Wednesday 23 April 2014

"Pap Dodge" Looks Dodgier

Across the Wall?
Yet another 'collecting history' claimed by an American owner of a dugup antiquity proves to be - ahem - "problematic" (Owen Jarus, 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife': Doubts Raised About Ancient Text' Live Science April 22, 2014). This one has echoes of the Suzie Jelinek story of the St Louis Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask. Readers will remember that the 'provenance' claimed by the current owner of a controversial papyrus was a document (contract) which stated that "it was purchased, along with five other Coptic papyrus fragments, from a man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp in November 1999 and that Laukamp had obtained it in 1963 from Potsdam in then-East Germany". Oh, the "turned up in East Germany" card too. Like the "Leutwitz Apollo"? It turns out, here too, not to be too difficult to check, did the Harvard scholar try?
 In an effort to confirm the origins of the papyrus and discover its history, Live Science went searching for more information about Laukamp and his descendents, business partners or friends.  Our findings indicate that Laukamp was a co-owner of the now-defunct ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks in Venice, Fla. Documents filed in Sarasota County, Fla., show that Laukamp was based in Germany at the time of his death in 2002 and that a man named René Ernest was named as the representative of his estate in Sarasota County. In an exchange of emails in German, Ernest said that Laukamp did not collect antiquities, did not own this papyrus and, in fact, was living in West Berlin in 1963, so he couldn't have crossed the Berlin Wall into Potsdam. Laukamp, he said, was a toolmaker and had no interest in old things. In fact, Ernest was astonished to hear that Laukamp's name had been linked to this papyrus. [...]  Ernest said, adding that, as far as he knows, Laukamp had no children and has no living relatives [...] Another acquaintance of Laukamp — Axel Herzsprung, who was also a co-owner of ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks — told Live Science (in German in an email) that while Laukamp collected souvenirs on trips, he never heard of him having a papyrus. To his knowledge, Laukamp did not collect antiquities, Herzsprung said.
How convenient that Laukamp has no living relatives. Jarus then raises the question of the copy of a "typed and signed letter addressed to H. U. Laukamp" that dates to July 15, 1982, from Peter Munro, a now-deceased professor at the Freie University Berlin" which refers to "one of Mr. Laukamp's papyri" 
King wrote that the letter said that "a colleague, Professor Fecht, [had seen these papyri]  However, if Ernest and Herzsprung are correct, and Laukamp never collected antiquities, the question becomes: Why and how does this document exist? Munro died in 2009, and the "Professor Fecht" may be Gerhard Fecht, an Egyptology professor at the Freie University Berlin who passed away in 2006,
The collecting history relies on: Laukamp (died 2002 no heirs) being a collector, Munro (died 2009) not being around to ask about what he really knows about Fecht, who equally is not around because he died in 2006. Nothing can be verified, and the letter itself is only known as a 'copy' . "Pap Dodge" looks dodgier.

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