>Archaeology and the Problem of Unprovenanced Material

>On Tuesday, May 2, 2006, the New York Times published an extensive article dealing with the issues of unprovenanced material, the statement of concerned drafted by Lawrence Stager, and the reaction of the scholarly community.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

“In recent days more than 100 scholars in the United States and Europe have signed a controversial statement asserting that the publishing restrictions are forcing them to “close their eyes to important information.” The statement was drafted by Lawrence E. Stager, an archaeologist at Harvard University, and has been posted on the Web site of Biblical Archaeology Review, a journal that does not have restrictions on unprovenanced works.”

“The scholars signing the statement say that they ‘recognize that artifacts ripped from their context by looters often lose much of their meaning.’”

“‘On the other hand, this is not always true,’ the statement says, ‘and even when it is, looted objects, especially inscriptions, often have much of scholarly importance to impart.’”

“At issue are the publication rules of the two leading professional associations for scholars of antiquity, the Archaeological Institute of America and the American Schools of Oriental Research, the leading body for specialists of the ancient Near East. “If you publish, you are contributing to the illegal market,” said Elizabeth Stone, an archaeologist of the ancient Near East at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who supports the restrictions.”

“But David I. Owen, a Near Eastern scholar at Cornell who signed Mr. Stager’s statement and who has drawn extensively on unprovenanced material in his own research, countered, ‘Who ever heard of censoring knowledge?’”

The article, “Must Looted Relics Be Ignored,” is an important summary of the current debate.  Read the complete article by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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