Recently, I have been obsessed with a new television series “Dig.” The show focuses on Peter, an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem who, while investigating the murder of a young female archaeologist, uncovers a conspiracy 2000 years in the making. Sure, on the surface the title references archaeology (no pun intended) but the directors/writers—in my opinion—are brilliant. It is no Indiana Jones movie—so no sweaty Harrison Ford equipped with a whip and man-satchel—but the series forces its audience to research and learn the difference between fact and fiction. Most people don’t have the downtime to do such research, so I’ve done it for you.
I am no expert on the archaeology of Jerusalem, however, one cannot help but to ask themselves questions like “is that really true?” “does that artifact really exist?” and “isn’t that the guy who played Malfoy’s dad in the Harry Pottery movies?”
Let’s begin with the artifacts.
The Breastplate: The High Priest of the Israelites was described as wearing a be-jeweled breastplate in the Book of Exodus:
“You shall make the breastplate of judgement. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be doubled into a square…And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald… the second row shall be turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and amethyst…”(Exodus 28:15-19).
The 12 jewels were meant to represent the 12 tribes of Israel and inscribed on to each stone was the name of the tribe. As far as I know, at least my research has led me to think, the breastplate exists only in the form of replicas.
The Copper Scroll: The Copper Scroll, also featured in the TV show, was found along with a cache or parchment or papyrus scrolls, commonly known as, the Dead Sea Scrolls (found near Khirbet Qumran). As the name suggests, the Copper Scroll was not made of papyrus or parchment (SPOILER) but was also quite different in content.
The Copper Scroll was an inventory of the locations of a considerable amount of gold and silver. The document refers to a duplicate–however that document has not been found. The treasure that this sources refers to has often been interpreted to be the treasure of the Jewish Temple.
So why would anyone make a document that points to the exact locations of a treasure estimated to be worth $1,000,000 (that was the value of the treasure in 1960)? Scholars interpret the document as a list of items that would remain hidden from the Romans. Others state that this was the accumulated treasure that was hidden by Bar Kochba during the Second Revolt (VanderKam 2010: 92-93). The date of the artifact is a hot topic that is still debated today–to do the topic justice would require much historical background that goes beyond the focus and purpose of this post. SO we can just say that the date of the artifact can be placed within a late first or early second century context (Wolters 2000a:146; Wise 2005:211-223; Puech 2000b: 893).
The Roman Emperor Hadrian (117 AD-138 AD) financed and the construction of the city Aelia Capitolina, a Roman Colony in Jerusalem. A temple dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus was alsoerected, and you guessed it, on the site of the Temple Mount.
SO, long story short, the show incorporates many historical terms, sites, and cultural material. But like any drama series, much is exaggerated. Kuddos to the writers who encourage the shows audience to pause their Tweeting, Pinning, or Instagraming to research and dig a bit deeper.