ON SHOPPING FOR ARTIFACTS IN THE HOLY LAND: A RESPONSE TO MORAG M. KERSEL

G.M. Grena
The LMLK Research Website, founder/editor
shop@lmlk.com

Foreword

In comments to Dr. Kersel’s article (Buyer Beware: Shopping for Artifacts in the Holy Land), I expressed disappointment over the undocumented, arbitrary nature of her claims, which amount to an opinion based on hearsay, and contribute little if anything towards scientific knowledge. Herewith, I will present a well-documented firsthand account of my own experience in shopping for artifacts over the past decade in an effort to balance the discussion.

Why Shop for Artifacts?

As one begins earning money, a variety of investment options appear: interest-bearing bank accounts, dividend-paying stocks, income-generating real estate, etc. Aside from the financial considerations, hobby-related investments such as numismatics (rare currency) and philately (rare postage) offer educational/historical contexts, along with tangible gratification: you can easily see their value, show them to others, discuss their relationship to local/national political history, and transport them virtually anywhere in the world in times of financial instability or crises. For example, their value remains immune to a bank collapsing, a stock-market crashing, and the immobility of real estate along with its government restrictions [1].

Among an array of collectible objects [2], antiquities represent yet another such hobby, combining historical value, artistic qualities, preservation level, and production rarity, all being key components of wise investments. But as with any of the aforementioned forms or any valuable venture in life, certain risks exist, and it helps if you study the field before making a purchase.

My own collection/investment began with leaves from medieval Bible editions. At one Beverly Hills bookseller, I was introduced to antiquities by being offered a hand-sized cuneiform tablet for $850. Its accompanying translation described it as an ordinary rations tablet, naming individuals from the famous Mesopotamian town of Ur. For years it was a prized possession of mine that I exhibited (along with other objects) at local public libraries. But alas, for reasons I don’t fully understand, but which I probably could have prevented, a few years ago it suddenly crumbled into worthless dust! Fired pottery (especially jar handles bearing seal impressions) has proven to be a more stable investment.

A Philatelic Seal Impression

When Israel became a renascent nation in May 1948, they needed new postage to be printed prior to announcing their name. Hence, “DAR OBRY” (Hebrew Post) appears on their first official stamps. Several months later, and while engaged in their first national war to survive, they printed a new set of stamps bearing for the first time their name in Hebrew, English, and Arabic. The Israel Postal Authority issued a complete set of the stamps in September 1948 with commemorative postmarks from Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem:

Fig. 1: Haifa first day cover (FDC) with upside-down stamp

This particular specimen bears exceedingly more value than the thousands of others available on the market, due to the fact that the postal workers misaligned the 65-mil stamp, and postmarked it without notice, thereby certifying its authenticity. Whereas these FDCs normally sell for about $5 from philatelic dealers, at a prestigious auction my example might command a hammer price well over $1,000 [3].

A Genuine Seal Impression

Biblical archaeologists will quickly recognize the image in those 1948 stamps as belonging to the LMLK seals [4] with 2-winged icons. Dating primarily to the reign of King Hezekiah [5], thirteen varieties with this basic seal design are known, plus eight others bearing 4-winged icons (Grena 2004 Fig. 39). Hundreds of these impressions have been documented from scientific excavations and from unprovenanced private collections [6]. Some are rarer than others (for reasons unknown), hence their investment value to collectors.

Fig. 2: Unprovenanced handle #21 from my Redondo Beach collection {7}

This particular handle ties indirectly to the trial Dr. Kersel mentioned at the beginning of her article. I purchased it in February 2003 from Robert Deutsch, the scholar and antiquities dealer who was charged, tried, and fully acquitted on all counts [8]. Deutsch, like all dealers in Israel with whom I have conducted business, is properly licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and obtains the appropriate export permits to send artifacts to me in America.

Fig. 3: Export permit accompanying the purchase of handle #21 in 2003 {9}

I had some doubts concerning the authenticity of this handle when I first saw it in December 2002. Aside from being one of the rare types (only three others had been published previously [10]), its clay color-tones looked different from others I had seen [11], and its unusually deep impressions preserved design details not seen in published excavation reports. My doubts disappeared when I visited the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in May 2003, and was allowed the privilege of studying James Pritchard’s notes from his landmark 1956-7 excavations at el-Jib (undoubtedly the pool of Gibeon recorded in 2Samuel 2:13). Therein I discovered an unpublished photo [12]of a specimen kept in Amman exhibiting traits similar to mine.

Since the famous forgery trial began, the IAA changed their policies and documentation formats to include photos of the objects being exported, so I feel obligated to show a very recent example for a Rhodian amphora I purchased (I know it’s Rhodian because one of its handles bears a common Rhodian rose impression with a circular border; its other handle bears a common Greek epigraphic stamp with a rectangular border).

Fig. 4: Export permit accompanying the purchase of an amphora in 2012 {13}

A Fake Seal Impression

I had been told by two dealers (one in America, one in Israel) with extensive experience that forged LMLK impressions existed, but until August 2009 I had not actually seen any.

Fig. 5: Unprovenanced handle formerly in the Michael Welch collection {14}

The handle’s basic elements (formation, colors, grits) match provenanced specimens, and raise no concern as to it being ancient. Several characteristics of the impression, however, immediately indicated its illicit construction:

1. Its design matches no provenanced specimens; it doesn’t even come close to any.
2. Its impression is deep enough to preserve all of its letters, icon, and border (a quality seldom seen in provenanced specimens), meaning its borders should be raised as the clay was squeezed out (as seen near the bottom of my Fig. 2 specimen), yet its overall region remains flush with the height of the handle’s original contours.
3. Its internal features look like they were carved into fired clay, rather than impressed into wet clay (i.e., their edges are rough rather than smooth).

That being said, it’s worth emphasizing the paucity of these forgeries relative to genuine specimens (1 in 1,000 is hardly cause for a buyer to panic). I tend to expect this since LMLK handles appear so common on the surface throughout Israel, particularly the southern territory that originally belonged to the tribe of Judah [15].

Collectible Artifacts with Provenance

Dr. Kersel asserted that all “artifacts that are purchased on the market are entangled in webs of intrigue.” Is that unequivocally true?

As she noted, prior to 1978 less restrictions existed on the export of antiquities from Israel, and my collection includes two important examples from diverse contexts: a high-ranking official in the government of Israel, and a prominent educational institution in Israel.

The first is a remarkably intact jug, with a March 1962 letter from Harry Philipps, Official Expert on Arts and Antiquities for the Office of the Prime Minister (David Ben-Gurion), State of Israel in Jerusalem certifying that it came from Lachish:

Fig. 6: Jug from Lachish presented as a gift to a philanthropist {16}

Fig. 7: Letter accompanying Lachish jug certifying its provenance

The second is a significantly less-intact piece of pottery from Lachish; however, its value lies not in its poor state of preservation, but in its intended use to promote and stimulate financial support for the renewed archeological excavations at Lachish, led by Tel Aviv University professor, David Ussishkin during the mid-1970s:

Fig. 8: "Original pottery fragment from the biblical period excavated in Lachish by Tel Aviv University" {17}

Summary

By shopping for artifacts from the Holy Land, I have utilized my God-given talents to preserve historical treasures (especially ones that illuminate God’s message to us in the Holy Bible [18]) and promote research associated with them [19], while simultaneously building a relatively secure financial investment. Although some people may break the law to acquire wealth (e.g., by looting ancient sites, or selling antiquities without obtaining the proper permits, or not paying taxes), that’s primarily their problem, not mine. It’s between them and the local and national authorities responsible for preserving cultural heritages and enforcing relevant laws.

Just as I do not enquire about the personal faults of grocers from whom I buy food, or investigate who farmed the food, or whether the people (from farmers to truckers to grocers) obeyed the relevant laws in the process, I am under no obligation to trace the background-chain for items coming into my collection. I don’t understand why any rational scholars would want to hear unsubstantiated tales about how their food came to be on their dinner table, or similar folklore associated with the antiquities market.

If (as Dr. Christopher Rollston asserted in his comments on Dr. Kersel’s article) Dr. Kersel needs “to maintain certain confidences” to perform her research while cooperating with criminals [20], then I would expect other researchers such as I and Robert Deutsch be afforded the same privacy while studying antiquities via legitimate business transactions.

Bibliography

Barkay, Gabriel
1992 “A Group of Stamped Handles from Judah (Hebrew).” Pp. 113-128 in Eretz Israel vol. 23, eds. E. Stern, T. Levi. Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society and Hebrew Union College.

Barkay, Gabriel and Andrew G. Vaughn
2004 “Section C: The Royal and Official Seal Impressions from Lachish.” Pp. 2148-2173 in The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973-1994) vol. IV, ed. David Ussishkin. Tel Aviv: Emery and Claire Yass Publications in Archaeology, Tel Aviv University.

DiNoto, Andrea
1978-80 The Encyclopedia of Collectibles (16 volumes). Chicago: Time-Life Books.

Diringer, David
1941 “On Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions Discovered at Tell ed-Duweir (Lachish)-II.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 73 (July): 89-106.

Grena, G.M.
2004 LMLK-A Mystery Belonging to the King vol. 1. Redondo Beach: 4000 Years of Writing History.

Grena, George M.
2005 “What Are lmlk Stamps and What Were They Used For?” Bible and Spade 18 #1 (Winter): 19-24.

Hudon, Jeffrey P.
2010 “The LMLK Storage Jars & the Reign of Uzziah: Towards a Mid-eighth Century B.C. Terminus a Quo for the Royal Jars of the Kingdom of Judah.” Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 55: 27-44

Kochavi, Moshe
1974 “Khirbet Rabud = Debir.” Tel Aviv 1 #1: 2-33.

Lipschits, Oded, et al.
2010 “Royal Judahite Jar Handles: Reconsidering the Chronology of the lmlk Stamp Impressions.” Tel Aviv 37 #1 (June): 3-32.

Malloy, Alex G.
1997 Official Guide to Artifacts of Ancient Civilizations. New York: House of Collectibles.

McAlpine, Alistair and Cathy Giangrande
2001 The Essential Guide to Collectibles: A Source Book of Public Collections in Europe and the U.S.A. New York: Viking Studio.

Vaughn, Andrew G.
1999 Theology, History, and Archaeology in the Chronicler’s Account of Hezekiah. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

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[1] Last week we witnessed the government of Israel deciding to evict Hebron residents from property they legally owned. See http://www.hebron.com/english/article.php?id=776 for details. Apparently the Israeli government considered the expulsion of Jews from their homeland to be a more important expenditure of resources than the policing of Jewish archeological sites to prevent looting.

[2] For a broad overview of collectibles, see DiNoto 1978-80; Malloy 1997 (esp. the Holy Land section, pp. 72-98); McAlpine and Giangrande 2001.

[3] My purpose in showing these items from my collection is not to increase their value, but to illustrate the discussion, unlike Dr. Kersel’s article where artifacts are shown with no context or relevance to what she wrote. Since beginning to collect valuables in the 1990s, I have not sold anything for a profit, nor do I intend to (unless for obvious reasons, I suffer an unforeseeable financial hardship). Ideally I’m hoping to live long enough to some day distribute them to museums and young collectors to ensure their preservation.

[4] See http://www.lmlk.org, which redirects to the website I originally built in 2002, and have been steadily editing ever since.

[5] Some scholars believe these seals were made/used during the reigns of other kings, spanning anywhere from Uzziah to Manasseh (see Lipschits et al. 2010 and Hudon 2010).

[6] I maintain a segregated corpus list at http://www.lmlk.com/research/lmlk_corp.htm, which builds upon the one published in Vaughn 1999, pp. 185-197.

[7] Additional photos can be seen at http://www.lmlk.com/research/lmlk_gg21.htm.

[8] Note that there was no evidence presented at the trial indicating that Deutsch was in any way involved in the production of forged antiquities, though he had published items from the collection of the other defendant, Oded Golan. If that’s the only circumstantial evidence the prosecution could connect between Deutsch and Golan, it’s a wonder the IAA didn’t also indict Golan’s family and neighbors and put them on trial!

[9] The quantity reflects five additional handles I purchased at the same time.

[10] The others appear in Diringer 1941 Plate VII:3, Kochavi 1974 Plate 4:2, and Barkay 1992 Fig. 14.

[11] My first experience examining provenanced LMLK handles occurred in May 2002 at the Bade Museum of Biblical Archaeology, which houses artifacts excavated from Tell en-Nasbeh between 1926 and 1935. The fruit of that labor appears photographically online at http://www.lmlk.com/research/lmlk_nasbeh.htm.

[12] See Photographic Archives Negative #535-77607:31, which along with the entire corpus of LMLK handles kept in Philadelphia, I was granted permission to publish on the LMLK Research website. This specific one is online at http://www.lmlk.com/research/lmlk_ej-335-s89.htm. Lest anyone think some forgery artist had been there prior to me, note that the archivist told me I was the first person to examine these particular archives since they had been deposited there by Pritchard (the archival room used to be his office), as evidenced by their disorganized state, which I gladly helped organize.

[13] To see an intermediate permit format from 2008 signed by Amir Ganor, the IAA Director of Robbery Prevention Division, visit http://www.lmlk.com/dealers, which I put online in response to false accusations by Joe Zias, an IAA curator with expertise in anthropology. Since my purpose in showing this 2012 permit is to contrast its format with the older ones, I intentionally erased the dealer’s name from the Sender Courier [sic] field, as well as the dealer’s street address number in the Address field. I do not want to be accused of advertising particular dealers in this ASOR forum, and only mentioned Deutsch for the context of Fig. 3 as this relates to Dr. Kersel’s opening remark, and her obscure innuendo mischaracterizing dealers as people to be feared, rather than respectable business owners. Note also that the object shown in the 2012 permit is of an ordinary-shaped amphora, but the IAA’s form digitally compressed the pixels to make it resemble a whale about to vomit something onto the dealer’s dry floor, though some ASOR scholars may claim that it’s really an image of a nephesh monument like Absalom’s Tomb incorrectly shown here upside-down. But I digress…

[14] As most dealers offer money-back guarantees if an item’s authenticity gets disproven, Welch took advantage of this policy and returned it for a refund following my examination and documentation. For additional images, see http://www.lmlk.com/research/lmlk_mw-f01.htm.

[15] Vaughn’s landmark 1999 publication (which built upon an unpublished dissertation by Gabriel Barkay) documented many surface finds, including one by a group of children (see his footnote #69 on p. 195). An astounding 92 of 415 (22%) were documented as being found on the surface of Lachish alone (Barkay and Vaughn 2004, Table 29, supplemented by some minor corrections by me at http://www.lmlk.com/research/lmlk_lachish-corp.htm). For a recent example of how easy it is to find one, see http://gath.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/we-had-another-wow-day-lmlk-handle-eb-cylinder-etc. With so many genuine valuable objects available to be found, it’s easy to understand why so few forgeries exist. However, since the ratio of unstamped to stamped handles of this type is about 10:1 (Grena 2004 pp. 377-8), it is easy to understand why someone with criminal intentions might tamper with a genuine unstamped specimen than attempt to make an entire jar from raw materials, fake a seal, fire the jar, smash it, and peddle its handles.

[16] Its overall dimensions are approximately 10 cm wide, 11 cm tall, with a 7 cm opening. A specially constructed wooden box containing the jug and the letter bears an engraved metallic placard stating: “This ancient pottery from the state of Israel is presented to Joseph Bock in recognition of outstanding devotion and inspiring leadership in [sic] behalf of the economic development of Israel. Awarded at a dinner in his honor under the auspices of The State of Israel Bond Organization. April 1, 1962.” It’s a wonderful coincidence that I was able to draft this article for the ASOR Blog so close to the 50th anniversary of the event!

[17] The text of the image appears doubled because of its being embedded within a clear acrylic housing, which then casts a shadow onto the white background.

[18] See Grena 2005 where I argue that LMLK seals present evidence of Hezekiah’s continued independence following the devastation from Sennacherib’s military campaign.

[19] See references to “Garena” [sic] among footnotes 15, 17, 19, 22, 24-8, 31, 36 within Lipschits et al. 2010.

[20] Owen Jarus reported that she interviewed “residents engaged in looting” and dealers who “admitted to engaging in an elaborate scheme that allows recently looted artefacts to be sold to tourists.” See “Looted Artefacts Sold to Tourists in Israel Antiquities Scam” at http://heritage-key.com/blogs/owenjarus/looted-artefacts-sold-tourists-israel-antiquities-scam. Dr. Rollston defended her actions as “standard practice” for investigators. Actually, it’s standard practice for undercover investigators who intend to get the suspects arrested so they can be tried and convicted. According to Jarus, she “guaranteed anonymity” to the criminals.

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18 thoughts on “ON SHOPPING FOR ARTIFACTS IN THE HOLY LAND: A RESPONSE TO MORAG M. KERSEL

  1. is it fair to say that you have a vested interest in the antiquities trade or are you completely and thoroughly unconnected to it? that is, do you sell, or trade ‘antiquities’ which you have bought? because if you do it only stands to reason that your motives may be suspect due to the potential for financial gain.

  2. Just for the record - the jug that the supposed expert (“Harry Philipps, Official Expert on Arts and Antiquities for the Office of the Prime Minister” - who the @#$% is he?) claims as being a late Iron Age Israelite jug from Lachish, is, based on what I can see from the very poor picture, an Iron Age IIA jug of the “Late Philistine Decorated Ware” (aka “Ashdod Ware”), most often reported from sites in Philistia (such as Tell es-Safi/Gath, Ashdod, and even now, at Kh. Qeiyafa). Leaving aside the ethical issues and the issues related to the destruction of the archaeological record by illicit excavations which are fueled by this market, this is another example of the problems with buying unprovenanced antiquities, “authenticated” by “experts” - and then telling a supposed story which may be very far from the truth…

  3. George, I think there are some issues with your post, but my main problem is in the second paragraph of your summary. Wouldn’t you want to know if jeans you were buying were made in an illegal sweatshop or produce being picked by migrant workers being paid cents a day? Is it better to be oblivious to these issues and assume that everything is fine? Essentially this is what you are doing with antiquities. It seems as if you are choosing to ignore obvious problems and assuming that the authority of the IAA or antiquities dealers (?) absolves you of any do diligence.

    Also it should be noted that until you read Morag’s scholarly material (books/articles) “unsubstantiated” and “folklore” comes across as at the very least uninformed, if not insulting.

  4. I’m not sure if this is the place for this but here is my first hand account of looting in Jordan while I was an ACOR fellow this previous summer:

    http://ochesnut.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/looting-the-past/

  5. In response to note 20, it’s actually standard practice for social scientists (and especially anthropologists) to respect their informants’ right to anonymity, to the point that this is enshrined in Section 1 of the AAA Statement on Ethics (among other codes of ethics). You can disagree with this in principle, but it’s disingenuous to imply that Morag Kersel’s adherence to disciplinary ethical standards is unethical.

  6. First, I want to thank MY HERO, Dr. Andrew Vaughn for allowing me the opportunity to publish my admittedly non-ASOR-ish opinions above, & to Kevin Cooney for the online presentation. You guys rock!!!

    Dr. Maeir, my friend, were Safi, Ashdod, & Qeiyafa excavated & properly published while David Ben-Gurion was the Prime Minister? Let’s just agree that if you could travel back to 1962 with what you know NOW about “Late Philistine Decorated Ware”, I’m confident Ben-Gurion would’ve chosen you for that Office instead of Philipps! And please note that 40 Megabytes’ worth of images of this jug are available upon request if your E-mail Inbox is feeling lonely! Let’s agree to compare the “very poor” quality of my amateur hi-res color photo on this blog after I’ve had an opportunity to absorb the professionally published Plates vol. of “Tell Es-Safi/Gath I: The 1996-2005 Seasons” (forthcoming Summer 2012; currently being delayed while Prime Minister Ben-Gurion reviews it in Heaven)!

    Owen, my friend, the only way I would know whether any of my clothes were being made in an illegal sweatshop would be to visit the factory, & study the laws governing wherever that is. But then I wouldn’t have time to do likewise for the food I buy, or the vehicle I travel in, or the utilities I buy. I hardly have time to type this response to you, & you expect me to perform all those other tasks each day of my life? Oy veh! But I’ll make a deal with you: Get rid of all the “@#$%”-ing bureaucrats currently in government offices around the world, & I’ll partner up with you to form a new government that governs according to God’s righteous standards, as recorded in the Holy Bible. And thanks for having the courage to report the looters you encountered. Why on Earth you would defend Dr. Kersel’s behavior is beyond me.

    Jim, my … uh, sorry, lost my train of thought … Oh yes, endnote #3 answers your question. Thank you for taking the time to read these blogs before you rush to the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks also for not suspecting my motives. Zwingli would be so proud of you.

  7. “But alas, for reasons I don’t fully understand, but which I probably could have prevented, a few years ago it suddenly crumbled into worthless dust! […] By shopping for artifacts from the Holy Land, I have utilized my God-given talents to preserve historical treasures” - seems to be a bit of a contradiction, there.

  8. Dear Mr. Grena,

    The work I do is not hearsay but accepted anthropological and criminological (among other disciplines) practice. My methodology and research have all been vetted and approved by the ethics review boards of the various institution with which I have been associated. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want copies of any of my articles on my research.

    Morag

  9. Ian, thank you for the AAA reference (for the convenience of others, it’s at http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/ethstmnt.htm). I disagree with you: It’s not disingenuous to state that anyone who adheres to an unethical standard is unethical. If AAA’s 1c (“informant’s right to welfare, dignity and privacy”) applies to criminals (i.e., looters & dealers who knowingly support them), then it’s unethical, & should be discarded. Not being an anthropologist, I believe the intent of their policy was to protect law-abiding informants, & that Dr. Kersel & those who sponsored & encouraged her were wrong.

    Ryan, I agree with you: I am to blame for the loss of this one particular artifact, which I believe was genuine (of course, anyone who believes it was a forgery should be delighted & thank me). As with all my personal faults, I’m ashamed; but rather than quit living & dwindle away in despair over this mistake, I take it to Calvary, accept God’s forgiveness, learn from it, & continue doing the best I can in other matters. For a detailed explanation, see Romans 7-8. 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given. (Also note that I own hundreds of collectibles that have been adequately maintained, & utilized for educational purposes, cultural enrichment, & scientific research.)

    Dr. Kersel, I hope you had a wonderful weekend, & I was happy to see your messages. Dr. Rollston expressed concern over the “tenor” of my remarks. I’m passionate about this subject. I hope you understand that from my perspective, I disagree with what you’ve done, therefore I feel obligated to challenge you. Thank you for explaining that you do not work undercover. Of course, you are under no obligation to explain anything to me, but if you’d like to help me understand your work (& maybe others may learn from our public conversation as well), then I’d be glad to hear your clarifications.

    1) Please explain how your reporting of what people told you is not hearsay if you guaranteed their anonymity. If you have a group of people who vouch for your integrity, it’s still simply you reporting what somebody told you. We know that sites have been looted, so merely stating that you interviewed people who loot sites contributes nothing to our knowledge if the specific facts cannot be independently verified (though they might make for a scintillating blog post or university lecture).

    2) Do you believe it is ethical to not report a crime that you’ve witnessed, as long as you’re being paid to simply research the crime, or (to paraphrase from the Jarus report) as long as the anthropologists “next door” don’t report crimes they witness either?

    Feel free to send me any documentation that contradicts the report by Owen Jarus on Heritage-Key (apparently based on a 2010 Toronto lecture you gave).

  10. I am one of the editors this month of the ASOR blog. I am glad that the interchanges here provided ASOR blog readers an opportunity to become better acquainted with the perspectives of an ASOR member who owns and personally collects artifacts that apparently were purchased through legal channels in accord with the antiquities laws of the State of Israel.

    I am doubly pleased that a researcher managed to document- through a study conducted in a responsible manner and in accord with professional standards of institutional and peer review- certain features of the systematic looting of the cultural heritage of Israel. This problem afflicts not only the West Bank and Gaza but also those areas under the purview of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

    Whatever one may think about the loss of context implied in collections of artifacts that are sold without documented provenience, the practice of purchasing ancient objects remains legal in Israel if the artifact was in a collection prior to 1978 and if the dealer is state-licensed and if the IAA has not declared otherwise in any specific situation. Indeed, state sanction is accorded this system through the dealer licensing scheme. In theory, the number of artifacts available since 1978 should have been static, with no new antiquities entering the system. The law would have fulfilled its intent if the demand for antiquities had diminished over time, so that both the supply and the demand would disappear at roughly the same time. Instead, demand remained robust and, in response, new sources were developed in order to satisfy the demand for stock. Statements made publicly by IAA employees, including members of its Theft Prevention Unit, testify to the scale and seriousness of the problem they face because of continuing demand for antiquities. The research conducted by Prof. Kersel supports these contentions and provides a range of details about the system. I hope that academic members of ASOR will join me in expressing support for research like this, which in this case bolsters the anecdotal reports by these highly knowledgeable IAA professionals.

    In my view, these exchanges offer ASOR blog readers an opportunity to understand more fully the complex network of looting, which is fueled by the interests of dealers and collectors and tourists whose willingness to purchase ancient objects, even in a state-licensed system, is the reason that hundreds upon hundreds of artifact thefts continue to take place in Israel each year. For those interested, the source for this estimate is Amir Ganor, the person in charge of the Theft Prevention Unit of the IAA, for example see http://www.archaeology.org/israel_antiquities_authority/ganor.html

  11. Dear Dr. Dodd, Hi!!! To balance this discussion out even further, it may be wise to realize that the Israel Antiquities Authority, with Mr. Amir Ganor as their representative, have asked for an estimated 100,000 Israeli collectors of antiquities to register their collections with the IAA. A collection is made up of at least 15 antiquities, so we are talking about at least 1,500,000 artificates. According to the IAA press release of Tuesday, August 4, 2009, the IAA states: “Israel is one of the world’s richest countries in archaeological artifacts. As such, over the years private individuals have discovered thousands of archaeological finds during the course of development work, agricultural work, etc.” Somebody needs to do an analysis of how many antiquites are coming into the antiquities shops as a result of construction. I have heard that an estimate is 85% with the rest coming from looting, but I really do not know what is accurate. Thank you for your input and your time. With Much Gratitude and Admiration, Sincerely Yours, Michael Welch, Deltona, Florida

  12. Dear Dr. Dodd, I’m going to challenge you on 2 points:

    1) The interests of dealers and collectors and tourists is NOT (!!!) the reason that artifact thefts take place. The reason artifact thefts take place is because thieves decide to break God’s law & commit thefts. Would you also blame a law-abiding man carrying hard-earned cash for “fuel[ing]” a robber? Would you also blame a physically attractive, law-abiding lady for “fuel[ing]” a rapist? Shame on you & other scholars for even suggesting that law-abiding dealers & collectors are “the reason … thefts … take place.”

    2) If you really believe Dr. Kersel “managed to document– through a study conducted in a responsible manner … systematic looting”, why did you reference Amir Ganor’s (popular magazine) interview rather than one of her “responsible” documents? As this month’s blog co-editor, I would encourage you & the other editors to invite her to publish some data rather than hearsay & speculations. As she spent an entire year researching this subject, sponsored by multiple institutions, she should surely have plenty of data for scholars to cite without having to reference IAA press conferences, which are already available to anyone with Internet access.

    I could write a lengthy essay on the problems with Archaeology magazine’s interview of Ganor, but this is not the proper forum. I can’t fault their editor because they are not of the same academic plateau as ASOR; they’re basically an anti-Bible Biblical Archaeology Review, & they have the freedom to be as subjectively slanted as a “Jim [West]” comment.

    I must reiterate that I’m not questioning Dr. Kersel’s personal integrity in general or her work on other subjects, just the value of this particular field of research, which I’ve found to be laden with subjective bias of no academic value. I don’t mind people expressing their opinions, but I do mind them being presented as if they were facts.

  13. I don’t know how one can get around the provisions in declarations requiring mortgagee approval, on any amendment to the Dec (or other equally absurd provisions). In my opinion, the overwhelming majority of these provisions are make no sense. However, I’m not even sure that the legislature can enact a statute changing that Florida has taken the sanctity of contract to the extreme. The law has long recognized the public policy concerns can invalidate a contract provision. Florida has not seemed to have received that message.

  14. Mr. Grena, you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. A resource is only a resource if there is demand for it. You and others who purchase artifacts provide demand, thus cultural objects must be defined as resources. When faced with demand, distributors secure supply. If legal supply is unavailable (and sometimes even if it is!), illegal supply lines will develop. Not every person in these types of supply chains are personally committing illegal actions, but those who disregard their responsibility as ethical and legal distributors and consumers are benefiting from those illegal actions whether they like to or not. You state that you don’t think anyone should have to investigate where their purchases originate, but you are turning a blind eye to practices of which you disapprove in order to alleviate in your own mind culpability for those actions. There are, in fact, many of us who do concern ourselves with the social, political, and economic systems that bring clothes to our backs and food to our tables. We take responsibility for our purchases and when we cannot live up to our ideals, we have to accept that unpleasant feeling of culpability in supporting a world system that is inherently exploitative. At least we then can make a judgement when enough is enough and withdraw from a given market. For a capitalist system to work properly and be less vulnerable to exploitation by law breakers, the majority of the participants must inform themselves and be responsible for their choices. Complacency is the enemy, not the poor farmer who wants to make $50 on the pot you buy in a shop for $500, though it seems you’d like to send that farmer to jail for having spoken honestly with a legitimate scholarly researcher. It appears you would rather gaze up into the sky cursing others while Rome burns around you, disbelieving that you yourself dropped one of the many matches that set it alight.

  15. Dear Dr. (?) Aprile, thank you for taking the time to engage me in this worthwhile conversation. It’s nice to know you care about this subject; but with all due respect, “you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of” ethics.

    “At least we then can make a judgement when enough is enough…”

    You knowingly benefit from “illegal actions” until it hurts your feelings too much? So you basically have no rational argument against insensitive people who go on crime sprees, do you?

    You argued that I “and others who purchase artifacts provide demand” for resources. Why did you single out this class of participants from those who teach history (such as university professors) for a profit, as well as the archeologists who dig them up, hold press conferences to announce valuable finds, publish books about them for a profit, and transfer them to museums where again financial profit is reaped from admission prices and/or related souvenirs (tourist traffic to the host country included)?

    Should books & courses about Israel be outlawed out of concern for “provid[ing] demand” for artifacts surrounding that history? Should universities only teach fantasies for which there are no artifacts out of concern that they might fuel looting? And as I pointed out to Dr. Dodd, should women wear burqas or not go out in public at all to avoid tempting men to rape them?

    God created resources for humans to use. We are responsible for using them wisely, & we will be held accountable for our activity. Again, since it’s an interesting subject, sexual activity or the desire to do it is neither good nor bad. When a man & woman living in a faithful, loving relationship mate, it’s a good thing; if either of them breaks that bond by committing adultery, even though it’s essentially the same act, it becomes a bad thing. I can say that unequivocally because it’s a law God established.

    Regarding antiquities, humans have established their own laws. The IAA approves the sale of artifacts. It is not inherently bad to desire (or as you said, demand) antiquities or food. If someone breaks the law during the course of bringing food to market, they alone are responsible; not the potential customers who are hungry & willing to pay for the food. No rational judge or jury would acquit a defendant simply because he/she claims there was a “demand” for them to commit the crime. Likewise, no rational judge or jury would convict a man in California for not preventing a murder in Jerusalem. Yet this is the logic you & other anti-antiquities collectors promote.

    “[T]hose who disregard their responsibility as ethical and legal distributors and consumers are benefiting from those illegal actions…”

    This sentence is barely coherent, so I’m hoping you’ll clarify it. What ethical responsibility does a consumer have other than buying from legitimate businesses? If I buy a juicy steak for dinner, & it hurts the feelings of a vegan, too bad for the vegan!!! If I buy two juicy steaks, & it hurts the feelings of somebody who can only afford one hamburger, they should be content for having something eat. Am I unethical for living responsibly & enjoying the gifts God has provided for me?

    Now let’s turn the tables. Pretend you’re a restaurant owner, or a university professor. Do you put each of your customers/students through an Inquisition to see if they have ever committed “illegal actions” (especially ones for which they’ve never been convicted in a court of law)? If not, then it’s quite possible that you may be “benefiting from those illegal actions.” You’re “turning a blind eye to practices of which you disapprove in order to alleviate in your own mind culpability for those actions.” If any ASOR member is willing to claim that they know they’ve only accepted money from an employer who has never committed any crime, please share your story with us. I’d like to know how you know that.

    “Complacency is the enemy, not the poor farmer…”

    There you go fantasizing about Robin Hood. If only you could take away from the rich, & (forcibly) spread the wealth to the lazy & irresponsible, what a lovely socialist/communist world that would be! If there were no demand for the “poor” criminal (not “farmer”) to loot, the “poor” criminal would commit some other crime rather than get an honest job.

    “[Y]ou’d like to send that farmer to jail…”

    Actually I’m against prison sentences; I’d like to see the farmer put into forced labor to pay for the crime & become a productive member of society (Exodus 22:3). You have your fantasies; I have mine!

    “…for having spoken honestly with a legitimate scholarly researcher.”

    What is your basis for believing that someone who has committed a crime is honest?!?! If the “poor farmer” is honest, why doesn’t he/she get an honest job, or report their crime to the authority? Is it easier to speak with a researcher than with the police if the “farmer” is honest? And again, how is it “legitimate” to grant anonymity to a criminal as Dr. Kersel admitted to doing? Does scholarship take precedence over the justice system?

    Thank you for joining Drs. Kersel & Dodd in demonstrating that you have no rational argument against law-abiding citizens collecting antiquities to preserve & promote Israel’s rich history.

  16. Boy, when I woke up this morning, the daily E-mail I receive from one of the Christian ministries I support, Creation Moments (www.creationmoments.com), was as serendipitous as anything I’ve ever experienced:

    “For generations we have heard that people become criminals and go to prison because of their parents, friends, poverty or society itself. Yet there has always been a majority of people who come from bad homes or poor neighborhoods who have lived responsible lives. Now some police officials and psychologists are suggesting that criminal behavior is the fault of the criminal himself. The lifelong criminal chooses a pattern of dealing with life that is different from most people – and it’s often evident by the time he is four years old. They characterize what they call the criminal mind as a person who chooses to lie instead of taking responsibility. They say that traditional explanations that blame society for crime simply help the criminal mind avoid responsibility. The career criminal likes to break the law. As one rapist said, ‘If rape were legalized, I’d do something else.’ … [W]e have heard from many serving prison terms for serious crimes. Those who contact us all say the same thing. They tell us that they have realized they must become responsible for their lives. They realize that in order to learn a new way of thinking they must begin by learning how to approach the Creator Who made them. And we are pleased to help them learn more about Him and His inviting and all-forgiving love to them in Jesus Christ.”

    I’d now like to call attention to the work of Dr. Stanton E. Samenow (B.A. cum laude from Yale University, 1963; Ph.D. in psychology, University of Michigan; http://www.samenow.com), author of “Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition” (New York: Crown Publishers, 1984, 2004), p. XII:

    “My work during the past thirty-four years does not deal just with violations of laws. It focuses on the minds of human beings and how they live. There are people who would be ‘criminals’ no matter where they live. These are individuals for whom to be someone in life is to do the forbidden, whatever the forbidden might be. One man said that if rape were legalized, he wouldn’t do it, but he declared that he would certainly do something else that was just as exciting and forbidden.”

    Next, let’s return to some of Dr. Kersel’s observations (bibliographical details available in my 5-part comment series posted on Dr. Kersel’s April 5th blog article):

    “Israel is an excellent example of a geographically advantaged state due to its proximity to the Palestinian Authority (PA), where MOST OF THE LOOTING in this region occurs” (Kersel 2006, p. 191; EMPHASIS MINE).

    “These professional looters are organised and sent to specific sites and areas at the behest of an overseer (USUALLY PALESTINIAN), who has some knowledge of archaeology, excavation methodology, and consumer demand. … The overseer, often crossing borders between Israel and the PA, distributes the recovered antiquities to a middleman traditionally from one of the many villages in the PA” (Kersel 2007, p. 86; EMPHASIS MINE).

    “Frustrated by the situation in the PA … Palestinians have turned to an everyday form of resistance, the looting of archaeological sites. Looters make a conscious decision to prioritise the destruction of the Jewish/Israeli past over the preservation of the Palestinian heritage. … Destroying sites with Israeli (Jewish) associations, thus, bolsters local perceptions of Palestinian self-determination. In repeated interviews I was told that one of the motivating factors for looting was a resistance to the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people. … [T]he Palestinian looter, regardless of whether he digs in Israel or the PA, does not identify the material remains as his or her past but as an Israeli past, and it should therefore be eradicated.” (Kersel 2007, pp. 91-2).

    The subsequent paragraph on p. XII of Dr. Samenow’s book illuminates the mind of liars:

    “The criminal lies to cover his tracks and to get out of a jam that he has created for himself. However, he also lies about the most minuscule matters even when there is no ostensible reason. … The criminal lies in order to preserve a view of himself and the world. He derives a sense of power from lying, in believing he is pulling the wool over the eyes of others.”

    Although Dr. Kersel attributes looting to Israelis as well as to Palestinians, by portraying a looter as “the poor farmer” instead of a criminal, Jamie Aprile is simply “pulling the wool over the eyes of others.”

  17. Dear G.M. Grena,

    Thank you for your post. It is refreshing to see the “other side” of antiquities market activity represented in this predominantly academic-driven forum. Unfortunately, I find your stated perspectives relating to this collecting activity to be rather disturbing.

    Permit me to model your collecting rationale on the legal principle of trusteeship. In every constitutionally-grounded, modern legal system trusteeship is a thoroughly regulated affair. In other words, there are well-defined-dare I say, common sense-rules regarding who counts as a trustee of x in a given situation. If it is fair to infer from your post that you position yourself as the rightful and sole trustee of the items in your collection, then I wonder whether you can provide a rational justification for your position? What makes you the proper trustee of these items, rather than, say, the IAA?

    If you have trouble answering this question, then might I suggest you turn your scholarly mind to, perhaps,volunteering with archaeological research and museums-rather than working on the periphery? You may then find the mental satisfaction you seek . . .

  18. Dear “Dear reader” (what a clever moniker!), what makes me the “proper” (& legal) trustee of these items rather than the IAA, are the sales receipts from the IAA-licensed dealers, & the export permits granted by the IAA. Call me crazy, but I’m guessing that if the IAA had any interest in claiming trusteeship, they’d revoke all the dealer licenses & cease granting export permits. Maybe you should consider asking them why they persist in this activity, & see if they have trouble answering your question!

    And I do volunteer with archeological research & museums by assisting them with LMLK material via my “periphery” non-profit work. It’s not nearly as mentally satisfying as my direct work in Christian apologetics, but fun nonetheless.

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