Open Access
March 2008 Statistical analysis of an archeological find
Andrey Feuerverger
Ann. Appl. Stat. 2(1): 3-54 (March 2008). DOI: 10.1214/08-AOAS99


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.


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Andrey Feuerverger. "Statistical analysis of an archeological find." Ann. Appl. Stat. 2 (1) 3 - 54, March 2008.


Published: March 2008
First available in Project Euclid: 24 March 2008

zbMATH: 1137.62092
MathSciNet: MR2414666
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/08-AOAS99

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

Rights: Copyright © 2008 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.2 • No. 1 • March 2008
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