Thursday, 29 January 2015

Can You Buy Real Antiquities in Israel?

Even if you're getting a real artifact from Israelite history, chances are it's not kosher says Marty Friedlander ('Can you buy genuine antiquities in Israel?' Haaretz  Jan. 14, 2015). The article discusses Israeli Antiquities Law of 1978 and the loophole which allows tourists ot buy antiquities "sometimes for little more than a history textbook would cost".
there was a grandfather clause in the law that permitted the sale of items already in the inventory of the antiquities shops. And there are dozens of authorized antiquities shops, many in the Old City of Jerusalem, and in upscale hotels. All offer a certificate of authenticity with each sale. The upshot is that the salesman may show you a perfectly genuine Hellenistic oil lamp - that he swears has been sitting on the shelf of his shop since Menachem Begin entered office. “What can I do? Sales have been slow.” (Wink, wink.) [...] Ah, but was it robbed as part of an illegal excavation? This is a far tougher question, one that if asked is liable to have you thrown out of the store. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the byword of this business.
 He points out that the number of sites in Israel, many unguarded mean that there is an abundance of genuine material available
that it makes no sense to start making counterfeit pots and vessels.  Coins are different. They are more likely to be counterfeit, several Old City antiquities dealers admitted to this reporter. Archaeologists concur [...] ancient coins offered for sale are more likely to be fake than other types of antiques. 
 While the Antiquities Law permits the sale of some the full gamut of artifacts, it forbids the export of some, including columns and ossuaries (stone boxes for secondary burial of bones).

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