Saturday, January 01, 2005

Surfing the Antiquities Trade

The websites of several antiquities dealers are pretty interesting. Robert Deutsch, one of those indicted in the forger ring, runs a shop called The Archaeological Center. It is by far the richest of the sites I have seen in epigraphic material. Among the items offered for sale is this Aramaic ostracon:
He also offers for sale this ossuary, apparently uninscribed:

The whole site repays close attention. Apparently, as this site shows, Deutsch also has some LMLK jar-handles for sale.

I wouldn't venture to guess about the authenticity of these objects. If the ostracon is one of those Idumean ostraca recently published, it is probably for real.

The Barakat Gallery in Los Angeles also has some interesting items. This collection of letters, for instance, baffles me. I've never seen anything like it. This Aramaic incantation bowl is interesting, but unprovenanced, like all these items. Adding to the value of this Phoenician scarab is the scholarly article by Pierre Bordreuil authenticating it at the bottom of the page. And lastly, the Mandaic Incantation Amulet was found in Jerusalem, which is most unexpected. Check out the prices for these and other items. It's a lucrative business, indeed.

Again, I don't know if any of these items are forgeries or whether they were obtained through illegal means. They may all be authentic and obtained legally, for all I know. But I can't help saying, along with Indiana Jones, "They belong in a museum!"

UPDATE (1/1, 7:48 pm): Jim West has several follow-up posts here, here, and here. Jim Davila adds some apt comments. The storm seems to be centering for the moment on Robert Deutsch; see the posts of the past few days.

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