The Annals of Applied Statistics

Statistical analysis of an archeological find

Andrey Feuerverger

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Abstract

In 1980, a burial tomb was unearthed in Jerusalem containing ossuaries (limestone coffins) bearing such inscriptions as Yeshua son of Yehosef, Marya, Yoseh—names which match those of New Testament (NT) figures, but were otherwise in common use. This paper discusses certain statistical aspects of authenticating or repudiating links between this find and the NT family. The available data are laid out, and we examine the distribution of names (onomasticon) of the era. An approach is proposed for measuring the “surprisingness” of the observed outcome relative to a “hypothesis” that the tombsite belonged to the NT family. On the basis of a particular—but far from uncontested—set of assumptions, our measure of “surprisingness” is significantly high.

Article information

Source
Ann. Appl. Stat. Volume 2, Number 1 (2008), 3-54.

Dates
First available in Project Euclid: 24 March 2008

Permanent link to this document
http://projecteuclid.org/euclid.aoas/1206367805

Digital Object Identifier
doi:10.1214/08-AOAS99

Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)
MR2414666

Zentralblatt MATH identifier
1137.62092

Keywords
Jesus of Nazareth distribution of names onomasticon data statistical inference conditioning coincidence “relevance” “rareness” and “surprisingness” tail areas historical assumptions a priori hypotheses and post hoc inference

Citation

Feuerverger, Andrey. Statistical analysis of an archeological find. Ann. Appl. Stat. 2 (2008), no. 1, 3--54. doi:10.1214/08-AOAS99. http://projecteuclid.org/euclid.aoas/1206367805.


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