Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unholy Business by Nina Burleigh

In Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed & Forgery in the Holy Land, Nina Burleigh tells us how the James Ossuary goes from being the artefact that proves the existence of Jesus Christ to being the "the fraud of the century". She details the items, the players on both sides of the forgery, the procedures used for examination and more. She brings to light the corruption and forgery that infiltrates all levels of the antiquities market. From the high-end museum display pieces to the low-end items that are on sale for tourists, only a few people in the world know what's real. Even then, they don't always agree.

I loved this book. Burleigh's writing and storytelling abilities make this work accessible, fascinating and easy to read. A number of the players' names start with "G" and I got them mixed up a few times, but other than the story is quite easy to follow. I particularly liked her examination of what the ossuary, if it's authentic, means to the various religions. I was raised in the Catholic church and found this section interesting and enlightening. I also loved her descriptions of the various cities in the Middle East. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and others; I could really picture the cities as she described them. Also, Burleigh's detailed descriptions of the procedures used to prove authenticity were easy to understand and intriguing.

I appreciate the tremendous amount of research and travel to gather the information. I especially loved that she didn't just quote other people's work. She travelled extensively and walked and talked with the collectors, archaeologists and other antiquity specialists to put together a comprehensive piece of work.

Highly recommended for those interested in religion, archaeology or museums. It might make you look at museums and their displays in a whole new way.

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