Biblical Archaeology Review 34:2, March/April 2008

Strata: Scholars Face Off over Antiquities

How valuable are ancient objects and inscriptions that are unprovenanced (see First Publication: A Newly Discovered House Shrine)? They come from the antiquities market rather than from a professional archaeological excavation, and they may have been looted.Consideration must also be given to whether unprovenanced finds are forgeries.

Scholars hold diametrically opposing views.

According to Othmar Keel, a Biblical scholar and historian of religion from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland: “I don’t think we can write a history of the ancient Near East without relying on unprovenanced material.”2

Andrew Vaughn, executive director of the American Schools of Oriental Research and a professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, takes a different view:

“Finds that originate on the antiquities market may be glamorous, but their importance is indeed minimal.”3

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