Saturday, 6 February 2016

"We are all Gilgamesh" So Carry on Buying?

Professor Andrew George
Andrew George, professor of cunies in London's SOAS ought to get together with Wayne Sayles of the ACCG. He makes a smug case for the subject of his own study being far more important than any other type of research into the past  ('How looting in Iraq unearthed the treasures of Gilgamesh'):
The illegal trade in Mesopotamian antiquities that was viciously repressed by the Ba’ath government sprang back to life and continues to this day. It has brought on to the market many thousands of small objects. Their exact archaeological provenance can only be guessed at, and they are now dispersed among museums and private collections worldwide. 
No, they will not be dispersed in any museums which honour any kind of ethical code. They will be scattered in private collections of vicious, greedy self-centred buyers who do not give a fig for museum-style ethics. Professor Cunie argues in favour of also abandoning such niceties in the face of academic fame to be gained:
 But it is not all bad news: out of the destruction and looting, and partly because of it, emerge striking gains in knowledge of our oldest literary inheritance. Among the objects that passed through the antiquities’ markets in the past 25 years are large numbers of clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform. 
Oh, please.. and what was discarded, lost, dug through, exposed to weathering and otherwise trashed at the site where they came from? But "wottalotta STUFF WE'VE got!" Eh? SOAS is just down the road from the PAS, that other tragic British home of the "wottalottastuff - don't bovver about who digs it up and why" approach.
In 2011, Farouk Al-Rawi, an Iraqi Assyriologist now living in Britain, was shown a group of cuneiform tablets by an antiquities dealer in the Kurdish part of Iraq [...] and urged the Sulaymaniyah Museum to acquire the whole group [...] In November 2012, he and I spent four days establishing a definitive decipherment, and the results were published in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies two years later.
I dealt with this here New clay tablet adds 20 lines to Epic of Gilgamesh Professor George continues his own story here:
Assyriology customarily hides its light under a bushel, and there was no press release. It was a further 10 months, in October last year, before the media realised what we had done and signalled the discovery to non-specialists and the general public. Downloads of the academic paper climbed briefly from a handful per month to 150 per day: not exactly big-league, but impressive for an obscure article in a learned journal of tiny circulation. 
And giving a clue why some artefactologists welcome the chance to have decontextualised artefacts handed to them on a plate, no troubling contexct to puzzle over - just the artefact lying like a beached whale on their desk waiting to be written up and become a ticket to assyriological celebrity status.

Does SOAS allow Professor George to study material derived from looting in Iraq in his office on University of London premises?


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