Tuesday 31 March 2020

Torah and ring seized by Turkish security forces in the eastern province Muş

Mus (blue)  is well away from the
area where the 'brownie Torahs' 
have turned up in the past
This is getting to be beyond a joke, and one wonders what lies behind this (Daily Sabah, 'Turkish police nab 3 suspects trying to sell ancient Torah for $1.25M', Mar 25, 2020)
Turkish security forces in the eastern province
Muş arrested three people trying to sell an ancient Torah for $1.25 million. After receiving a tipoff, gendarmerie personnel went undercover as a buyer and caught the perpetrators. During the raid of the houses and cars of the suspects, 25 antique coins, a ring, a metal detector and a clay vase were seized, a statement from the gendarmerie said. In recent years the seizures of ancient books in Hebrew and Torahs being sold illegally have been commonplace.
Yes they have, but not a single one of the cases where the photos have been released is even a tiny bit authentic. They are atrocious fakes, not even looking at all like a real old manuscript. I would be very disappointed to hear that anyone had gone to a Turkish jail for a cultural property offence on the basis of the seizure of crap like this. Also you might be suspicious when you read the same story, time and time again, they seem to always seize "coins" and de rigeur a "metal detector" ... as if that were a tool for "going equipped"... (no comment needed from me...). What actually is going on? Are these people being framed?

Now look at this Torah and ring. I do not know the script, but the ring looks more like something churned out for eBay by those workshops in Thailand that do a nice line in atrocious 'cylinder seals' and awful 'Sassanian intaglios'. The patina comes from a cess pit, which is why the guy is wearing ill-fitting plastic gloves to handle it.  And the Torah... I consulted this with my cat, who seems to know a bit more about the world than the provincial policemen of deepest darkest Turkey. My cat thinks this folk-art "Torah" looks nothing like any Hebrew manuscript that he has seen in his nine lives. He rather thinks the squiggles embossed in the leather look like mouse entrails, or at least a pretty pathetic attempt to fake Arabic cursive. I think my cat is right, and I cannot see why, even if the policeman can't get it, a journalist would not see it.

I would like to know more about why Turkish fakers (and I am sure these are made in Turkey and not Syria) think that old manuscripts, apart from being crudely-bound codices, are made of leather and that leather is always very dark brown. Leather books? It does however put me in mind of a certain group of very dark brown leather forgeries of the Dead Sea scrolls.

I'd love to see that "vase".

UPDATE 3 April 2020
David Knell has been doing some more digging and found some photos of that vase and... looks OK to me. Old, probably, ancient maybe (I don't know what folk pottery in the region looks like). The coins are also illustrated and look mostly to be late Byzantine pieces, but what is interesting is that they are in such varying condition that they look more like items bought on the market rather than fresh dugups.  What is going on here?

More interestingly David looks at the "Baphomet" imagery of one of the latest pieces and raises a rather disturbing question (Leather books from Turkey - a political exploitation of antisemitism? Ancient Heritage Friday, 3 April 2020)

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