I’ve just returned from a stimulating week at the University of Agder. I had loads of interesting conversations about a number of topics, many of them stemming from the Museum of the Bible’s admission that (at least) five of their recently purchased, unprovenanced “Dead Sea Scroll” fragments are fake. This admission has inspired a number of reactions in various online forums, the most interesting of which have less to do with the fact of the forgeries (which have been suspected by The Lying Pen project and others for some time) and more to do with the ethical issues involved in the purchase (by collectors) and publication (by scholars) of unprovenanced artifacts. Especially sharp is an essay by Michael Press at Hyperallergic. and an interview with Årstein Justnes in Haaretz.
There is a lot to say about this whole situation, but for the moment, I would like to look at an old quote that came to mind for me as I was reading these articles. The proximate phrase that jarred this memory was the ending of an essay by Robert Cargill, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, who closed his thoughts on the matter in the following way:
Finally, this should serve yet again as a prime example for why unprovenanced archaeological objects should not be published and displayed in museums. The days of the black-market trade of unprovenanced Dead Sea Scrolls fragments must come to an end!
Leaving aside the issue mentioned above (the curiosity that the risk of forged material should be a “prime example” of why unprovenanced artifacts should not be published), these words immediately reminded me of another opinion expressed in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review thirteen years ago, when the longtime Harvard professor Frank Moore Cross (1921-2012) enthusiastically endorsed the publication of unprovenanced artifacts, while at the same time calling for an end to the licensed sale of antiquities:
“I am indeed to be included among those who think that artifacts, particularly those bearing inscriptions, should be published whether dug up in scientifically controlled excavations or dug up by plundering antiquities dealers, collectors or their minions. Inscribed artifacts have so much—I am tempted to say most—to contribute to history and culture that they dare not be discarded and ignored. . . . To throw away inscriptional materials because they come from illicit digs (or forgers) is in my opinion irresponsible, either an inordinate desire for certitude on the part of those without the skills or energy to address the question of authenticity or the patience to wait until a consensus of scholars can be reached. It is noteworthy that those most eloquent in denouncing the publication of material from illicit digs are narrow specialists, especially dirt archaeologists.
. . .
Contrary to many, I have long urged the Department of Antiquities of Israel (now the Antiquities Authority) to shut down licensed antiquities dealers. I find extraordinary the argument, especially made by museum personnel, that having licensed dealers prevents the best finds from going abroad and channels them into Israel’s museums. Anyone who has viewed the Moussaieff collection is aware that the best pieces go abroad with (or without) licensed antiquities dealers. Far better is the proposal for the Authority to sell duplicate pieces they have in great excess in their storerooms to academic institutions that wish to have study collections and to use the profits for scientific excavation and publication.
The argument is often heard that publishing unprovenienced pieces encourages more illicit digging, since publication is felt to authenticate and so increase their market value. I am not aware of any clear evidence that this is true. In any case, illicit digging will continue unabated as long as antiquities dealers and their suppliers are active. However, the establishment of the spuriousness of forged pieces will certainly reduce their value on the open market and put dealers in fakes at grave risk.”
It is a striking statement,especially in light of the massive scale of looting happening in recent years in places like Syria and Iraq (and it should be noted that Cross’s essay appeared in 2005, when the widespread looting in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was already known). I guess in my heart-of-hearts, I must be something of a “dirt archaeologist,” because I can’t help feeling a little offended by parts of Cross’s statement. There are several things that stand out about it. The privileging of text above other forms of ancient evidence. The disregard for the damage that illicit digging causes to people who don’t happen to be professors at Harvard. But especially relevant in light of this latest development with the Museum of the Bible is the hubris of the scholar: “an inordinate desire for certitude on the part of those without the skills or energy to address the question of authenticity.” The forged fragments in the Museum of the Bible collection managed to deceive two of the most respected specialists in the field: Emanuel Tov (editor of the volume) and Ada Yardeni (the palaeographic expert who inspected each of the pieces). This fact, I think, says something about the state of the discipline of Hebrew palaeography.
But most of all, Cross’s quotation makes me wonder how much has changed in the last fifteen years. What proportion of scholars who work with ancient evidence have shifted their views on these matters? I certainly have. When I studied and published a couple papyrus amulets from Yale’s Beinecke Library as a graduate student, I didn’t even think twice about the fact that I couldn’t trace their history back beyond Yale’s 1996 acquisition of the fragments. I just knew that some scholars were preparing a catalog of Christian amulets, and I thought these pieces I had stumbled across ought to be included in the survey. I have no doubt that the pieces are ancient, but looking back on it now, I feel embarrassed at how hopelessly naive I was. And now, even when I’m working with materials acquired before the 1970 UNESCO treaty, I find myself regularly uncomfortable about issues of acquisition and provenance. The 1970 date is a legal marker, not an ethical one. I may try to spell that out further in future posts.
Frank Moore Cross claimed personally to know of yet-unpublished genuine-appearing Dead Sea Scroll like mss. (As did Strugnell and G. L. Harding.)
…FMC was indeed a great scholar–and surely not shy in conversation–but also was mistaken on the identity of the Qumran Wicked Priest, who opposed those who Philo said esteemed deeds (cf. ma’asim) more highly than words. Some have now skipped from the too-early candidates to too-late ones, skipping over Alexander Jannaeus. Kattell Berthelot is yet another recently who reads 4Q448 as *against* King Jonathan (who was the “lion of wrath”), as was Strabo against him as tyrannical and superstitious, Strabo being perhaps Philo’s source (cf. Quod Omnis 89).
Thanks, Stephen. I briefly looked around to see if Cross had anything to say about the fragments that began emerging in 2002, but my quick search didn’t turn up anything. Do you have references for Cross’s knowledge of unpublished pieces?
Not sure if Press mentioned this, but it’s worth keeping the heat on the Greens
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Over a number of years I sought out any references I could find to fragments that had been in private hands or that still were in private hands, however no effort was given in determining if the fragments were genuine or fake. Found numerous references to many them little known of fragments, these now well known of and mostly fakes.
Among the references there were few to do with Cross, and they appear to be of limited relevance to the marketing of the post 2002 fragments. References are given below:
“The precise number of documents from the eleven caves of Qumran is not yet known. Two purchases of Cave IV materials in the Summer of 1958 (the cave was discovered six years earlier) appear to have exhausted the resources of clandestine diggers; but there is every reason to believe that a considerable portion of the manuscripts of Cave XI, found in 1956, remain in Bedouin hands”: page 189 of “The Development of the Jewish Scripts”, by F.M. Cross, Jr., The Bible and the Ancient Near East: Essays on Honor of William Foxwell Albright, ed. G.E. Wright (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), p.133-202
“I should say that we know of a number of fragments that are in private hands. Diplomats and collectors acquired them and smuggled the out of the country. They were purchased from Kando or other antiquities dealers acting as middlemen for the bedouin … Early in 1967, a Washington law firm wrote to me, and later its representatives made a visit to Cambridge to discuss Qumrân scrolls for sale … I took their claim seriously that they were middlemen for persons in Jordan and Beirut who had complete Qumrân scrolls for sale. The scrolls were purportedly from Cave 11. Rumours about Cave 11 material that had never come into scholarly hands had been circulating for a decade – and indeed circulate to this day … We were taken to a grand mansion where the banker – the driver of the car – lived. Kando showed me several boxes of fragments, some from Cave 11, others of the Bar Kokhba era, including a Greek contract or two. But, he explained, he had a great scroll to sell … the Washington contact had sworn to me that he had several great scrolls. Well, he had at least one. And the fragments, the remarkable fragments he had brought. I said I was not interested in his expletive-deleted fragments … I talked with Yadin shortly after he acquired the Temple Scroll. I described to him in detail the materials I had seen in Kando’s possession in Beirut. I also expressed my concern that having Kando arrested and his scroll seized might end the flow of materials into scholarly hands and lead to the scattering of scrolls or scroll fragments in the foreign antiquities markets. Yadin answered, I cannot tell you the whole story, but you may be certain that my actions will not alter any arrangement with Kando. The materials will continue to flow in … rumours of scrolls, or at least a fragmentary document, continue to circulate, and have recently become persistent. I know nothing firsthand; but I’ll not be surprised if new material turns up”: Cross, interviewed in Shanks, pages 128,135-137,139-41 of Frank Moore Cross: Conversations with a Bible Scholar, by H. Shanks (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1994)
“Early in 1967, a Washington law firm communicated with me, and later its representatives made a visit to Cambridge to discuss Qumran scrolls for sale … I took seriously their claim that they were middlemen for persons in Jordan and Beirut who had more or less complete Qumran scrolls for sale. The scrolls were purportedly from Cave 11. Rumours about Cave 11 material which had never come into scholars’ hands had circulated for a decade and indeed circulate to this day … We were taken to a grand mansion where the banker, the driver of the car, lived. Kando showed me several boxes of fragments, some from Cave 11, others of the Bar Kokhba era including a Greek contract or two. But, he explained, he had a great scroll to sell … The Washington contact had sworn to me that he had several large scrolls. Well, he had at least one, and the fragments, the remarkable fragments he had brought. I said I was not interested in his minuscule fragments”: pages 941-942 of “Reminiscences of the Early Days in the Discovery and Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls”, by F.M. Cross, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fifty Years after Their Discovery. Proceedings of the Jerusalem Congress, July 20-25, 1997, ed. L.H. Schiffman, E. Tov and J.C. VanderKam (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society in cooperation with The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, 2000), p.932-943
Thanks for this, Matthew. If Cross actually saw a well preserved scroll in Kando’s possession in early 1967, presumably it would have been the Temple Scroll: https://museum.imj.org.il/shrine_center/Temple_article.html
As for the “minuscule fragments” from Kando: If such fragments do emerge, I doubt they will be anything special if Cross was so dismissive of them.
These fragments probably/possibly have already emerged. Given that Yadin later acquired small fragments from Kando (i.e., probably after the confiscations of the Temple Scroll and TgJob fragment), including Cave 11 fragments, one should consider it possible that those small Yadin fragments are those which Cross saw. They are presently on the IAA plates X78-79. Interestingly, Talmon published the three largest ones, and apparently considered the eight or nine other minute ones as not worthy of publishing. Three of those can be fitted together, and hand, appearance, and content, suggest they are from 11Q20. See Humbert/Fidanzio, eds., Qumran Cave 11Q, p. 260-61.
Thanks. Just to be sure: Are these the plates to which you are referring? https://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/image/B-497952
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