Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Working with the Smugglers: 'Publish the Irisagrig tablets'

There is some opposition to the Hobby Lobby Illicit cunies being sent back to the country they were stolen from by the antiquities trade.
Not all scholars agree that the artifacts should be returned right away. "If these tablets are returned and if they are from Irisagrig, it will be a great tragedy for scholarship that they will not be published before they are returned," said David Owen, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Owen has published a number of scientific papers describing tablets from Irisagrig, but has not worked with Hobby Lobby and has not studied the seized texts. "Once they enter the bowels of the Iraq Museum, it is unlikely scholars will ever have acccess to them, nor are there any Iraqi scholars capable of publishing them given the many thousands of unpublished texts already in storage in the museum for generations and mostly inaccessible to scholars," Owen told Live Science. Owen added, "Our government should, first and foremost, make sure all artifacts are recorded and published before repatriation. This would be of great benefit not only to scholarship but also to the Iraqis who do not have the resources to publish these texts. Anything less is a travesty."
What is a travesty is that scholars are willing to work with stolen material. If scholarship is served by this, let Professor Owen persuade the 'philanthropic' millionaire Hobby Lobby Green to provide Iraqi scholars the resources to publish the decontexctualised artefacts he attempted to obtain for himself (ostensibly for 'scholarship'). How about Cornell University providing a monograph series for the Iraqi scholars working on the material that US collectors and foreign dealers attempted to pilfer from Iraq? Professor Owen, are you up to it? One would not like to think that the US professor sees here a lucrative opportunity to get his work, and that of his cuneiformist colleagues financed by the US taxpayer for a few years work transcribing these records in their nice comfy academic institutions. that would be their own efforts to profit from this culture crime - justified in the name of 'preservation'. Are scholars competencies, Professor Owen, determined by their skin colour? Why do you and your colleagues apparently consider yourselves more 'qualified' to do it than the Iraqis?

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