New Evidence Emerges Authenticating Lost Gospel Mentioning Jesus Was Married (artnet news)

by Sarah Cascone, Tuesday, August 25, 2015 original article here.

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife.  Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

New scientific tests indicate that the controversial Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, which suggests Jesus might not have been celibate, could be authentic.

The key line from the papyrus scrap reads “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . . she will be able to be my disciple.'” Elsewhere, the Coptic text mentions Mary, possibly in reference to Mary Magadalene, famously recast as Jesus’s wife in Dan Brown’s art historical thriller The Da Vinci Code, which spawned many a conspiracy theory.

When the manuscript came to light thanks to Harvard University professor Karen King in 2012, it was met with a great deal of skepticism. Roughly the size of a business card, the papyrus scrap was widely dismissed—the Vatican was among the detractors—as a modern forgery.

According to the Harvard Theological Review Journal, the papyrus and the ink are about 1,200 years old (it’s believed to be dated to sometime between the sixth and the ninth centuries. (Harvard is also home to the recently-discovered Gospel of the Lots of Mary.)

The main evidence against the discovery is the similarity of the text to a fragment of a rare copy of the Bible’s Gospel of John, written in Lycopolitan, the same obscure Coptic dialect used in the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.

The two manuscripts have several of the exact same phrases and line breaks, and some suspect both are modern forgeries, especially given that Lycopolitan went extinct 1,500 years ago.

“The two Coptic fragments clearly shared the same ink, writing implement and scribal hand. The same artisan had created both essentially at the same time,” argued Christian Askeland, a research associate with the Institute for Septuagint and Biblical Research in Wuppertal, Germany, in a recent paper in the New Testament Studies journal.

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife compared to an online version of an ancient Coptic copy of the Gospel of John.  Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife compared to an online version of an ancient Coptic copy of the Gospel of John. Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

John Yardley, a senior research scientist at Columbia University, disputes these findings. “In our first exploration, we did state that the inks used for the two documents of interest were quite different. The more recent results do confirm this observation strongly,” he told Live Science.

For King’s part, she argues that both Coptic texts could be ancient copies of earlier texts, and that the similarity of the line breaks is coincidental.

She also discounts any resemblance to the early Christian text the Gospel of Thomas, including the inclusion of a typo found in an online version of the text. King contends that ancient scribes were not infallible, and made grammatical errors.

The papyrus’s current owner has not shared his identity with the world, but the provenance he has provided remains in dispute.

The owner claims to have purchased the fragment in 1999 from a German man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, who acquired it in Potsdam, in East Germany, in 1963. Laukamp died in 2002. Those who knew him say he never collected antiquities, and, as a West Berlin resident, he could never have visited Potsdam at the time he is said to have purchased the gospel.

King claims to have photocopies of signed papers confirming the owner’s account. If compared to confirmed instances of Laukamp’s signature on publicly available notarized documents, these contracts could verify the current owner’s account.

Hans-Ulrich Laukamp's signature for September 1997.

Hans-Ulrich Laukamp’s signature for September 1997.

For now, the Gospel’s authenticity is still very much up for debate.

“At this point, when discussions and research are ongoing, I think it is important, however difficult, to stay open regarding the possible dates of the inscription and other matters of interpretation,” said King in a recent letter to the Biblical Archaeological Review.

See These Amazing Images of Easter Island Statues With Bodies–Who Knew? (artnet news)

by Sarah Cascone, Friday, May 1, 2015 original article here.

A fully excavated Easter Island head.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

A fully excavated Easter Island head. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Easter Island’s monumental stone heads are well-known, but there’s more to the story: all along, the sculptures have secretly had torsos, buried beneath the earth.

Excavations on the Easter Island head.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Excavations on the Easter Island head. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Archaeologists have documented 887 of the massive statues, known as moai, but there may up as many as 1,000 of them on the island (see Rather Weighty Easter Island Sculpture Travels 200 Miles To Be Star of Manchester Museum Exhibition). Most were carved from volcanic rock between 1100 and 1680.

While the island is a popular tourist destination, the statue’s sheer size certainly discourages the type of theft experienced at other historic archaeological sites (see US Tourists Steal Pompeii Artifact and Egypt’s “Indiana Jones” Zahi Hawass Questioned Over Pyramid Theft).

More Easter Island excavations.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

More Easter Island excavations. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

The Easter Island bodies were news to us, but apparently this is not a recent discovery. Photographs of the statues undergoing excavation began circulating in May of 2012, and Live Science asserts that archaeologists have actually known about the bodies since archaeological research on the island, located 2,000 miles west of Chile, began over a century ago, in 1914.

An excavated statue on Easter Island.  Photo: Greg Downing.

An excavated statue on Easter Island. Photo: Greg Downing.

“There are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues,” Easter Island Statue Project director Jo Anne Van Tilburg told Live Science. “This suggested to people who had not seen photos of (other unearthed statues) that they are heads only.”

It was photographs of Tilburg’s 2010 excavations of two of the statues’ buried bodies that sparked online interest in the missing halves of these ancient sculptures. The images attracted so much interest when people started emailing them in 2012 that the Easter Island Statue Project’s website crashed under a rush of three million hits.

More Easter Island excavations.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

More Easter Island excavations. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Tilburg’s work, which began in 2000, marked the first time the moai were excavated by a scientific team that thoroughly documented the process. “It’s always important to get beneath the surface of things,” she told Fox News.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Art World Scientists Discover the Legendary Secret Behind the ‘Mona Lisa’ Smile (artnet news)

by Amah-Rose Abrams, Friday, August 21, 2015 original article here.

Leonardo da Vinci, "Mona Lisa" (1503–1517)

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa (1503–1517) Photo: Wikipedia Commons

One of the greatest mysteries in art history has been solved: British academics say they have discovered the secret behind the smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa by studying a recently discovered portrait by the Renaissance master, La Bella Principessa.

By comparing the techniques employed in the two works, scientists from Sheffield Hallam University claim to have proved that the enigmatic “now you see it, now you don”t” effect of the Mona Lisa smile was intentional on the part of da Vinci. They have named it “the uncatchable smile.”

The epiphany came by studying La Bella Principessa. The earlier painting, which portraits the young illegitimate daughter of a Milanese Duke, has the same effect as the Mona Lisa: from some angles the young lady seems to be smiling, from others, the smile appears to have vanished.

Leonardo da Vinci , <i>La Bella Principessa</i> (c. 1496)<br /> Photo: via <em>Art Daily</em>

Leonardo da Vinci , La Bella Principessa (c. 1496) Photo: via Art Daily

La Bella Principessa‘s mouth appears to change slant depending on both the viewing distance and the level of blur applied to a digital version of the portrait,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal, Vision Research, according to the Telegraph. “Through a series of psychophysics experiments, it was found that a perceived change in the slant of La Bella Principessa‘s mouth influences her expression of contentment.”

Volunteers were asked to look at the painting from a variety of angles and distances. The conclusion was that, when focusing on the eyes of the painting, viewing from a distance, or when digitally blurred, a delicate smile could be seen. When viewed close up, or focusing on the mouth, however, the smile disappears.

The works were observed from different angles <br> Photo: via the <i> Telegraph</i>

The works were observed from different angles Photo: via the Telegraph

The effect, evident in both paintings, was achieved by using the sfumato (which means “soft” or “pale” in Italian) technique, which uses color and shading to create an optical illusion around the mouths.

“The results from the experiments support the hypothesis that there is a gaze-dependent illusory effect in the portrait of La Bella Principessa,” said Alessandro Soranzo of Sheffield Hallam’s psychology department. “Although it remains a question whether the illusion was intended, given Leonardo’s mastery of the technique and its subsequent use in the Mona Lisa, it is quite conceivable that the ambiguity of the effect was intentional, based on explicit artistic skill and used in line with Leonardo’s maxim that portraits should reflect some ‘inner turmoil of the mind.'”

Until recently, La Bella Principessa was thought to be the work of a 19th century German painter, until it was discovered to be the portrait of 13-year-old Bianca Sforza, the illegitimate daughter of Ludovico Sforza, commissioned on the eve of her marriage in 1496.