Editorial: Free Hadrian
BAR asks readers to protest withholding of Hadrian photo by Israeli Antiquities Department
In 1975, an American tourist uncovered a statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian on an Israeli kibbutz. We had intended to picture the head of this rare bronze statue on the cover of this issue of BAR. It seemed a perfect tie-in with the story “How It Came About: From Saturday to Sunday,” in which Hadrian figures so prominently.
We were stunned when the Israeli Antiquities Department refused either to release a color picture of the statue or to allow our photographer to take a color picture of the statue. When our Jerusalem correspondent reported the withholding of the photo to BAR’s Washington office, the BAR Editor telephoned the director of the Antiquities Department, Avi Eitan, in disbelief.
Eitan confirmed that BAR would not be permitted to print a color picture of the Hadrian statue—despite the fact that the statue had been found years ago (by a tourist and not by Department of Antiquities archaeologists), despite the fact that black and white pictures of the statue had been released in 1976, and despite the fact that information about the statue and its discovery had already been widely published, including a story in BAR (see “Rare Bronze Statue of Hadrian Found by Tourist,” BAR 02:04). (We obtained another Hadrian statue from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for our cover.)
Eitan refused to permit publication of a color photo of Hadrian’s head because he is saving it to publish in an obscure, highly technical Hebrew publication Atiqot, which publication may not occur for years.
We can only hope that someone in higher authority in the Israel government will find this decision as outrageous and contrary to the best interests of Israel’s archaeological enterprise as we do.
In recent issues, BAR has protested Professor Nachman Avigad’s withholding photos of the results of his excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (see “Without Avigad’s Pictures—Is the Jerusalem Cardo Roman After All?” BAR 03:04, and “Is Withholding Pictures of Archaeological Finds Justifiable?” BAR 04:02). Some people, including Professor Avigad, have questioned why we chose a single archaeologist as the target of our attack when the practice of withholding photos and information is so common. The reason is that Professor Avigad’s finds are particularly spectacular and therefore highlight the problem.
But this recent action of the Israeli Antiquities Department emphasizes how widespread and insidious the practice is.
This recent action of the Israeli Antiquities Department also underscores the fact that BAR’s mission to provide the lay reader with prompt reports of recent finds related to the Bible will be seriously hampered if this attitude of the Israeli Antiquities Department and individual archaeologists continues.
As early as our fourth issue, we had to publicly complain about the refusal of the Israeli Antiquities Department to release a picture of a recently-found kernos (a clay pottery ring surmounted with fruits and animals and used for ritual purposes), despite the fact that it had released a picture of the find to the Jerusalem Post (see “Two Cases of Discrimination,” BAR 01:04). The explanation at the time was that the Jerusalem Post was a newspaper, and we were a magazine. Eventually, with our public protest, the Antiquities Department released the picture.
At the ancient synagogue of Hammath Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the Department of Antiquities has posted signs forbidding the taking of pictures. Although the site was excavated over 15 years ago, the excavator has not yet gotten around to publishing his report.
We cite these examples to demonstrate that we are not talking about a petty matter. It is a widespread disease and is a serious obstacle to a magazine like ours that is trying to report promptly, thoroughly and engagingly on what is happening in the world of Biblical archaeology.
BAR, with approximately 35,000 enthusiastic 042subscribers, is now the largest archaeology magazine in the world. It deserves to be treated as a partner in the archaeological enterprise, not as a competitor to be kept from reporting the news.
We do not wish to harm the archaeological enterprise. We want to support and encourage it. We have repeatedly argued to the Israel Antiquities Department and to archaeologists who have withheld material from us that publication in BAR heightens rather than dampens interest in the scientific publications which follow.
We have also argued that archaeological finds are not the private treasure of the Israel Antiquities Department or the particular archaeologist who excavates them. They belong to us all, and we all have a right to know and to see what the archaeologists have uncovered.
BAR readers have generously contributed to an Archaeological Preservation Fund which is being used to preserve and restore sites of Biblical archaeological interest. We have already spent thousands of dollars in this effort. (A report on our first project, the restoration and preservation of Herodian Jericho, will appear in our next issue.)
Now it is time to make our voices heard to protest the withholding of pictures and information to which we are entitled. Write to:
Minister of Education and Culture
c/o Embassy of Israel
1621-22nd Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tell Mr. Hammer that you are outraged at the withholding of the color picture of Hadrian. Tell him that your interest, as a layperson, is important and should not be spurned even though you are not a scholar. Tell him you object to the Israel Antiquities Department treating archaeological finds as their private treasure to release or withhold as they see fit. Tell him that this kind of behavior harms the image of Israel’s archaeological enterprise.
And if you don’t have time to write all this, just drop him a postcard saying:
In 975, an American tourist uncovered a statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian on an Israeli kibbutz. We had intended to picture the head of this rare bronze statue on the cover of this issue of BAR. It seemed a perfect tie-in with the story “How It Came About: From Saturday to Sunday,” in which Hadrian figures so prominently.