Biblical Archaeology Review 45:1, January/February 2019

Queries & Comments

Addressing the Elephants

Just read your First Person (“The Importance of Archaeological Provenance,BAR, September/October 2018). A couple of things that were left out jumped out at me. For me they represent two elephants in the room.

The first issue is what to do with all the already looted objects. There are literally thousands of cuneiform tablets out there. What is to be done with them? Are they to be left unstudied, because they have no provenance, and because their publication might add fuel to the looting problem? Do we just abandon the data that they might provide?

Second, you mention the issue of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but pass it off rather casually by noting that they were looted before existing antiquities laws were put in place. But you need to address the issue of how any future discoveries of looted Biblical manuscripts should be handled. If an antiquities dealer put forward a scroll of a complete Jeremiah (to give an extreme example to make the point), what should be done with it?

Jeffrey R. Zorn Professor, Near Eastern Studies Cornell University Ithaca, New York

Dr. Zorn, you raise excellent questions!

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