By Christopher A. Rollston
Toyozo Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Emmanuel Christian Seminary
For those working in the field(s) of ancient history, ancient literature, archaeology, or epigraphy there often seems to be a strong desire to associate some new archaeological find, or some recent epigraphic discovery, with some person or event known from literary texts discussing the days of yore. This basic phenomenon has a long history with regard to literary texts. For example, within the Hebrew Bible, the book of Lamentations is anonymous, but through the centuries many contended that it was written by the Prophet Jeremiah. Similarly, the book of Ruth is anonymous, but through the centuries many argued that it was written by Samuel. Or again, within the Greek New Testament, the book of Hebrews is anonymous, but many attempted to argue that it was written by Paul. Similarly, the four Canonical Gospels are anonymous, but through the centuries, many have argued that these books were written by known figures of Early Christianity. Fortunately, critical scholarship has pushed back against such positivistic assumptions and reasserted the obvious: the evidence for these assumptions is not convincing, but specious.
Site ravaged by looting, SE corner of the enclosing walls of the inner city, Al Resafa, Syria. Image, courtesy of the photographer, Thomas Schutyser
ASOR WORKSHOP ANNUAL MEETING 2012 (Chicago) SECONDARY CONTEXT II Considering Theory and Method for The Study of Objects of No Known Origin
Having examined the complex issues involved in research ethics and the study of unprovenienced material in 2011, we focus on Theory and Method in 2012.
Rather than asking “Should we?” or “Shouldn’t we?” study, present, publish, or exhibit objects of unknown origin, we look forward to considering how best to determine guidelines or suggested practices in an arena where opinions are admittedly complex and often contested.
In 2012, our presenters address the conscientious treatment of unprovenienced artifacts, corpora and collections. New, responsible ways to exhibit and/or publish such works are also considered.
One of the highlights of the ASOR Workshop, SECONDARY CONTEXT I, was a contribution by Christina Luke, the noted researcher and scholar of legislation pertaining to the regulation of the movement of unprovenienced artifacts.
Euphronios Krater, returned to Italy by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
By Dr. Lynn Swartz Dodd
A growing body of literature documents the reality that the ancient, buried landscape of Israel, including the areas known as the West Bank and Gaza, are being inexorably and irretrievably looted. Looting refers to a process by which objects are removed without official permission or archaeological oversight and documentation.  Some positive outcomes may devolve to those who participate in such activities (money from selling artifacts, cultivation of buyer/dealer networks, prestige from owning objects that are old and in increasingly short supply). In every single case, there is a parallel negative result that occurs, which is the loss of context for an ancient object and the loss of association between those certain artifacts and the place they last were laid by an ancient actor. Anyone who denies that this outcome is the reality is, in this author’s mind, uninformed about the consequences of looting. Continue reading →