chronicle of higher ed asks what’s best done with the dead sea scrolls

An infrared image of a fragment of Deuteronomy 27, part of Azusa Pacific U.'s Dead Sea Scrolls acquisition.

An infrared image of a fragment of Deuteronomy 27, part of Azusa Pacific U.'s Dead Sea Scrolls acquisition.

a new article by jennifer howard of the chronicle of higher education asks an important question: ‘what’s best done with the dead sea scrolls?’ in the article, howard examines the pros and cons of religiously-affiliated universities acquiring fragments of the dead sea scrolls for the sake of publicity.

But for some scholars, the purchases are more a cause for concern than for celebration. Will such acquisitions by academic institutions, even though they are made legally, help drive up the market for looted antiquities and rare artifacts? And is the boost to scholarship really worth the large sums of money those fragments cost?

she also makes note of my recent satirical blog post announcing the acquisition of some dss fragments by other previously unknown dead sea scrolls-centered institutions.

Some scholars feel queasy at the thought that universities will shell out that kind of money in these hard-pressed times, even for objects as symbolically and historically important as pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls. On his blog, Robert R. Cargill, a Biblical archaeologist, imagined “a race of archaeological one-upmanship,” in which institutions compete to scoop up high-profile objects in order to boost their academic reputations.

Mr. Cargill is the institutional technology coordinator of the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of California at Los Angeles, and the chief architect and designer of UCLA’s Qumran Visualization Project. “Universities are charged with educating people, not acquiring cool artifacts,” he said in an interview. “If someone gives a university something, OK. But universities should spend the bulk of their money on educating students and not on cheap public-relations ploys in an attempt to increase credibility overnight with the purchase of an antiquity.” Mr. Cargill also worries that high-profile acquisitions will encourage would-be looters to see what else they can dig up and put on the market.

jennifer did an excellent job with the article and it is certainly worth the read.

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