I’m sure many of you have seen this already, but on the Khirbet Qeiyafa expedition’s official website a blunt open letter is addressed to Dr. Galil, whose rather cavalier reconstruction of the Qeiyafa ostracon was publicized in a press release on 10 January of this year. The letter raises several concerns that immediately sprung to my mind when I first read the press release, but also adds some interesting information that makes the press release even more problematic. Here it is in full:
The Khirbet Qeiyafa expedition would like to draw your attention to a number of problematic statements that appeared in the Haifa University press release, dated January 10, 2010 (http://newmedia-eng.haifa.ac.il/?p=2043). These statements raise several problems of ethics and scholarship, which unfortunately have created a serious public misunderstanding concerning the Qeiyafa ostracon.
- While the expedition is run by two directors, only one (Yosef Garfinkel) is mentioned. This is surprising, as last year co-director Saar Ganor spent some time on guiding a tour of Khirbet Qeiyafa for you and other members of the Department of Biblical Studies of Haifa University.
- The letters that appear on the ostracon were deciphered by the epigraphist Dr. Haggai Misgav, who has published his reading in Hebrew and English. In the press release, however, you are presented as the person who deciphered the inscription, taking full credit for the entire reading. Again, this is surprising, as last year Haggai Misgav gave a presentation on the inscription at the Department of Biblical Studies of Haifa University.
- In a few cases you give alternative readings of the inscription that were published by Dr. Ada Yardeni. These, again, are presented as your original reading.
- From the very first reading of the inscription, the words אל תעש were understood by Haggai Misgav as an indication that the language of the inscription is Hebrew. In the press release this understanding is presented as your original contribution.
- Prof. Shmuel Ahituv suggested in his publication that עבד (worship) is another indication for Hebrew. In the press release, however, this is presented as your own contribution.
- When you examined the ostracon, you requested permission to take a few photographs for your personal use only. One of these photographs appears in the press release.
Your contribution consists not of reading or deciphering the inscription, but rather of speculative reconstruction of “missing” letters and words. Most of the third line and the center of the fifth line of the ostracon are illegible and the letters you suggest are entirely speculative. The main words that support your thesis (אלמנה, יתום, אביון) are reconstructed and do not appear as such in the legible parts of the ostracon.
On the basis of your own reconstruction, you draw conclusions, among others, about when the Bible was written. Does this sound like a scientific methodology?