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.

BAR-SO18-FP_Provenance_all

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/).

Advertisements

Robert Cargill to give AIA lecture tonight on “New Approaches in Digital Archaeology at Tel Azekah, Israel”

Tel Azekah digital model, University of Iowa.

Tel Azekah digital model

I’m giving a lecture tonight for the Iowa chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America entitled “New Approaches in Digital Archaeology at Tel Azekah, Israel.”

Info for this AIA Iowa Society Lecture Program is as follows:

Title: “New Approaches in Digital Archaeology at Tel Azekah, Israel”
Presenters: Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D., Asst. Prof of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Iowa
Cale Staley, MA Student, Department of Religious Studies, University of Iowa
Location: Room 116 of the Art Building West, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Date: Feb 24, 2014
Time: 7:30 PM

Abstract: This presentation examines the University of Iowa’s 3D, virtual reconstruction of Tel Azekah, located in the Elah Valley just west of Jerusalem after its initial two seasons of excavation. The presentation offers a new methodology for the systematic digital cataloging, visualization, and reconstruction of archaeological excavations as they progress.

About the Presenter: Robert Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, where he has taught since 2011. He came to Iowa from the University of California, Los Angeles Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. While at UCLA, he also served as the Instructional Technology Coordinator for UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities. He is part of the Public Humanities in a Digital World cluster of faculty.

Sponsored by: The AIA Iowa Society Lecture Program, with the support of the Office of the State Archaeologist, the University of Iowa Departments of Anthropology, Classics, Religion, Art and Art History, and the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History.

Audience Type: General public

Tel Azekah digital model, University of Iowa.

Tel Azekah digital model, University of Iowa.

ASOR joins LCCHP and Other Organizations in Warning of Cultural Heritage Emergency in Egypt

ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) LogoASOR has added its name and support to a statement expressing concern over the potential loss of cultural heritage in Egypt. While human life and well-being are of primary importance, much of Egypt’s cultural identity is rooted in its proud cultural heritage, dating back thousands of years. Reports of museums being looted and artifacts like mummies being destroyed are devastating to Egypt’s irreplaceable cultural heritage.

Here is the statement in its entirety:

The undersigned cultural heritage and archaeological organizations express their concern over the loss of life and injury to humans during the protests in Egypt this week. We support the desire of the Egyptian people to exercise their basic civil rights. We also share their concern about the losses to cultural heritage that Egypt has already sustained and the threat of further such losses over the coming days.

Brave actions taken by the citizens of Cairo and the military largely protected the Cairo Museum. However, the numerous sites, museums and storage areas located outside of Cairo are even more vulnerable. As the prisons are opened and common criminals are allowed to escape, the potential for greater loss is created. A recent report from Egyptologist Professor Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama in Birmingham states that damage has been done to storage areas and tombs in Abusir and Saqqara and that looting is occurring there and in other locations.

We call on the Egyptian authorities to exercise their responsibilities to protect their country’s irreplaceable cultural heritage. At the same time, we call on United States and European law enforcement agencies to be on the alert over the next several months for the possible appearance of looted Egyptian antiquities at their borders.

For a link to ASOR’s Policy on the Preservation and Protection of Cultural Property, click here.

For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, visit www.culturalheritagelaw.org.

Duke Conference on Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: DAY 2

Friday, April 24, 2009

8:15-8:40 am

Nina Burleigh
“Inside the Collector’s Lair and Other Tales from the Biblical Antiquities Trade in Israel and the USA”

Burleigh read excerpts from her book and spoke about the Oded Golan affair and forgeries in Israel.


8:50-9:15 am

Mark Pinsky
“The Holy Land Experience”

The journalist Pinsky spoke about the phenomenon of the Holy Land Experience to Evangelicals.

The HLE was the creation of a man named Marvin Rosenthal.

Jews and Gentiles were welcome to work there, but no Pentecostals.


9:25-9:50 am

Tony Cartledge
“Walk about Jerusalem: Protestant Pilgrims in the Holy Land”

Cartledge spoke about the difference between religious tourists and Christian pilgrims.

He spoke about the media’s coverage of pilgrim activity in Jerusalem.

Pilgrimage is set within a concept of power. Pilgrimage drives religious, nationalist, ethnic, and financial groups over others.

He displayed several organizations that prey on pilgrims to make money and to push evangelical ideology, particularly premillennialism.

Provenance and history lend more value to antiquities. If scholars write articles or letters talking about the importance of the object, it makes the object worth more.


10:20-10:40 am

Tom Davis, CAARI (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute)
“What is a Cypriot? Archaeology and Identity”

Archaeology can become props for political interests, aiding governments in recreating history they way they want for political purposes.

Davis discussed the cultural and ethnic diversity of Cyprus over time, and the wealth of archaeological information available throughout the island.


10:40-10:50 am

Response by Donald Haggis, UNC Chapel Hill

Cypress instigates multiple identities of the past.

Archaeology can be used to alienate a people from another, as well as to combat government propaganda intended to divide people by promoting particular histories over another.

It is difficult for archaeologists to dig and to engage the community to help inform them about their own real past because of the time required and the risk of political retribution form governments in the form of withholding permits, etc.


11:00-11:20 am

Bert de Vries, Calvin College
“Umm el-Jimal”

Dr. de Vries gave a very good summary of the use of media in the Umm el-Jimal to promote knowledge about the site not only to the archaeological community, but to the local community. By working with the local government officials, archaeology can be used not noly by foreigners to dig holes in the ground and then leave, but to bolster the local community’s identity. De Vries displayed the site’s visually compelling website, and it use of images, video, and digital reconstruction to teach about the site.


11:20-11:30 am

Response by S. Thomas Parker, North Carolina State

Made two brief comments on general discussion from the day before.

1. ASOR cannot serve as an arbiter of archaeological fact vs. fiction because it does not speak with a unanimous voice.

2. Half of the people won’t care what we decide.


11:40 am – 12:00 pm

Eric Meyers, Duke
“The Quest for the Temple Mount: The Settler Movement and National Parks in Israel”

The reporting and publishing (and funding for) the reconstruction of archaeological discoveries is as important as the digging itself. Unfortunately, many times the reporting of sites by governments and NGOs is often inaccurate, or contrary to the archaeologist’s findings, favoring a propagandistic or nationalistic interpretation of the data for political purposes.

In the case of the City of David, reconstruction and publication is being used as a weapon by Jewish settlers to promote Zionist motives, evict Palestinian residents from their homes in the Silwan valley, and promote Jewish identity in East Jerusalem.

The IAA has ceded authority to do archaeology in the Silwan valley to Elad, an organization dedicated to redefining the area as a Jewish enclave. Elad administers the dig, without oversight. Publication is paid for by the IAA, Elad, and private donations from Jewish Zionist groups and Christian Fundamentalist Premillennialist Evangelicals.

Whose collective memories can be culled form these activities?

Meyers offered the website http://www.alt-arch.org as an alternative to archaeology driven by nationalistic and political ideology.


12:00-12:10 pm

Response by Rebecca Stein, Duke

The ongoing archaeological excavation in Silwan is a form of occupation. Archaeology is being used as a weapon to displace Palestinians in this East Jerusalem enclave.

Post war tourism was a way by which to promote public involvement in the Israeli investment in the occupation of Palestine.


12:30-1:45 pm

Roundtable Lunch Discussion: Where do we go from here?

Paul Flesher: Introduction

-Where do we go from here. Practical solutions to some of these problems.

Question 1: Personnel. Who would be willing to do what?

Paul says that Eric says we should create a body within ASOR as a vehicle to move things forward. Whether we call it a media committee or task force. A good model would be a committee of people who are willing to meet regularly and other people who are wiling to help out on certain kinds of things.

-passing around a sheet of paper, if you are interested and want to be involved in some level, on an occasional level or on a regular committee.

-name, email, things you’re interested in, kind of commitment you are willing make

Question 2: Now: return to practical steps

Robert Cargill: what forms of technology are there for us to use to inform and to partner with different organizations, specifically with different media organizations. But also with ourselves, how can we harness the technology out there to promote archaeology. Mentions analogies with Business School etc. Discusses UCLA Center for Digital Humanities. Robert offers the same service to this group here as his job for UCLA. How can we then take this technology, partner with strategic people within the media, to push a better, healthier view of archaeology.

1. Byron McCane: Two suggestions.
a. Readily practical: More of us start blogging
b. Dream: CNN hires a Sanje Gupta of archaeology

2. Carole Lazio: Three suggestions
a. organize a digital news feed; a way that people could post information about their sites; someone would need to study what the newsfeeds would appreciate having
b. having someone attend meetings and educate people on media relations; AAA has been doing this for years.

3. Bob Cargill says “ Here’s how you do an interview” he had friends in the media who gave him the backside about how interviews are conducted and to what end.
-suggests we provide a course on how to do interviews. partner with a media person. Here’s how you sit, speak, present yourself, can and can’t do, can and can’t expect.

4. Ray Bruce agrees with Bob. If you have some people who are media literate they will use you more often, can do it faster, trust is built up sooner. So easily done.

5. Moira Bucciarelli responds to Ray saying that SBL is already planning a session on media training

6. Rachel Hallote: not just media training, but what we say to the media. As academic s and biblical archaeologists we’ve been battling away with the bible for 50 years. Always telling people they haven’t found what they claim. They don’t want to hear that. We have to meet them half way. We need to reengage the bible which is what is pulling the media along.

7. Bob says people tell him. “you always debunk” and then people’s view of scholarship is that you are skepticism. Try to do your skepticism in a positive form (here’s what we do know) rather than negative (we can’t know that).
-Bob follows up suggesting we suggest our friends. When we deal with media reps we also give referrals. We should put together a networking model for areas of expertise. The more we can refer people that we know and trust and who are really publishing, the more we can promote those names, they don’t need to call someone they’ve found on google. Media list. Maybe that is the same clearinghouse we use to publish our credible ideas on a website. He does think you should involve a website.

8. Eric Powell: AIA is developing a training program and a list of experts, like a media go-to list.
-Bob notes that law schools do regularly contain a media contact list.

Quit looking down on the media, embrace them, and maybe they will come to us more often.

9. Mark Pinsky: says this kind of course not that complicated; you should ask them “how long is the bite” “never refer to previous answer” if you don’t like your answer you can say “lets try it again” Find out where they are going with this. If you know where they are going, you can provide the narrative spine. The more you can go where they want you to go, they more they will use your face.

10. Ethan Bronner: before you get to documentary you will start with newspaper. Notes that peer review can take a long time if you refuse to discuss your findings with the media until they are peer reviewed. You as professionals need to know how the cascading set of exposures work. List of experts is good idea. List of subspecialities is a good idea (jesus era guy but also known to believe X about what we know about that moment). Says media people are not necessarily “moneymad”. They are also interested. Still a kind of arbiter of the public (newspapers) of something no one is trying to sell you. My job is to be filter between the jerk who is trying to sell something and what is true.

11. Mark Pinsky: NYT has become the cerebrum of the industry. The producers are doing their thinking based on what is on the front of the NYT. If you can begin with Ethan or with NPR you won’t have to go those (bad) producers (because they are based on NYT any way).

12. Andy Vaughn: one of my concerns or fears in developing a list of people who can speak to a topic and to the media is that we need to find a way to build in junior scholars, women, people of color. Make sure that we are bringing all sorts of people in.

13. Paul Flesher responds: Eric is talking about the ‘good housekeeping seal’ but if you don’t get it, it creates a lot of hard feelings. Easier for ASOR to create a list of members with their specialities, publication area, where you are working.

14. Andy: if we have a list that is long and not weeded out you don’t necessary accomplish the goal. We need a list that a grammar school librarian can turn to to tell a teacher in 8th grade. We don’t want to list everyone. However, from an admin. standpoint, as soon as we start ticking people off the list, that becomes hard.

15. Moira B.: do the journalists use religion source?

16. Mark P.: outside of the big three or four, everything is very local

17. Jodi Magness: in the ASOR and SBL session on media a couple of points that came up, in terms of TV docs we have to be diligent about the kinds of people that we collaborate with. Ultimately it is the studio or the executive who has the ultimate say.
-Can see the sensitivity of putting up a list of names. Doesn’t think she would want her name on an internet list where everyone can get her information. Thinks a media committee could formulate a list, but not necessarily post or advertise it. The organization could have a link that suggests please contact us at this number.

18. Bob: Ideal thing would be to put the list in the hands of the producers. Otherwise, its’ going to be those of us who live in LA or NY .

19. Rachel H.: Most of her local tv and journalist appearances were because they used profnet. Could ASOR contact the different institutions where the members are teaching. Brings in the University PR departments.

20.Eric Meyers: what if our society might think about things that would be appropriate for production and we approach journalists?

21. Ray Bruce: says brilliant. He gets a lot of his ideas from people that he knows who ring him up. So it would be a two way thing and proactive.

22. Eric M. says: that would give us the opportunity to go to NEA to underwrite a film with a grant.
-Bob says that this is exactly what fringe scholars do.

23. Bob: Begin to use the ASOR blog ahead of time when we know something is coming. Be the first to post.

24. Mark Goodacre: Content. Using Bob’s exposure of the Golb scandal, he didn’t get polemical. He just calmly wrote the facts. Avoid the polemic.

What makes someone unusable for TV: won’t repeat anything and so unpleasant.

We should try to be calm and pleasant. To make ourselves useful and not to be perceived as hostile, grumpy, skeptical people be calm collected and just get the content out there.

25. Bob: the blogs that are the most successful are the blogs that are there everyday. very fresh.

26. Ethan B.: It is often the case that people throw a press conference. It is better to use a reporter and walk that reporter through over a series of hours because a press conference is awful. It launches it with less control over it as opposed to a reporter about whom you can be confident.
-second advantage is that paper will give it prominence because it is an exclusive.

27. Mark Pinsky: might want to choose someone who is a bit more gullible but someone who might be less skeptical. May get a better hit or better play if you pick a regional media person.

28. Byron M.: at another conference a journalist made a point that “I am not the media.” “We are all the media.”


2:00-2:50 pm

Featured Speaker: Ethan Bronner, NYT Bureau Chief, Jerusalem
“Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: A View from Jerusalem”

Began with Israel Knoll and the Hazon Gabriel

Bronner wrote a story about the Vision of Gabriel and told the audience about the feedback he got from various groups.

Talked about interviewing some archaeologists that are funded by Zionist organizations that tell the story of Israel from 1000BC to 70 CE, and then skip to 1947 CE.

Although the Jewish/Zionist approach to history and archaeology is problematic, the Palestinian is worse. Arafat denied any Jewish history, especially that there was ever a Temple on the Haram. The later leader of the Palestinian antiquities, (Araquat), told a story about how Arafat denied any Jewish presence, and that the Palestinians will continue to deny the presence of a Temple. Palestinians refusal to acknowledge any Jewish archaeological heritage drives the Jewish desire to find Jewish heritage.

The Palestinians are just as culpable as Israel in the use of archaeology for nationalism, and for the denial of cultural heritage.


3:45-3:55 pm

Ray Bruce, Head of Programmes, CTVC

Bruce was asked to hang around and observe and offered feedback from the world of tele.

The job of the tv docu producer is managing expectations. Expectations of crew, expectations of producers, and expectations of talent in front of the camera.

Expectations of the broadcaster: what will keep an audience glued to a tv for ½ hour. Noise around their shows. Noisy, risky, thought provoking shows with awards and press conferences and tie ins.

Scholars must decide whether or not we want to play the tele game or not.

Different channels are looking for different things. The BBC wants something different than ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5.

Thank God for Dan Brown. Because, up to four years ago, most people wouldn’t be discussing the council of Nicea, or whether was Judas was actually good guy.

Dan Brown raises the question and provides the opportunities for scholars to respond and educate the public.

Archaeologists are not familiar with the grammar and politics of tv production.

Bruce says he is a little bit nervous about ‘controlling the subject,’ ‘black lists,’ etc. The same is true about the rogue archaeologists. Who decides who is a rogue? The guild needs auditing, but needs to be done carefully.

The media do not know the players, but neither do most archaeologists know the players in the media.

Why not make use of media departments in us universities?


3:55-4:05 pm

Moira Bucciarelli, Public Initiatives Coordinator, SBL

Scholars feel that their views are being passed by or ignored or exploited.

One good way to improve this is to utilize/establish a media relations dept.

How do we keep a list of experts? Do we have a central list or do we keep individual lists?

Don’t leave the audience empty-handed. Don’t be absolutist, don be academic. Take them on the journey.

How do we stop the public from getting all their news from popular (and poor) websites?

Should we introduce a blog on the SBL website? Rotating authorship?

Speaker is creating a monthly newsletter for high school teachers about archaeology.

Do we need a ‘fact or fiction’ website? YES!

How can scholars avoid being in the position of only reacting to sensational archaeology.

“Nuancing the stone” will be a memorable phrase.


4:05-4:15 pm

Eric Powell, Deputy Editor of Archaeology Magazine

Discussed the American Institute of Archaeology

Powell encouraged the scholar audience to write for Archaeology Magazine?

Reasons to pause (or why scholars pause) to write for Archaeology Magazine.

The distortion of a scholar’s work often causes scholars never to work with media again.

Powell encouraged scholars to take better photographs.

Joint statements form the AIA, ASOR, SBL will go far to combat bad science.


4:15-4:25 pm

Andy Vaughn – ASOR
“Summary of the Conference”

Two competing cultures in archaeology and media.

1. The collegial culture that says that professors view that peer-reviewed articles are most important.

2. The administrator culture that says that enrollments and bottom line is essential.

The same is true for media and archaeology.

Do media not care about truth and accuracy? And do professors not care about the Bottom line and entertainment?

Archaeology is by nature an interdisciplinary endeavor. And when budgets are cut, the departments focus on departmental matters.

The tension that exists between history and re-enactment.

Archaeology cannot prove the bible, but it can support and disprove what we believe about the bible.

Scientific method is by nature negative. Science only disproves, never proves.

Re-enactment, on the other hand, provide a positive image for what we do know.

Archaeology and historical research can bring the ‘historical imagination’ alive. Without passing judgment on the historical truth of the a claim, the re-enactment and the historical imagination can be informed.

The dream of a ASOR website. ASORpedia.

A Wikipedia of archaeological and historical sites throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

FAQ section
Fact or Fiction section
Experts section
Moderated blog section

The site must be something the teachers can trust.

Continuing funding can come in the form of ads.

Elementary schools are looking for authoritative sites that students can cite.

%d bloggers like this: