Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Prepare to think

The Talpiot Find challenges and entertains the reader with its offbeat approach to the familiar archaeological-find-rewrites-history theme. Readers will confront the Big Questions in a calm, no-big-deal atmosphere and will find themselves musing more than once “I never thought of it that way before.” While following the thought-journey of a very likable protagonist with a bias for humor and irony, readers will explore whether their own world-view is based on a need for comfort and feeling useful, or on a desire for everything to make sense. Whether any change should be introduced to the world-view is left for the reader to decide, but by the end of the book the reader will have more information and ideas to work with in their experience of the everyday world.

Grad-student Marc isn’t hoping for a spectacular archaeological discovery to catapult his career right from the start. He just wants to graduate. His assignment on this dig site in the Talpiot district of Jerusalem, near the alleged Jesus ossuary tomb, hardly seems likely to produce anything of note, much less spectacular. An ancient garbage pit had been discovered the previous summer while the dig team excavated a twelfth-century well. Marc is now down in the well methodically uncovering unexceptional pottery sherds and animal bones thrown out with the rest of the scraps from meal preparations twenty-six centuries ago. But then he finds a human skeleton. When the human bones turn out to be as old as the rubbish around them, the archaeologists wonder if the person, apparently dumped into the pit, was a murder victim. And then he finds clay tablets, right next to the skeleton, carbon-dated to the same time frame as the skeleton and the surrounding trash. The tablets turn out to be an interesting find, a portion of Torah written in ancient Hebrew Canaanite, seventh century BCE. Are they related at all to the skeleton, and the murder? Or is their location coincidental? What are the tablets doing in a garbage pit? Bearing the tetragrammaton, they should've been placed in a genizah. Why were they discarded? In a garbage pit? Near a corpse? Of a murder victim?

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