For many years, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has maintained that an ivory pomegranate with a Hebrew inscription is a forgery, while other scholars have insisted that it is an authentic relic of the First Temple. Hershel Shanks, founder and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), has long supported those who believe in its authenticity, but now he has his doubts. The argument, he explains, rests on a single Hebrew letter:
BAR convened a meeting of scholars at the Israel Museum to re-examine the pomegranate under a powerful microscope. The result was a disagreement. But those who regarded the inscription as a forgery failed to address the most powerful argument for its authenticity—the Hebrew letter heh—the engraving of which went into an ancient break [in the ivory]; this meant that the letter was there before the ancient break occurred. [Sorbonne paleographer André] Lemaire, who had not been asked to be on the IAA committee, but was invited to the Israel Museum meeting, relied especially on this heh.
Each side made its case in reports in the Israel Exploration Journal. Not only did the “forgery” side completely ignore the heh, but there was something else.