Sunday, July 31, 2005

Scroll Matters

Last week I was contacted via e-mail by Dutch journalist Henk Schutten, who sought my opinion on four Dead Sea Scrolls fragments that had shown up on the antiquities market in Holland, and who wondered if I knew of other scrolls recently being offered for sale. I told him that I was aware of no recent sales or discoveries other than the Leviticus fragments recently purchased in Israel by Hanan Eshel.

I was also able to tell him that the four fragments he mentioned (and pictured in photographs that he sent me) were included in a recent presentation by Hanan and Esther Eshel at the SBL meeting in November of 2004 and published in the journal Dead Sea Discoveries in 2005. (The four fragments were two pieces of Isaiah, which belong to IQIsa-b, and two fragments of an apocryphon, evidently 4Q226.) These fragments, according to public statements made by the Eshels, were sold by the Kando family to American collectors Bruce Ferrini and Lee Biondi, and examined by Eshel in the US in 2004.

In his recent article in Het Parool, Mr. Schutten has evidently misunderstood my information on the 4 fragments as applying to the Leviticus fragment as well.

His first quote mentioning my name is as follows:

[Edward] Cook has nothing but harsh words for the dealers and collectors, and the additional fragments now on offer.

"Apart from anything else, it is illegal". He does not even discount the possibility that some of the larger scrolls have been cut into small fragments both to increase their profitability and to conceal their origins.

My one use of the word "illegal" in our correspondence was in reference to the possible looting of the archeological sites of Khirbet Qumran and Khirbet Mird, in response to Schutten's inquiry about the supposed offer for sale of amulets discovered there. (See Letter 3 in the Appendix below.) As far as I know, the possession (or sale) of antiquities in Israel acquired before 1978 is not illegal, although it may be unethical and is certainly deplorable.

The second quote mentioning me goes like this:

[Cook] states that the involvement of the Kando family is a virtual certainty in the new finds. He adds, "More than likely that the Kando family have had the scrolls or fragments for a long time". "It is known that in the 50s many Bedouins first offered their finds to Kando. There is no guarantee whatsoever that Kando did not keep part of the material for himself. Everything indicates that the family are trying to market the fragments".

For the record, I did not say, nor do I believe, that the Leviticus fragments allegedly found in the Nahal Arugot actually come from manuscripts in the possession of the Kando family. And I can't imagine why anyone would believe, or publish, a scenario in which a manuscript is taken from a legally held collection in order to pass it off as the product of an illegal looting! What I did say to Schutten is contained in Letter 2 below. Letters 1-3 below comprise all the significant statements made by me to Schutten; Letter 4 is from Schutten and speaks for itself.

With reference to the Nahal Arugot find, I continue to believe that Hanan Eshel was guilty of nothing more (or less) than poor judgment by entering into negotiations with someone who had illegally looted an archeological site and neglecting to notify the Israel Antiquities Authority until the sale had been made. I also have read no convincing evidence that the cave Eshel was told was the find-spot was in fact the cave where the fragments were discovered. Apparently no other fragments were discovered there in situ, which would be the necessary proof. These Leviticus fragments must still, in my opinion, be considered unprovenanced.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The fragments that initially aroused Mr. Schutten's curiosity have been published: Esther Eshel and Hanan Eshel, "New Fragments from Qumran: 4QGenf, 4QIsab, 4Q226, 8QGen, and XQpapEnoch," Dead Sea Discoveries 12/2 (2005) 134-157.

Appendix: Correspondence with Henk Schutten

1. (My first reply):

Thank you for your letter and kind words about "Ralph."

I am not aware of any specific incidents of DSS fragments suddenly appearing on the market, aside from the recent acquisition in Israel of 4 small fragments of the Book of Leviticus. The scholar who bought them did so because he was afraid the fragments would be smuggled out of Israel. Possibly the fragments that you mention are part of the same cache of manuscripts.

I would be very interested in hearing more details and receiving pictures of the fragments. I also recommend that you get in touch with two Dead Sea Scrolls experts at the University of Groningen, E. J. C. Tigchelaar and Florentino Garcia-Martinez, who may be better informed about the possible sale of recent manuscripts than I am.

2. (My second letter, after I ascertained that the scrolls pictured in Schutten's photographs were those made public by the Eshels in the SBL in November):

Many thanks for the pictures, which I hope to examine more closely later on.

Last year in the USA, a fragmentary papyrus of the Book of Enoch was presented at a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and was described as belonging to the Kando family. The scholars making the presentation (Hanan and Esther Eshel) also mentioned 12 other fragmentary manuscripts in the possession of the Kando family. It seems likely that the manuscripts you mention are the same ones described by the Eshels and [another scholar].

Judging by all these lines of evidence, I think it is very likely that the Kando family has had scrolls or scroll fragments in their possession for many years. It is known that in the 1950's, many Bedouin brought their discoveries to Kando before they were shown to the authorities, and there is certainly no guarantee that Kando did not keep a lot of material. It seems now that he did, and his family is now trying to sell these fragments via the antiquities trade.

There are persistent rumors of a large scroll of Enoch in private hands. I don't know whether there is any substance to these rumors at all. My concern as a scholar is that the Kando family or private collectors are possibly destroying large scrolls in order to sell smaller pieces one at a time. This would be a tremendous loss.

3. (In answer to an inquiry about copper amulets allegedly offered by the Kando estate for sale):

Jewish Amulets on metal (silver, copper, lead, bronze, gold) from the early centuries A.D. are known, but they are rare; I only know of about 20 in existence. Another one in copper would be a very interesting find. The name of the angel seems to be Uriel. If the amulet was in fact found in or near Khirbet Qumran, that would be very significant.

The second one mentioned seems to be of the same general type, but apparently written in a dialect of Aramaic called Christian Palestinian Aramaic, or sometimes Palestinian Syriac. The site known as Khirbet Mird in Israel contains the ruins of a Melkite Christian monastery from the first millennium A.D. and a number of papryi and other texts written in Christian Palestinian Aramaic were found there. Possibly this second amulet was found in or near Khirbet Mird.

It is a great pity that these interesting pieces are being advertised to collectors instead of being made available to scholars and museums. It's also illegal, of course.

4. (from Schutten, in response to my Letter 2):

That's a coincidence, Hanan Eshel presenting DSS-fragments from the Kando family. It makes his recent discovery of the new Leviticus-fragments a bit suspicious, don't you think? Can you tell me where I can find more information about this presentation last year for the Society of Biblical Literature? (I tried Google but that didn't work out)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand from someone who has acquired one DSS fragment from the Kando family that another is about to go on sale through Sotherby's. Do you believe this to be correct and would it be legal with the the IAA?