forensic Consulting Ltd., 10.12.2008
"Leading Israeli Scientist Declares Pomegranate Inscription Authentic", Biblical Archaeology Review, 16 December 2008; repr. Anchor Stone International, 23 April 2009
"The Ivory Pomegranate, Artifact from Solomon’s Temple", Biblical Archaeology, 19 March 2012.
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