Queries & Comments
Enlivening the Classroom
We would like to thank you for all the help BAR has provided us this year. We are members of Mrs. Donna Gilboa’s World Civilization honors seminar at Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton, California. We were assigned a major project each semester, and your magazine was invaluable.
In the fall semester, the members of the seminar explored the legal and illegal antiquities trade. We found your articles in the January/February and July/August 1985 issues and the July/August 1989 issue to be the best examination of opposing views on the sale of antiquities. Part of our group also evaluated measures used to stop the illegal trade. Imagine our shock, then, when we read in the July/August 1990 issue of the theft of the portrait mosaic from Beth-Shean, literally plundered overnight!a
In the second semester, we were given the task of identifying a collection of ancient oil lamps. Once again, BAR was the key to our success. We began with Varda Sussman’s article, “Lighting the Way Through History,” BAR 11:02. We then browsed through a decade of back issues for references and photographs of oil lamps; the photos of erotic lamps from Ashkelon (“Eroticism and Infanticide at Ashkelon,” BAR 17:04) and Christian lamps found near the Jaffa Gate (“‘God Knows Their Names,’” BAR 22:02) were especially helpful. We even found a lamp photographed in an ad on the inside of the back cover of that issue that provided a clue.
Finally, in your current issue we read “Magnificent Obsession: The Private World of an Antiquities Collector,” BAR 22:03. We certainly do not feel qualified to address the conflicting views contained in this article, but we can say that without access to a private collection of oil lamps, legally purchased over the years in Israel by our teacher, we would never have had the unique opportunity to actually touch and know artifacts from the ancient world.
Stevie Chew, Michael Lee, Ahin Thomas, Ryan Connolly, Elaine Maneatis, Lency Triplett, Christopher Gould, Jennie O’Neal, Francesco Zappacosta, Kyleanne Hunter, Jacob Robson
Sacred Heart Preparatory
The Indians of the southwest-central United States valued the hot springs in Arkansas for their therapeutic powers, and the area was a neutral ground where individuals of otherwise hostile tribes could go peaceably, for healing.
I have always viewed BAR as such a place, where scholars of various persuasions and cultures could meet in common understanding. From time to time, your pages have denounced those who have violated this ground rule. Such violations have occasionally taken the form of anti-Semitism, hardly a recent prejudice.
The advertisement in the May/June issue, from Outreach Judaism, seems to me to violate this principle. This organization certainly has every right to attempt to persuade fellow Jews that Christianity is an error. But to accept this advertisement in a magazine ostensibly opposed to religious prejudice would appear to be inconsistent with your editorial policies and goes beyond the limits of your usual advertising, which in general eschews overt proselytism.
We do not accept ads seeking to convert people of one religion to another religion. The ad you refer to, however, is addressed to Jews to enable them, as the ad says, to counter Christian groups who target Jews for conversion. The tapes are entitled “Jewish Responses to Christian Missionaries.”
The first letter in Queries & Comments, BAR 22:03 says “B.C.E. Loses Christian Readers (Or Does It?)” I know of two it has cost you, the one who wrote that letter and me.
The devil has put this B.C.E. in your heart, and you are overcome by it. 010Anything to leave our Savior out, huh?
I perceive you haven’t had a personal experience with our Lord. Please seek Him. Salvation will give you understanding.
The Days of the Week, Too
Although I applaud your deference to your authors with respect to the usage of the offensive anti-Christian terms “B.C.E.” and “C.E.,” I think Roger Freeman (Queries & Comments, BAR 22:03) is basically correct.
The hypocrisy of those who promote these terms as scholarly or religiously neutral is exposed by their continued use of calendar names honoring celestial and pagan deities: the sun (Sunday), the moon (Monday), Woden (Wednesday), Thor (Thursday), Saturn (Saturday), Janus (January) and others. If indeed some “deeply committed Christian authors” join in this rejection of the world’s dominant religion, they do so to their own shame.
You Can Decide What It Means
Instead of canceling his subscription, why doesn’t Pastor Freeman just think of B.C.E. as “Before Christian Era” and C.E. as “Christian Era.” He could still have the benefit of the wealth of information provided by BAR without being offended!
David S. Kaltenbach
Even Jews and Moslems Can Buy This
As a scholarly editor, I’ve given some thought to the B.C. versus B.C.E. controversy. As a non-Christian, I naturally prefer B.C.E. and C.E. The abbreviation C.E. has an editorial advantage as well: A.D., standing for “Anno Domini,” properly precedes the year number, though many authors mistakenly put it after, as with B.C., creating a pitfall for the unwary editor.
However, again speaking as a non-Christian, I would prefer to say that B.C.E. and C.E. stand for “Before the Christian Era” and “Christian Era,” rather than “Common Era.” I am bothered by the implication in “Common Era” that everyone who uses the conventional year-numbering system (or “era”) has Christianity in common. The conventional era is not “common” to Jews or Moslems, for example, although Jewish and Moslem scholars writing in English may choose to employ it. On the other hand, I have no problem with acknowledging that the year-numbering system we use is a Christian one: “A.D.” was invented by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in the year 525, as he reckoned it, basing his calculations on materials from Eusebius and other church historians, somewhat in the same manner that Bishop Ussher dated the creation to 4004 B.C.E.
Ben Lomond, California
Wants to Hear from Believers
You have a very beautiful and informative magazine. In Queries & Comments, BAR 22:03, you state you do not care if your individual authors are Christian or not. Please try to understand that I am not here to judge others, but I must make a decision about this, because I am a Christian. If I am going to read about our Holy Father and His only Son, I would like to read from authors who also believe in Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Nothing bad said about your magazine, of course, but to me, my faith, belief, trust and obedience belong to God. I am sorry, but I will not be renewing my subscription.
Thank you very much. I will pray about this and for all of us.
North Cape May, New Jersey
A Spade a Spade
I can sympathize with the desire of non-Christian writers to avoid the appearance of underwriting Christ through the use of A.D. and B.C. Furthermore, I suppose I should be glad that they are still willing to use the Christ-based system of dating, which is the easiest for me to relate to without conversion calculations. And I can understand the wish of some to have what amounts to a theologically neutral dating system.
However, I can also understand why this still irks many Christians, myself included. It is not a matter of intolerance; for example, I am certainly not offended to see dates presented according to the Islamic calendar (dating from the Hegira of Mohammed in 622 A.D.) or the Jewish calendar (dating from the year 3761 B.C. as “year 1”). But I would never insult Islam by using their dating system while pointedly expurgating its relationship to Mohammed. The disrespect inherently implicit in C.E. and B.C.E. is that they undeniably refer to Christ anyway, while at the same time blotting him out. They are not really theologically neutral. It’s like saying such-and-such years after the birth of that guy 012we all know but who shall remain nameless because I don’t want to be associated with him. Doesn’t this seems invidious? Rather than avoiding any theological stance, it raises one and then shoots it down.
There is probably no perfect solution to this problem, and BAR is probably wise to let authors use whichever system they prefer. But I still wince every time I see B.C.E., wishing the author had the courage to call a spade a spade—if he is going to use a spade.
Wendell E. Wilson
Opening Up a New World
I was fascinated by “Magnificent Obsession: The Private World of an Antiquities Collector,” BAR 22:03, by Hershel Shanks. I now have a new understanding of the importance of private collections. I don’t have the answer to the problem of private collectors vs. public museums, but I am glad that you and Mr. Moussaieff took this major step toward bridging the gap between them. I will visit the Bible Lands Museum on my upcoming visit to Jerusalem—perhaps that states my position. Thanks for a very exciting glimpse of the present antiquities situation.
Salt Lake City, Utah
BAR’s Hypocrisy at a New Level
I never thought I would write this letter.
Robert Deutsch can be commended for salvaging information from looted artifacts (see “In Private Hands,” BAR 22:02). But your recent article “Magnificent Obsession,” BAR 22:03, in praise of looting, vandalism and theft, cannot. You raise simple irresponsibility to the level of hypocrisy by including in the same issue an editorial (“Returning Cultural Artifacts—Turkey Is All Take, No Give,”
Please cancel my subscription and refund the balance of my account. I have been with you since the little black-and-white issues, but no longer.
Prairie Village, Kansas
A Collector Outs Himself
Thank you for writing the most objective article on antiquities collecting I have had the pleasure to read in a very long time. I began reading it with some dread, while cowering in a semi-lighted corner surrounded by my own collection. I expected another diatribe on the “sickness” I am afflicted with. Beginning to feel slightly better as I read, I was able to come out into the light and not only finish but enjoy reading your superb article in relative comfort. The lynch mob was not coming after all.
It seems to me that a great number of academic scholars today need to readjust their thinking. Some have never lost sight of the first precept of their science: the pursuit of truth and knowledge no matter where it takes them. This may at times lead them down dark alleys away from the main street. These alleyways may occasionally offer some artifacts of “unprovenanced character,” some of which may provide information leading to truths. To deny or ignore these truths should be a sin in their profession.
I have been an antiquities collector and student of ancient history for many years now. This “sick” passion has led to only a modest collection of unprovenanced artifacts. This modest collection has, however, kindled a spark in many people who, before seeing it, had no interest in ancient history or archaeology. It led them to discover new avenues of knowledge and enriched their lives. One even left a significant endowment, specifically earmarked for further archaeological research, to an institution.
Although the magnificent collection of Mr. Moussaieff is fascinating, it is apparent that he is no less fascinating. If many of our academic scholars exhibited as much passion and dedication as this gentleman has, the public would now be far better informed and much more sympathetic to the subjects of ancient history, cultural heritage, national treasures and archaeology. The world needs more Moussaieffs and [Bible Lands Museum donor Elie] Borowskis to share with us what is out there. The world needs more scholars with courage and self-confidence to share insight into history.
It’s Not Solomon’s Seal
A seal from the collection of Shlomo Moussaieff bears the Hebrew name s
The most obvious discrepancy occurs in the level of orthography—the name on the seal is spelled s
Of equal importance is the fact that the name s
Of course, iconographic study and paleographic analysis of the seal are also important disciplines to look at when dating the seal. And let it be noted that the occurrence of a title or patronym—both of which are absent on this seal—are often important clues in identifying the individual denoted by the name.3 But the spelling of the name as s
Ph.D. in Northwest Semitic, Univ. of Chicago, 1987
And Now for the Paleographic Viewpoint
The article on Shlomo Moussaeiff was very interesting. I agree with those who say the shlm seal can’t be King Solomon’s. The name on the seal is common among the names of several national groups of northwest Semitic peoples. The lamed looks like Hebrew of the late eighth or seventh centuries but could be Aramaic as well; the mem, with its straight leg, is 015NOT, repeat NOT, Hebrew, but, slanting as it does, reminds one of either Aramaic or Phoenician. The shin is not diagnostic. The standing figure looks to me like an Assyrian (but I’m no expert in artistic conventions). In short, it looks like the seal is Aramaic of the eighth century, as your unnamed consultant suggested. Skip the Solomon hype.
Larry G. Herr
Canadian Union College
College Heights, Alberta
See also Professor Herr’s letter written with Warren Trenchard.—Ed.
Other Contenders …
There are other legitimate contenders for the shlm seal that Shlomo Moussaieff states belongs to King Solomon’s time. Equally fitting would be the ninth- and eighth-century B.C.E. kings Shalum, king of Israel, or Shalum, son of Josiah and king of Judea. Both have scriptural names spelled shlm, whereas nowhere is King Solomon spelled without the final heh.
In the absence of the usual formula, “so-and-so, servant of [shlm],” it is also possible that shlm is an abbreviation for Jerusalem (Salem), there having been insufficient space to write the name in full on the seal.
Dr. Neil Rosenstein
Elizabeth, New Jersey
… And Two More
Why the rush to attribute newly found artifacts to Biblical namesakes? Shlomo Moussaieff asks us to believe that the three letters S-L-M prove that the seal is King Solomon’s, when there are least two other possible readings: shalam (paymaster) and shulam (paid).
As noted in the article, the seal, by its design, should be placed in the eighth century B.C.E.
Los Angeles, California
Do Academics Hoard?
As always, I found the last issue of BAR a great read. I am really impressed with the diversity of articles and interests expressed in every issue.
The article “Magnificent Obsession,” BAR 22:03, regarding the collection of Shlomo Moussaieff, was one of the best articles I have read in many magazines about history and archaeology. What I especially appreciated was the exposé-like attitude describing the attitude of the academic community regarding collectors and the antiquities trade.
I am struck by the irony of the academic community showing disdain for the collector. Are not many archaeologists also collectors who are unwilling to share? I recall an article in BAR about the lack of publication of “finds” by the academic community (
William R. Fleck
Temple on Ossuary
Fun with Inscriptions
I enjoy trying to decipher the inscriptions you print. I’m sure many of your readers do, too. Since I can read several of the ancient Hebrew scripts, most of the time I am fairly successful. But the inscription on the Yehosah ossuary (in “Behold the Temple,” BAR 22:03) has me puzzled. The letter at the extreme left of the photograph must be heh, but what are the other letters, and what sort of script is this? Is there a book about the various scripts that you could recommend to the general reader?
Gloria F. Grossman
Teaneck, New Jersey
Asher Grossberg responds:
According to the records of the Hebrew University Archaeological Institute, the inscription reads
According to H.H. Spoer (“Some Hebrew and Phoenician Inscriptions,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 28 , p. 355), the name on the ossuary in my article should be read
For more information about inscriptions on ossuaries, see Levy Y. Rahmani, A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel(Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994). The catalogue includes pictures and details of 900 ossuaries.
Rahmani writes: “More inscriptions were executed with whatever sharp tool was available, perhaps by relatives of the deceased. In some cases the tool was a nail discarded on the spot. The inscriptions tend to be carelessly executed, clumsily spaced, and, often, contain spelling mistakes.”
Down to the Bone
Regarding the wonderful article “Behold the Temple,” BAR 22:03, by Asher Grossberg: Why are the ossuaries so small? Did they break the skeletons to place them into the ossuaries?
New Haven, Connecticut
Asher Grossberg responds:
The skeleton was not broken. Quoting again from Levy Y. Rahmani’s Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel, “The length of most ossuary chests was determined by the length of the link bones of the corpse, while the width and height of the ossuary were governed by the dimensions of the pelvis and skull and by the total number of bones to be placed in the chest. These dimensions principally depended on the age of the deceased. The bones were not placed in the ossuary until about a year after death when the flesh had desiccated and the bones were disarticulated. Archaeologists refer to interment in an ossuary as secondary burial.
Echoes of Luke
As a regular BAR reader for many years, I have really learned a great deal. This learning experience has been especially enhanced by living in Israel for most of the past thirteen years.
The similarity of the names mentioned in Asher Grossberg’s excellent article “Behold the Temple,” BAR 22:03, with those noted in the first two chapters of Luke are striking. 073Here we encounter a priest, Zachariah, whose wife’s name was also Elisheva (Luke 1:5); their son’s name was Yohanan (Luke 1:63), and Elisheva’s relative was named Miriam (Luke 1:36). Members of Yohanan’s [or Yehosah’s] family had these same names. Regarding Tarfon’s priestly uncle, Shimon (as cited on p. 50, with the quotation from the Jerusalem Talmud), there is, at the very least, a similarity with the Shimon of Luke 2:25–35. The Jewishness of the New Testament should come as neither a surprise nor an embarrassment.
Jim R. Sibley
From an engineering viewpoint, I am always interested in the craftsmanship of old items and the tools used in their construction.
The first outstanding element of the two ossuaries featured in “Behold the Temple” is the precision of the circles scribed thereon and the excellent six-petal rosettes. The tool used to make these rosettes was obviously an excellent compass with a rigid beam of some type that would hold its radius after inscribing the circle and the six arcs to form the rosette.
Why then, with such an obvious and diligent skill, is the frame around the central design of such poor quality? The interior rectangle is not symmetrical. Further, the frame elements at the right and left ends are not the same in number. The ossuary has six blocks on the left and seven blocks on the right. Interestingly, these end blocks are essentially the same dimensions, so the extra block on the right is not the result of a “plan ahead” error. It appears that the asymmetry of the rectangle, and the “right angle” corner element, is a deliberate construction to accommodate the extra block.
The second ossuary shows the same arrangement—there is one more block on the right than the left, in this case five and four.
The first ossuary has an equal number of blocks on the top and bottom (17), but the second has 19 on the top and 16 on the bottom.
Are these construction differences there by chance, or do these differences have some significance?
Asher Grossberg responds:
The second ossuary (the Elisheba ossuary) has one more block on the top, like many other ossuaries with the same kind of frame. In my opinion the reason for this is that many of the ossuaries are trapezoidal—the top is wider than the bottom. So even when it is not exactly a trapezoid, they made the top longer or to look wider than the bottom.
I have no idea why the two ossuaries have one more block on the right than on the left.
Those Non-Assimilating Philistines
In his response to a letter from Gordon M. Kull regarding Philistine origins, Frank M. Cross (Queries & Comments, BAR 22:03) states that the “Philistines assimilated to the local Canaanite-Phoenician culture with extraordinary speed.” Although this view was the long-time consensus, current research has significantly modified our picture of Philistine culture history. In terms of material culture, the Philistines maintained at least some elements of their distinctive Mycenaean culture for nearly two centuries. Excavations at Ekron, Ashdod and Ashkelon have shown that the Philistines’ culture remained distinct from that of their neighbors even during the last stages of their history.4 As they began to interact with their inland neighbors more and more frequently, the Philistines adapted to their new surroundings by dropping almost all Aegean elements of their culture in favor of styles and forms that were current in Israel and Phoenicia, including the language. However, the Philistines did not simply ape “Canaanite-Phoenician” or Israelite culture; they reinterpreted it to suit their own needs.
This teaches us an important lesson about the way “ethnic groups” worked in the past: They were not all doomed to assimilation or absorption into a larger culture. Instead, they underwent a process of acculturation in which they adopted many aspects of neighboring cultures without losing their own coherence and identity. This is what happened to the Philistines. We, as archaeologists, have a tendency to think that when a group stops producing its “classical” material culture, it has lost its vitality. This is not necessarily the case. Six hundred years of interacting with Israelites, Canaanites and Phoenicians robbed the Philistines of their Mycenaean heritage, but not of their distinct culture. Centuries of culture change ensured that it was not the same culture that they arrived with, but it was still uniquely Philistine.
Bryan Jack Stone
Although I was delighted with the inclusion of my article on the Black Sea Project (“In Search of the Jewish Diaspora,” BAR 22:02), I was distressed that the significance of the partnership with our colleagues in the Chersonesus Museum Preserve and the Ukrainian Academy of Science was not as prominent as it should have been. The joint venture in the Black Sea region is exactly that—a joint venture—because of the collaborative efforts of Ukrainian and American scholars working under the auspices of the Ukrainian Academy of Science and Chersonesus Museum Preserve.
Dr. Miron I. Zolotarev, Ukrainian director of the Black Sea Project and the chief archaeologist, and Dimitry Korobkov, the pottery expert, at the Cheronesus Museum Preserve, have guided our scientific work on the site. We regret the omission of their names and hope that your readers will be made aware that the Ukrainian partners are a major reason the project has worked as well as it has.
Robert S. MacLennan
Executive Director, Black Sea Project Excavations
Princeton, New Jersey
Ancient Palestinians in Canada? How Random Finds Mislead
In the transition between the late Roman period and the beginning of the Byzantine period, about the beginning of the fourth century A.D., a Palestinian boarded a ship that landed sometime thereafter on the eastern coast of what is now Canada. He then traveled 4,000 miles inland, as far as Alberta, where he apparently settled.
We have recently found what some crackpot archaeologists might suggest is evidence for this unprecedented pre-Viking voyage. It was discovered by one of the authors (Trenchard) along the edge of a dumping pit. It consists of an oil lamp that was lying there on the surface.
The lamp (photo at left) is typical of mold-made lamps from Palestine during the third and especially the fourth centuries A.D.5 The top and bottom were made in separate molds and were joined prior to firing.
The Palestinian origin for this type of lamp is shown by the juxtaposition of the zigzag molded decoration with the large central hole in the top. Moreover, the general form of the lamp, with its moderately high, fin-like handle, is typical of Palestinian forms dating around the fourth century A.D.—the Roman/Byzantine transition, in the terminology of Palestinian archaeology.
Both the exterior and interior of the lamp are heavily covered with calcrete (calcium carbonate deposits precipitated from lime in water solution), almost obliterating the decoration in places. Calcrete deposits are typical of objects found in the terra rossa soils of Palestine and are caused by the alternating wet and dry seasonal climatic pattern. During the rainy season, calcium is picked up by water in solution and precipitated on any artifacts in the wet soil zone as it dries. Such deposits would not normally occur in Alberta east of the mountains. This lamp was found east of the mountains in central Alberta, about 70 miles south of Edmonton. Clearly, this lamp remained buried in calcium-rich soils, such as Palestine, for hundreds of years. Its presence in Alberta is thus recent. So much for our pre-Viking theories!
Obviously, the lamp was brought to Alberta by a tourist who bought it in the Holy Land as a souvenir. The antiquities market may have been in Jerusalem, where such objects can still be purchased for relatively little cost. Dealers often claim such lamps are similar to the one Jesus talked about in his parable of the ten young women waiting to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1–13). Five of the women took oil with them, and five did not. The bridegroom did not arrive until midnight. The women with oil were able to go out to greet him; the others were not. The moral: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
But this lamp dates to a period about 300 years after Jesus, and the lamps Jesus referred to were quite different. For the tourist, however, this connection provided an emotional connection with Bible times. The purchaser was no doubt proud and happy with the souvenir, showing it to friends upon arriving home. But for the fact that Trenchard, a New Testament scholar with a sharp eye, noticed it, the lamp would have been buried and destroyed along with tons of late 20th-century garbage.
By far, the majority of objects illegally dug and sold on the antiquities market are individual pieces of pottery such as this lamp. The absence of carbon stains on the nozzle indicates that the lamp was most likely never used to burn oil. This suggests that it was probably illegally excavated from a tomb, where it had been deposited as a tomb offering. Tombs are a favorite target of illegal diggers.
In a recent issue of BAR, editor Hershel Shanks (“Who Feeds the Antiquities Market?” BAR 22:03) sided with proponents of the antiquities trade, saying that the ultimate end of objects purchased by individuals on the antiquities market was a museum. For sensational objects, this may be true, but for the vast majority of objects, especially those purchased by tourists as souvenirs, this view is tragically mistaken.
Objects like our lamp are scattered around the world and forgotten in junk drawers by former tourists; they will never make it to a museum, unless, someday, future archaeologists dig up our landfill sites and, based on such finds, make up theories of pre-Viking visitors to North America! Not only have we lost the objects, we have lost any connections they have with other pieces (a corpus of completely preserved pottery is extremely important to our understanding of chronology and pottery technology; it is not only the find spot that is lost).
So we vote against dealing in antiquities. As Herr states in all his lectures, “I am not a collector, and I try to discourage collecting.” It is much better to buy the collection of replica lamps put out by BAS!
Canada Union College
College Heights, Alberta
Hershel Shanks responds:
We agree with much of this letter. More specifically, we agree that collecting antiquities should be discouraged, especially casual collecting by tourists and amateurs. We have gone so far as to discourage our readers from buying antiquities from the dealers who advertise with us (see “Should You Patronize Our Advertisers?” BAR 16:05). What other magazine discourages its readers from patronizing a class of advertisers when advertisers are vital to its existence? We hope that the article entitled “Magnificent Obsession,” BAR 22:03, was not understood as encouraging collecting. That was certainly not its aim. It simply discussed the issues involved in major collections, as seen through the prism of one of the world’s greatest private collections.
There is an enormous difference between the kinds of museum pieces in major collections and the kinds of artifacts that tourists buy. Indeed, one of the points we have tried to make is that museum-quality pieces probably do not come from illegal excavations. (See “Who Feeds the Antiquities Market?” BAR 22:03.) What comes from illegal excavations are the kinds of oil lamps Herr and Trenchard describe in their letter.
And here is where we disagree with some of the implications of their letter. They say that because of its purchase by a tourist, this lamp and others like it will not end up in a museum, but in a garbage dump ([“These pieces] will never make it to a museum … ”). They would have you believe, at least implicitly, that this lamp might otherwise have ended up in a museum. They even admit that “sensational objects” will end up in a museum.
The fact is, no museum would accept, let alone display, this common oil lamp. It is available by the thousands. No one knows in which museum or antiquities department storeroom the thousands of little oil lamps like this are now located. No one is studying them, and few scholars would be willing to spend time trying to learn anything more from large quantities of these lamps. In these storerooms these lamps are no more valuable to scholars than if they were on the edge of a garbage dump.
That is why we have suggested that antiquities authorities sell objects like this to the general public. That way ordinary people could enjoy them. More importantly, that is the only way to stop the looting that Herr and Trenchard—and we—rightly condemn. Putting antiquities dealers out of business will not stop looting; the trade will simply go underground, as it has in countries that have outlawed dealers. The only way to stop looting is to make it economically unprofitable. This can be done because looting—mostly of tombs—usually produces only common items of relatively little commercial value. If governments sold items like these, of which there are thousands and thousands, the public would be assured of authenticity, archaeology would gain from the sale and the looters would no longer have a market. Who would buy a looted piece when he or she could get a government certificate of authenticity (and provenance) at a reasonable price? (See “A Radical Proposal: Archaeologists Should Sell Ancient Artifacts,” BAR 11:01; “Israeli Archaeologists Support Sale of Artifacts,” BAR 11:04; “The Sale of Artifacts by Archaeologists—An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” BAR 11:06). Isn’t it a suggestion worth trying?
The only thing that the campaign to outlaw antiquities dealers accomplishes is to give a warm, fuzzy feeling to the self-righteous claque that thinks it is addressing the problem when it is only avoiding, and thereby contributing to, it.—Ed.
A Note on Style
B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), used by some of our authors, are the alternative designations for B.C. and A.D. often used in scholarly literature.
Enlivening the Classroom