Robert Cargill Finds “Virgin Rock” Where Jim Barfield Claims Copper Scroll Treasure Should Be

A few months ago I wrote several blog entries on Jim Barfield, a retired fire investigator from Oklahoma who was claiming to have discerned the true meaning of the Copper Scroll, an ancient Hebrew text (Dead Sea Scroll 3Q15) that supposedly records the burial place of some lost treasure, but which has proven difficult to interpret. Barfield, who has no formal qualifications in the field, declined to reveal either his methods or his conclusions, but he assured the world that experts he had spoken to had all been both convinced and shocked at the simplicity of his explanation. Barfield also made extravagent claims about what the treasure actually was, declaring that the Ark of the Covenant and other items from the First Jerusalem Temple (destroyed centuries before the Copper Scroll was inscribed) would be found.

Credulous hacks lapped the story up, with puff pieces on local media and in the Jerusalem Post. Christian Zionist groups such as the Jerusalem Connection meanwhile declared that this was a further sign of God’s favour towards modern Israel. Barfield also reportedly gave a presentation to a group of Oklahoma state senators, who agreed to support his efforts with funding and letters to Israeli officials. Barfield packed his spade and video camera and headed off to Israel to join a dig, and gave a number of reports as to how the investigation was going on his website. The sequel was inevitable: Barfield returned empty-handed but unfazed, explaining that all that was needed was to dig a bit deeper (the Jerusalem Connection concurred with this).

One sceptical voice was that of archaeolgist Robert Cargill, who has now visited the site at Qumran where Barfield was involved with digging and given his report. As he explains in his distinctive lower-case blog:

i met up with yuval peleg, the district archaeologist in charge judea and samaria, who personally dug at qumran. yuval told me that jimmy barfield never even so much as touched a trowel. his group never dug a single spade of dirt. they were merely observers – that’s it. peleg said as soon as he saw jim barfield claiming to ‘lead an excavation’ for the copper scroll at qumran, he told them to stop making the claim…

As for Barfield’s claim that archaeologists should have dug deeper:

yuval showed me to a probe that he dug at a place where mr. barfield insisted there was buried treasure. peleg needed to dig a probe, so he used it as an opportunity to show barfield he was mistaken. the result was exactly as mr. peleg expected: there was nothing. and to prove it, mr. peleg showed me the probe he dug…there is nothing but virgin rock. mr. peleg probed along the wall for the presence of a lower water channel near the locus 138 miqveh. barfield assured peleg that he would find treasure there…there was nothing beneath the surface but untouched rock.