Biblical Archaeology Review 30:2, March/April 2004

Review: Why Objects from the Antiquities Market Matter

We don’t know where many of the objects in this book were found, but they have much to teach us.

When I was a practicing lawyer, I was always eager to know the best argument the other side could make. In order to test my own position, I had to know what the opposition could muster. With that in mind, I would like to hear from anyone who thinks that Robert Deutsch should be condemned for publishing a series of books—some by himself,1 some with other scholars2—of Biblical-period inscriptions from private antiquities collections. That is, the inscriptions—seals, bullae, plaques, ostraca, vessels, etc.—are unprovenanced. We don’t know where they were found. Many of them were probably looted. Yet they have much to teach us.

The official position of the professional archaeological societies, however, is that they should not be looked at. They may not be published in their professional journals nor spoken of at their professional meetings.

Deutsch himself is a member of a reviled profession. He is an antiquities dealer, with a shop in Tel Aviv. That is how he makes his living. He is also a Ph.D. student—at two universities, Tel Aviv University and Haifa University, in Semitic epigraphy and numismatics. He is a field archaeologist, too, working as an area supervisor at Megiddo under the direction of Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin, two very prominent Israeli archaeologists.

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