Saturday 17 January 2015

Ancient Papyri, the Perils of a Lack of Virtue

Dorothy King ('Introducing the Master of the Miami Vice Hermes', 17 Jan 2015), discussing the fact that greedy collectors buying unprovenanced dugup artefacts often get caught out by fakes: "The reason is simple: you can't con an honest man, but an avaricious one will see what he wants to". A person willing to turn a blind eye to the lack of kosher provenance for a dugup antiquity, can often not notice the con and that the objects  themselves were even less kosher and modern fakes.
I am increasingly coming to believe that the same is true of the papyri coming out of dubious circumstances in recent years, as do the leading papyrologists I have been working with. As I've said many times before, I think it is counterproductive to discuss my methodology as that just helps the looters and smugglers by allowing them to change their tactics but ...  there are some very unusual features in the handwriting on the new papyri, and combined with the 'coincidence' of similar texts suddenly appearing, I think I may have identified which museum's collection they are using as their inspiration. If people are willing to buy items without a provenance and that they know were probably looted, they have no morals. So selling them fakes they fail to identify in their lust for loot is easy. You can't con an honest man, but it is easy to con an immoral one.

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