Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Antiquities Forger Outed"

Readers may be interested in a discussion on ANE list started by Joe Zias about outing colleagues who co-operate with forgers.
Colleagues, as Eric Cline and Joseph Lauer brought our attention to the James Ossuary/Jehoash Tablet segment on Sunday's 60 Minutes in which the Egyptian gets 'outed' by Bob Simon, admitted having worked with Oded Golan for 15 yrs, manufacturing 'antiquities'. I would like to point out his amazement when told, that some of those items were being marketed for millions of dollars. His reply that it was a bit difficult to believe, as some of these items were mud [and] difficult to read; it brings to mind some of those bullae which are now on trial, belonging to Oded Golan and others... This leaves us with the question, which of our colleagues supplied the expertise and the text and will BAR put this new information on their web site along with one New World 'Blogger', perhaps the only one still supporting them.
Minor editing and emphasis mine. Read the whole discussion here. In my opinion, academics helping forgers is one of the most serious crimes a scholar can commit. Pursuant of truth, however, we should place the integrity of the community and academic honesty before friends and colleagues.

Joe Zias also says the following:

If colleagues would simply say no, I'm not interested in appearing in this media circus, then these film makers, editors, publishers would be forced to 'clean up their act'. As long as we write for, lecture, participate in these schemes which are geared to Nielsen ratings, (no relation to NPL) bank accounts, highly profitable non-profits, then it will continue.
This very issue was addressed at the SBL conference Nov. 2007. Jodi Magness gave a very compelling speech almost about how the media and consumer-driven establishments like Biblical Archaeological Society are creating havoc for scholars. She noted two problems, one that scholars actually contribute to these, making short profits in return for misleading but popular and crazy theories (think Jacobivici). But there was another problem as well, namely that good, reputable scholars are hard to find and contact. She proposed a database of scholars by which the media can use to find scholars for real information. With both scholars refusing to appear for archaeopornographers and at the same time let the media in on all the little scholarly secrets (read: mainstream scholarly theories), then perhaps within a decade or three we'd actually have an informed society, instead of one thinking that over the past century some dozen amateurs have found the Ark in 30 different locations.



Dorothy King said...

I think the BBC has one, but they put people under odd categories so will ring a person who should be in for the battle of Marathon to ask about the New York Marathon. A database of scholars sounds like a great idea. People genuinely expressing their opinions is fine – but I’m always surprised how many people will talk seriously about Atlantis, just to be on television. Would be happy to help suggest people.

(PS – I’m saying this as someone who would like to watch some decent documentaries, not as someone who would want to be on tv).

Marcia L. Neil said...

What do people really want? Many ancient artifacts are crumbling or no longer exist except as memories stored in people's minds (or elsewhere). For tours and exhibitions, simulations can satisfy curiousity if such exhibits are properly labeled. To view something altogether original yet perhaps crumbling/fragmented, a visit to the artifact storage site would be a necessary and appropripate option rather than demand that such artifacts be carried into an exhibit hall.

David Gill said...

There is also the whole issue relating to the publication of recently surfaced antiquities. For observations on (and problems with) the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Statement of Concern" see:

Dorothy King said...

Maybe we should also have a database of dodgy dealers - some seem fine, but some ... I regularly get emails from them, which I just delete these days, without even a 'polite' reply.