Jan/Feb 2019 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (45/1) is now on newsstands

BAR 45-1The Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) is pleased to announce the publication of the January/February 2019 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR 45/1), which is on newsstands now.

During my first year as Editor, I am particularly proud of the number of new authors who have contributed to BAR, as well as the number of women and young(er) scholars we’ve been able to publish. We’ve also implemented a few changes, such as our new policy against publishing unprovenanced objects.

As I begin my second year as Editor, you can look for a few more gradual changes, including a redesign in the second half of 2019, a new website, more video and online resources, and a very special double issue highlighting some of the best archaeologists and biblical scholars in the academy.

This Jan/Feb issue is the annual “Digs” issue, so if you’re interested in going on an archaeological excavation, this issue has info on active excavations, contact info, and (perhaps most importantly) scholarship information ($2,000 awards–see pg. 27) for volunteers who want to go and excavate.

The featured articles include:

“Digs 2019: A Day in the Life”
By Robert R. Cargill
When the alarm clock blares at 4 a.m., it’s time to get up and start the dig day. Join BAR Editor Robert R. Cargill in his trademark tie-dye shirt as he walks you through a typical day in the life of an archaeological dig participant. It’s always grueling but never dull. And find out what excavation opportunities are available in the Holy Land this summer!

“The Last Days of Canaanite Azekah”
By Oded Lipschits, Sabine Kleiman, Ido Koch, Karl Berendt, Vanessa Linares, Sarah Richardson, Manfred Oeming, and Yuval Gadot
Excavations at Late Bronze Age Tel Azekah reveal various aspects of daily life in this Canaanite city, including its close interactions with Egypt. The gruesome discovery of four human skeletons poses questions about the final days of Azekah and how those dramatic events might be related to the Bronze Age collapse of Mediterranean
civilizations.

“Commander of the Fortress? Understanding an Ancient Israelite Military Title”
By William M. Schniedewind
From Tel Arad to Kuntillet ‘Ajrud to Jerusalem, Biblical scholar William M. Schniedewind guides BAR readers on a survey of ancient Israelite seals and inscriptions with an enigmatic title that has been variously translated “Governor of the City” and “Commander of the Fortress.” Who was this figure? Discover his importance and place in ancient Israelite and Judahite society.

“The Legend of Tel Achzib, Arkansas”
By Dale W. Manor
Excavations are underway at Tel Achzib—meaning “ruin of deception”—in Searcy, Arkansas. Created by archaeologists at Harding University, this artificial tell serves as a Biblical archaeology lab that introduces students to excavation technique and methodology. Especially for students unable to travel and dig in the Biblical lands, Tel Achzib offers a valuable, informative, and fun experience.

Also check out the columns in the issue:

FIRST PERSON
“A Little Jot on a Jerusalem Column”
By Robert R. Cargill

CLASSICAL CORNER
“Phidias and Pericles: Hold My Wine”
By Diane Harris Cline

BIBLICAL VIEWS
“Safeguarding Abraham”
By Dan Rickett

ARCHAEOLOGICAL VIEWS
“Tall Jalul: A Look from Behind the Jordan”
By Constance Gane

REVIEWS
“King David’s Stronghold at Khirbet Qeiyafa?”
In the Footsteps of King David: Revelations from an Ancient Biblical City by Yosef Garfinkel, Saar Ganor, and Michael G. Hasel
Reviewed by Aren M. Maeir

Enjoy! And click here to subscribe to both print and online versions.

 

 

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The Importance of Archaeological Provenance – BAR Sept/Oct 2018

My First Person editorial for Sept/Oct 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR 44/5) is titled “The Importance of Archaeological Provenance.” I hope you can give it a read and learn about some new policies we’ve instituted at BAR regarding newly-introduced unprovenanced objects and our publication of them.

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One of the major issues facing archaeology is the issue of provenance, or specifically the lack thereof, with regard to archaeological objects.1

The word provenance (alternatively spelled provenience) comes from the Latin provenire, meaning “to come forth, originate.” Thus, archaeological provenance refers to the verifiable information regarding the origin of an archaeological object—the dig site or location in which it was discovered, its locus, stratum, dating, etc., as well as its chain of custody, that is, who possessed the object since its discovery.

Conversely, an unprovenanced object is an object whose origin and chain of custody is unknown or partially unknown. These objects may have been looted from an archaeological site, forged, or otherwise acquired, legally or illegally, by a private collector, who often keeps the objects out of the hands of scholars. Some collectors, however, do offer their collections to scholars for study, but this process often merely increases the value of the objects for the collector, who then sells the objects for a greater profit. Other collectors sell their collections but demand that their identities be kept anonymous for fear of criminal prosecution or the stigmatic consequences of dealing antiquities on the black market.

Once the archaeological context of an object is lost, it is worth far less academically, as it can no longer reliably tell us anything about the people who made it. This is because the archaeological context—the place in which it was found in the ground—offers archaeologists as much information about the object as the object itself, like clues as to who was using the object, what it was used for, how old it is, etc.

Scholars and the Israel Antiquities Authority have condemned the purchase of unprovenanced objects by antiquities dealers for decades because it encourages the looting of archaeological sites by providing a financial incentive to those who would attempt to sell them to unwitting tourists and treasure seekers. Because objects discovered in licensed archaeological excavations belong to the state in which they were discovered—the most important of which typically end up displayed in the various states’ archaeological museums—those who wish to collect artifacts often turn to antiquities dealers. And while some antiquities dealers are licensed by the state to sell legally obtained objects, many others engage in the sale of illicitly obtained objects and, in turn, often collaborate with shadowy middlemen to acquire their goods (i.e., the black market).

Claims (typically made by licensed antiquities dealers) that the purchasers of illicit antiquities often act as “rescuers,” who ransom the looted artifacts from a life of shrouded anonymity on the black market so that they can be researched and published, are unconvincing. Continued illicit purchases only fuel further demand on the black market, which inevitably encourages looting. And even if a particular object has already been looted and is already on the black market, the sale of these antiquities, both legal and illicit, drives future looting, as stock must be resupplied. Reducing the demand by banning the non-state sanctioned sale of all antiquities and obstructing their transport is the only true way to begin to curtail looting. Furthermore, the damage done to potential and excavated archaeological sites by unscrupulous thieves far outweighs any benefits gained by the research and publication of these now decontextualized objects, which have been stripped of the valuable contextual data derived from a verifiable provenance.

One might object, “But what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? They began as unprovenanced objects before they were systematically excavated!” This is true, as did many objects that are now prominently displayed in the world’s greatest museums. These objects, as well as the additional problem of the transport of cultural history objects out of their homelands, contributed to the establishment of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Simply put, since it went into force in 1972, nations of the world agreed not to trade in illicit cultural heritage objects. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered beginning in 1947, prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, but you can understand why news of the recent acquisition of scrolls by the Museum of the Bible from contractually anonymous black-market dealers caused so much furor among scholars.

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) have all established policies on unprovenanced antiquities that prohibit participation in the trade of undocumented antiquities and the activities that give sanction to that trade, including exhibiting unprovenanced objects in museums, publishing articles on them in their respective journals, and presenting professional papers on them at annual conferences.2 This is all done in an effort to discourage the looting of archaeological objects. By scholars refusing to participate in research, the unprovenanced objects lack the professional credibility required to authenticate the objects—authentication that enhances their monetary value. Thus, in theory, by scholars refusing to authenticate the illicit objects, their value is diminished, which results in lessened demand, leading to less looting.

It is for this reason that last November at the SBL annual meeting in Boston, I announced that BAR would no longer publish newly discovered or introduced unprovenanced archaeological objects in its pages. BAR occupies a unique place between the academy and the public. While it is our primary mission to convey the latest archaeological discoveries and research to the public, we also have a responsibility to discourage looting and the forging of archaeological objects by not promoting them in our magazine.

If and when the next sensational unprovenanced archaeological object is introduced to the media, BAR may use its position as a media outlet to explain to our readers what the claims being made are and why the unprovenanced nature of the discovery makes the discovery problematic. But as a practice, BAR will no longer publish newly introduced unprovenanced objects in an effort to play our small part in guarding against looting and forgery.—B.C.

1 A portion of this column was adapted from an earlier blog post (robertcargill.com/2017/07/19/the-museum-of-the-bible- why-are-archaeologists-and-bible-scholars-so-mad/).

2 ASOR and SBL provide an exemption for cuneiform tablets (see, e.g., www.asor.org/ initiatives-projects/asor-affiliated-archaeological-projects-2/standards-policies/policy-on- cuneiform-texts-from-iraq/).

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