Gordon Franz: Tabloid Archaeology

Roundup: Talking About History

One day a friend sent me an invitation to a church meeting and asked me if I knew anything about the subject. On the flyer was a picture of a human skeleton with crooked teeth and a rock embedded in his forehead. The title above the skull read: “They’ve Found Goliath’s Skull!” Needless to say, that caught my attention.

I read with great interest what was written on the flyer. It reported:
Diggers in Israel believe they’ve made a giant discovery. For they’re convinced they’ve come across Goliath’s skull! And what’s more, they say, the stone from David’s slingshot is still embedded in the forehead. Archaeologist Dr. Richard Martin says: "We found the skull in the Valley of Elah, in the foothills of the Judean Mountains, where David’s battle with Goliath took place. The skull is huge and clearly belongs to a man of enormous stature." Tests show that the skull is between 2,900 and 3,000 years old – about the right time for the biblical battle. Dr. Martin says: "This is the archaeological find of the year."
Wrong, doc. If you’re correct, the skull could be the archaeological find of the century! Make no bones about it! What was the source for these claims? At the bottom of the flyer it cited “Jewish Telegraph/UK/11 June 93.” That sounded like a respectable publication.

I wrote to one of my students in the UK and asked him if he could chase down a copy of the Jewish Telegraph for me (this was before the age of everything being on the Internet). He was successful, and it said basically the same thing that was on the church flyer. I did some more “digging around,” and discovered the original source was an article by David Hudson in the May 25, 1993 edition of an American publication called Weekly World News. On one issue of the newspaper it boasted that they were “The World’s Only Reliable Newspaper.” In case you are unaware, the Weekly World News used to be a supermarket tabloid like the The National Enquirer and The Sun, and was a very unreliable source of information. This is the publication that reported Elvis sightings and had titles such as “Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby” and “Garden of Eden Found.” The latter article claimed the Garden was in Colorado and they discovered the original apple that Eve ate!...

comments powered by Disqus