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Re: [ANE-2] unprovenanced artefacts - some suggestions

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  • Peter van der Veen
    Dear Joe, Many thanks for this kind and informative message. It is good to hear that you agree in many points with me here. It is a great shame that a great
    Message 1 of 7 , Nov 27, 2007
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      Dear Joe,

      Many thanks for this kind and informative message. It is good to hear that you agree in many points with me here. It is a great shame that a great pile of sherds was taken from the City of David to be sold in the States. That is very unfortunate indeed. Indeed the piles of discarded sherds (i.e. those discarded after pottery reading) are a great source for visitors and it is fun looking for different kinds when visiting a site. I did several tours with groups through Israel and people just love to take a few sherds home. At Ramat Rachel we've still got quite a pile left and there are some left also at the City of David even from the Yigal Shiloh excavation. It is a great shame though that people have misused these piles to make business.

      It is good to hear that you are very willing to consider having sherds sent for study to institutions around the world. Still I believe that more should be done. Nevertheless it will not suffice if you and some others agree. This must be made official. We need a clear policy on this and then this will indeed become a very nice and helpful means of study.

      I can well imagine that you have been cheated badly by dealers and it is very unfortunate that this is the case. I guess the IAA must demand for pictures to be taken from all sides of the object before letting the objects pass for export.

      But there is another issue which I was wondering about, something where I cannot really understand the Israeli law. In a sense the export of objects is better than having the stuff bought by people in the Land of Israel, who will never pass through the IAA office with their acquired material. This way you know at least where the material goese and it receives a number. One can be even more strict by demanding that the objects cannot be sold to others outside of Israel, at least not without official notice to and permission from the IAA. The material must remain registered and could be returned even if only on loan to the IAA. The situation is completely different with artefacts that actually stay in Israel. People buy whatever stuff (even the very important stuff, that should belong to the state and to the public museums) and you will never ever know about it, know who bought it and where it has gone. To me that is even a worse situation.

      Maybe it is time to get better regulations on all these matters.

      Best wishes

      -------- Original-Nachricht --------
      > Datum: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 12:12:09 -0800 (PST)
      > Von: Joe Zias <joezias@...>
      > An: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      > Betreff: Re: [ANE-2] unprovenanced artefacts - some suggestions

      > Shalom, I for one agree with nearly all of your comments, in fact, I and
      > many other colleagues used to take tourists as a tour guide to the City of
      > David excavations to collect sherds which had been put aside by the
      > archaeologist, the late Yigal Shiloh. This was done to provide the foreign
      > visitor/volunteer/ institutions coming to the site something which came from a
      > controlled excavation and as I volunteered there from time to time I and
      > others looked upon this as a positive step. Many sites at this time had piles
      > of shards which, having been discarded after study, were set aside for
      > this purpose. It was a win-win situation, until one day I showed up with a bus
      > load of tourists at the City of David and lo and behold, the pile was
      > gone, nada, not one sherd. A short time later the pile of sherds appeared in
      > the BAR magazine, for sale, seems someone (BAR) decided to take the whole
      > pile as it was free and make a fast buck off it. As a result we in the IAA
      > then decided
      > that after the pottery was 'read' and sorted that we would bury it to
      > prevent any repeat performances. During my tenure there from 1972-97 the
      > policy towards lending material to foreign institutions was a very positive and
      > liberal one providing that certain basic things concerning security were in
      > place. I along with others believed that history belongs to the people
      > however if it meant that illegal digs were providing material for these
      > exhibitions then I personally believe that these items should not leave the
      > country. The DSS being an exception, however the James Ossuary should never have
      > been allowed to be shown abroad and it would appear that the people who
      > signed the permit may not have been aware of the inscription or at least the
      > 'importance' of it. Today with the WWW, I could certainly see a more
      > relaxed policy toward sherd collections from known sites being part of a long
      > term loan to institutions which teach biblical archaeology. One needn't have a
      > complete
      > object, a body sherd along with a photo would do.
      > As for the 'lmlk' handle I would like to see (off line) the permit. I have
      > a feeling that as you are from a recognized university and that this was
      > purchased for exhibition purposes that the rules could be interpreted
      > differently for this reason. From time to time however professional
      > archaeologists were given permits for items which were used for student collections,
      > teaching purposes etc. some of which were purchased, much to our dismay.
      > Furthermore much depends on the specific object in question as some of these
      > objects bearing export permits were given under dubious circumstances, e.g.
      > the dealer would provide a photograph of the object, neglecting to point
      > out that the object had an inscription on the reverse side, or a stamp on the
      > jar handle which did not appear in the photo. We learned the hard way from
      > trusting some of the dealers. As for the scientific value of these
      > unprovenanced finds, practically nil. In fact today I went on- line and was
      > surprised to see
      > that one of the dealers was selling these 'lamlk' handles for upwards of
      > $500 US whereas one can find them for sale here for 50-100 US maximum. As
      > some of this is currently on trial I will refrain from adding more to this
      > topic. Good luck on your exhibition and if I could be of any help in the
      > world of anthropology, contact me off line.
      > Shalom
      > Joe Zias
      > Peter van der Veen <van_der_Veen@...> wrote:
      > Dear colleagues (dear Joe Zias),
      > Recently we had some discussion on ANE2 about the legality of exporting
      > unprovenanced inscribed materials from the land of Israel. I truely
      > sympathise with the fact that important artefacts such as ostraca, inscribed
      > sherds, seals etc., should be kept in Israel and would need to be treated with
      > great respect.
      > The situation may however be slightly different with the many lammelek
      > jar handles which are out there on the market. The question to be asked for
      > sure is in what way they could still add to our profound knowledge on the
      > subject, especially if they do not derive from legal excavations. Naturally
      > if they had derived from such excavations they would have to be taken very
      > seriously. For instance we still do not know how long these items remained
      > in use (i.e. also after the destruction of Lachish stratum III) so any
      > knowledge about lammelek jar handles from known contexts at different
      > contemporeanous sites would help clarify the situation.
      > Now as for unprovenanced lammelek jar handles, if it is indeed forbidden
      > to export them from Israel, then it still surprises me that the IAA in fact
      > did indeed sign several licenses which actually allow these to be taken
      > out of the country. As for me personally, in Germany we are currently working
      > on a permanent exhibition on Biblical Archaeology in which we hope to
      > bring the world of ancient Israel nearer to the people. For this exhibition I
      > bought one Lammelek jar handle this summer and went the official way through
      > the IAA. I do have the license and it was exported accordingly. So I never
      > questioned the legality of this. The jar handle received an official
      > number at the IAA office and they even have a picture of the item so that
      > nothing was done in secret. It would be interesting to see who made a mistake
      > here, if indeed it is illegal to export lammelek jar handles. To be frank
      > however, only faint remains of the letters lamed and kaph of (lm)lk can be seen
      > on this jar
      > handle. Maybe the object is so badly preserved that the IAA made an
      > exception here, something which I however would doubt.
      > In our exhibtion we however will mainly exhibit noninscribed material for
      > which we have always acquired official export licenses. This I know is
      > also done by many European and American institutions. All this material should
      > not be a problem as it is noninscribed. We also will exhibit casts of more
      > inscriptions, but the cast again were officially acquired from known
      > institutions including universities in Jerusalem.
      > But there is another aspect I would like to share with the group. It has
      > also been questioned whether there is any academic value in acquiring
      > unprovenanced artefacts. Well I guess this may not always be so readily
      > recognizable for archaeologists working in the field in Israel several months a
      > year.
      > First of all - as far as I am concerned - I believe such objects are
      > important primarily when used for educational purposes. Let's consider the
      > following. Many people around the world who may never be able to come to the
      > land of Israel (for what ever reasons, not only financially), would be able
      > to experience closely the world of Ancient Israel and benefit greatly from
      > it if we introduce these items in an exhibition. Please don't underestimate
      > the value of this. Bringing the world of the Bible nearer to the people
      > also will help bringing the people nearer to Israel. All of this seems more
      > significant than having so many pieces packed away in ware houses (e.g. at
      > the IAA ware houses in Israel), especially if they are unprovenanced, as they
      > will be anyway be considered by many to be mere fakes and therefore would
      > not even be touched by scholars.
      > There is also some academic value in having some items in our institute
      > archives especially for students or even on exhibition for the wider public.
      > Naturally I do agree that if one wants to study archaeological items, one
      > should always start with provenanced material (I guess this may even be
      > more true for inscribed artefacts) and only subsequently one can turn to the
      > unprovenanced to complete the overall picture.
      > This would take me to the next point to consider which has unfortunately
      > not received enough attention so far, especially so by the Israeli IAA
      > officials. I therefore would like to ask them to consider the following more
      > urgently.
      > The export of unprovenanced artefacts would not be an issue at all if the
      > antiquities' authorities would start to lend material from legal
      > excavations to institutions and exhibitions around the world. What better
      > educational and scientifically valid evidence could one imagine? There are so many
      > good possibilities here how to come to grips with such a situation, that I do
      > not understand the reason why this issue has not been looked at more
      > carefully. With the money earned, more excavations could be financed. More
      > workers could be employed by the authorities. The IAA had to fire many good
      > people over the years simply because they did not have to money the keep them.
      > Best wishes
      > Peter van der Veen, PhD
      > PS for Joe Zias. If you need to see a copy of my official IAA export
      > license stating literally that permission was given to export 'a lammelek jar
      > handle', then please let me know off-line. I can make a scan of my copy
      > which I really truely have here with me in my files!
      > Joe Zias www.joezias.com
      > Anthropology/Paleopathology
      > Science and Antiquity Group - Jerusalem
      > Jerusalem, Israel
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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