Kapuskasing-born James Cameron has already made the world's highest-grossing motion picture (Titanic, 1997, $1.2 billion.)
Has he now topped that by making the biggest archaeological find in history?
At 11 a.m. tomorrow in New York City, the Discovery Channel will hold a news conference at which Cameron and a group of scientists will reveal details of the discovery of a 2,000-year-old tomb in an apartment complex in Talpiot, Jerusalem.
They've uncovered evidence on which a "conservative" statistical analysis has placed 600-to-one odds in favour of being the family tomb of Jesus.
And there will be an added Northern Ontario wrinkle to tomorrow's story: the DNA analysis on remains found in the tomb was done at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
The following statement was issued today by the Discovery Channel:
************************* Discovery Channel's The Lost Tomb of Jesus reveals new scientific evidence supporting possible find of Jesus' family tomb Award-winning filmmakers James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici chronicle investigation of 2,000-year-old artifacts related to Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene
Silver Spring, Md., February 25 - Scientific analysis of limestone ossuaries (bone boxes) and physical evidence found in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Talpiot, Jerusalem, provide credible new information that the tomb once may have held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.
A new Discovery Channel documentary The Lost Tomb of Jeses, from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici, exclusively reveals what might be the greatest archaeological find in history.
The film presents the latest evidence from world-renowned experts in Aramaic script, ancient DNA analysis, forensics, archaeology and statistics.
Among the major discoveries chronicled in the program is new evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene, also known as "Mariamene e Mara," may have had a son named Judah.
A press conference will be held by Discovery Channel on Monday, February 26, at 11 a.m. in New York City.
At that time, what are thought to be the ossuaries of Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene will be unveiled.
In attendance will be Jane Root, president and general manager of Discovery Channel; James Cameron; Professor James Tabor, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Dr. Shimon Gibson, archaeologist with the Albright Institute; Professor Andrey Feuerverger, professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto; and Dr. Charles Pellegrino, co-author of The Jesus Family Tomb.
The Lost Tomb of Jesus, which premieres on Sunday, March 4, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery Channel, follows an investigative journey into the identities of and relationships among 10 ossuaries, which originally were discovered more than 25 years ago but never were connected conclusively.
In conjunction with the film, HarperSanFrancisco is publishing a companion book, The Jesus Family Tomb, co-authored by Jacobovici and Dr. Charles Pellegrino, with a foreword by Cameron.
The Talpiot tomb originally held 10 ossuaries, nine of which are still within the Israel Antiquity Authority's domain.
Six of the limestone bone boxes that served as First Century Jerusalem-area coffins include inscriptions of names found in the New Testament - "Jesus son of Joseph," "Maria," "Mariamene e Mara," "Matthew," "Yose" and "Judah son of Jesus." "This has been a three-year journey that seems more incredible than fiction," says Jacobovici. "The idea of possibly finding the tomb of Jesus and several members of his family, with compelling scientific evidence, is beyond anything I could have imagined."
"It doesn't get bigger than this," says Cameron. "We've done our homework; we've made the case; and now it's time for the debate to begin." "Discovery Channel brings our worldwide audience the latest information about life's enduring mysteries through the network's extensive funding of scientific research and analysis," says Root. "It is an honor to be part of what might be the most important discovery in history. This program provides viewers with the latest forensic evidence, information about the Talpiot tomb, and important historical context. We invite viewers to review the facts, engage in discussion, and come to their own conclusions." Could this have been a holy tomb for Jesus and his family?
Evidence shows the following:
- Leading epigraphers agree about the text inscriptions
- Expert archaeologists confirm the nature of the finds and their historical relevance
- The tomb contains a mysterious symbol over the entrance found on other Christian artifacts; and
- A statistical study concludes that the odds - on the most conservative basis - are 600 to 1 in favor of this being the Jesus family tomb.
Dr. Carney Matheson from the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, conducted a mitochondrial DNA analysis on microscopic bits of matter recovered from the "Jesus son of Joseph" and "Mariamene e Mara" ossuaries.
The test genetically concludes that the two were not maternally related.
Given that this was a family burial place reserved for spouses and blood relations, it is possible to deduce that they were a couple.
As shown in the film, Jacobovici and his team use robotic cameras to locate the tomb, which was believed to have been destroyed but is actually in the center of a modern-day apartment complex.
After briefly entering the tomb, the filmmakers follow local regulations and seal the tomb with the hopes that they will return to conduct further analysis.
A special web site will provide in-depth information to allow viewers to make their own decisions about these extraordinary findings.
A virtual evidence kit, with the latest scientific analysis, can be examined first hand.
The original map of the tomb drawn by Dr. Shimon Gibson in 1980, exclusive Web interviews, and detailed images of the inscriptions will be online for the world to explore.
The site will feature a forum for debate and conversation with several experts sharing their thoughts and answering questions in message boards and blogs.
The Lost Tomb of Jesus is produced for Discovery Channel worldwide by Associated Producers, in cooperation with VisionTV Canada and Channel 4, UK.
James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici are executive producers for Associated Producers.
Phil Fairclough is executive producer for Discovery Channel. The Lost Tomb of Jesus airs in the U.S. on the following networks:
- World Premiere on Discovery Channel: Sunday, March 4, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
- Discovery Times Channel: Monday, March 5. at 8 p.m. ET/PT
- Discovery en Espanol: Sunday, March 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
- Discovery HD Theater: Wednesday, March 28, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. *************************