Monday, 14 October 2019

US Museum in Possession of More Stolen Artefacts

Statement by Egypt Exploration Society (EES) Professor Obbink and missing EES papyri Published: 14th October, 2019.

 An investigation has been going on prompted by the online publication of a leaked document (a contract of 17 January 2013 for the sale of six items to Hobby Lobby Stores, including four New Testament fragments probably of EES provenance. For earlier instalments of this saga: Monday, 24 June 2019, 'Biblical Brouhaha: Oxford Scholar Accused of Dealing in Manuscripts', Friday, 28 June 2019, 'More Narrative Turns in the Sale of the so-called "First Century Mark" Saga [UPDATED]'. Part of the statement reads:
With the help of photographs provided by the MOTB, the EES has so far identified thirteen [other] texts from its collection, twelve on papyrus and one on parchment, all with biblical or related content, which are currently held by the MOTB (see the attached list). These texts were taken without authorisation from the EES, and in most of the thirteen cases the catalogue card and photograph are also missing. Fortunately, the EES has back-up records which enable us to identify missing unpublished texts. [...] [...] The Board of Trustees of the MOTB has accepted the EES claim to ownership of the thirteen pieces identified to date, and is arranging to return them to the EES. [...] Oxford University is now investigating, with EES help, the removal from University premises and alleged sale of EES texts. The EES is also pursuing identification and recovery of other texts, or parts of texts, which have or may have been illicitly removed from its collection.
. "Illicitly"? Or "illegally"? Strange language used here.
We cannot comment here on any broader legal issues arising from these findings, except to note that they are under consideration by all the institutions concerned.
I find odd the reference that eleven of the 13 were sold to the MoTB by the same seller, most of them in two batches in 2010 - which means that a second seller had access to one or more intems "illicitly removed" from the EES collection - how many "nighthawks" were there raiding their storerooms? secondly if two batches came in to the museum in 2010, why do we get this utterly chaotic sequence of MoTB inventory numbers for them? 'PAP.000120 three small fragments', PAP.000121, PAP.000122, PAP.000377, PAP.000378, PAP.000388, PAP.000395, 'PAP.000425 one part', PAP.000427, PAP.000446, PAP.000463, PAP.000467, and for the single parchment: MS.000514. Bonkers, or just a total MoTB mess.

What also needs explanation is how the Green Collection/MoTB just accepted such texts as these would just "surface" and be available for legal sale all about the same time without - presumably - any firm documentation of where they'd been before being produced to them. Note, no mention is made of them challenging the EES claim by producing alternative documentation.

I assume that Mr Green is now beginning to catch on that buying such a large number of "biblical artefacts" in the way he did was not a good way to go.

Update 14th October 2019

Brent Nongbri, 'How Many Oxyrhynchus Papyri Have Been Sold?' Posted on October 14, 2019. It turns out we know that :
Mike Holmes of MOTB confirms that the seller of the other two pieces was Khader M. Baidun and Sons/Art-Levant Antiquities of Israel
Candida Moss points out that the Baiduns were accused of selling other stuff to the Green CollectionThere are also comments by Nongbri on Scott Carroll and 'the Stimer Collection' in connection with other Oxyrhynchus papyri. It seems more revelations are going to follow. 

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