Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Antiquities

Snails Used to Make Biblical Blue

with one comment

Discovery.com:

The elusive Biblical blue, a sacred color whose exact shade has puzzled scholars for centuries, has been revealed in a nearly 2,000-year-old patch of dyed fabric.

The piece of cloth was found in Israeli caves just south of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1946 and 1956. It features a blue hue called tekhelet.

In accordance with the biblical commandment, tekhelet was used to dye the tassels, or tzitzit, attached to the four-cornered garment worn by Jews. It was also used as the color of ceremonial robes donned by high priests in the Jerusalem Temple.

But the biblical dye was lost in antiquity, and scholars have long attempted to rediscover its origins…

Read on here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

January 2, 2014 at 21:28

Using Inscriptions from the Antiquities Market: Polarized Positions and Pragmatic Proposals

leave a comment »

Dr Christopher Rollston writes:

Archaeological sites in the Middle East have been ransacked, pillaged, and plundered for many decades. The motivations of the actual pillaging are normally economic: the pursuit of marketable artifacts. That is, the pillagers wish to find objects that can be sold to collectors. Of course, the motivations of the collectors who purchase these pillaged antiquities range from the desire to possess a piece of ancient history to having putative proof for a cherished belief. Among the artifacts most prized by collectors are ancient inscriptions.

Think briefly about scientific archaeological excavations. Complete pots and potsherds are carefully collected, catalogued, documented, and analyzed, while broken pots are often restored. Organic materials are meticulously bagged and tagged and sent to be carbon dated. Animal bones and seeds are studied to learn about animal husbandry, agriculture, and ancient diets. Grinding stones, needles, and pins are photographed and studied carefully to shed light on aspects of daily life. Metal objects are sent to laboratories for scientific analyses. Stone tools such as arrowheads are sent to specialists for analysis. And inscriptions are sent to epigraphers to be read and analyzed. The result is that knowledge is gained about ancient languages and dialects, and about ancient social structures, and religious practices and ideas. The final result is that scientific excavations yield an enormous amount of information about the ebb and flow of ancient lives.

In contrast, those pillaging sites for marketable objects do not have the resources, time, desire, or the training to do any of these things. This is despite the fact many looters have experience working on excavations, sometimes as skilled laborers. Rather, looters rifle through sites and collect nothing except the most marketable of objects. The rest are disturbed, broken, and ignored. After all, the primary goal of the pillager is finding something that will sell, something that will satisfy the appetite of the black market in pillaged antiquities. What then about inscriptions found by looters?

Read on at the ASOR Blog.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

April 3, 2013 at 21:52

Vatican Requests 1,500-Year-Old Syriac Bible Held In Turkey

with 5 comments

The Huffington Post reports:

The Vatican has allegedly issued an official request to examine a 1,500-year-old Bible that has been held in Turkey for the past 12 years, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

The Bible reportedly contains early teachings of Jesus Christ and is written in gold lettering on animal hide in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, which was the native tongue of Jesus.

According to a report by National Turk, the Bible was seized from a gang of smugglers in a Mediterranean-area operation. The report states the gang was charged with smuggling antiquities, illegal excavations, and the possession of explosives.

Today’s Zaman reports that the Bible is under high security and that a Turkish daily newspaper, the Star, claims the book could be a copy of the Gospel of Barnahas — a controversial text which Muslims claim is an addition to the original gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — that was suppressed.

In it, Jesus is said to have predicted the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.

Due to its value as a cultural and religious artifact, even photocopies of the pages could be worth between 3 and 4 million Turkish Lira, or about 1,703,233 U.S. dollars.

Somehow, I don’t think Turkey will comply.

 

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 23, 2012 at 20:10

Where Heaven Falls Prey to Thieves

leave a comment »

A short documentary

… about the extensive art theft that has taken place in North Cyprus since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The theft has taken place with tacit or active approval from the Turkish army.

The plunder not only served as a source of income for criminals in North Cyprus and shady antiquity dealers, it was also an act to eradicate the memory of Cyprus as a Christian country for almost two millenia.

What has happened in the Turkish occupied zone constitutes pillaging of world cultural heritage and is a war crime according to several international conventions.

Give it a look. Very sad, all the destruction.

HT

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 31, 2011 at 19:55

American Arrested Over Alleged Antiquities Smuggling in Israel

leave a comment »

CNN reports on an American tour guide who has been arrested in Israel on suspicion of selling ancient artifacts to American tourists:

Israeli authorities arrested a retired American university lecturer this week on suspicion of selling ancient artifacts illegally to U.S. tourists, they said Wednesday.

The suspect, a tour guide, is accused of selling ancient coins and 1,500-year-old clay lamps, and pocketing the equivalent of $20,000.

He admitted attempting to smuggle antiquities, selling suspected stolen antiques and trafficking in antiquities without a permit, the authorities said.

He was allowed to fly to the United States after depositing “a large bond,” to “ensure he will show up for trial in the future,” they said.

The suspect faces up to three years in prison.

Amir Ganor, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, also criticized the buyers, saying Wednesday they “are actually encouraging antiquities robbery and the plundering of the country’s history.”

The suspect, who has not been named, was detained once before after Israel Antiquities Authority inspectors raided a hotel room where he was selling ancient artifacts, they said. They seized hundreds of objects allegedly stolen by antiquities robbers from different sites throughout the country, they said.

But the suspect was released after questioning, the IAA said in a statement Wednesday, without explaining why.

He was under undercover surveillance during the last week, and resumed his illegal activities, selling artifacts to a group of American tourists, Israeli authorities say.

The tourists were detained Monday in a “wide-sweeping, combined operation” in Eilat and at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

Eilat customs officials and Antiquities Authority inspectors “were amazed to discover that about 20 members of the group possessed dozens archaeological items purchased in Israel illicitly, which they attempted to take out of the country illegally and without a permit,” the IAA said.

They seized ancient bronze and silver coins dating to the Second Temple period approximately 2,000 years ago, as well as clay oil lamps and glass and pottery vessels.

The tourists said they had bought them from their tour guide, paying more than $20,000 in total, Israeli officials said.

The tour guide was detained Monday night at Ben Gurion airport while trying to leave Israel, they said.

He had ancient coins, but no permit to export them, plus “evidence indicating dozens of illegal sales of antiquities during the past two weeks,” they said.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 18, 2011 at 19:30

Egypt’s Archaeological Sites Stand Unguarded

leave a comment »

Concerned archaeologists called today on Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to return police to archaeological sites. The move is required to put an end to illegal excavations and wild looting of storehouses and tombs.

“The desecration of archaeological sites and monuments is not only a huge loss for the people of Egypt on a national, economic, and human level, but is also a loss to all of humanity and to science,” Tarek El Awadi, director of the National Egyptian museum, said in an open letter to Sharaf.

Following the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak last month, a new unprecedented wave of looting and vandalism took place at various sites in Egypt.

“During the revolution of January 25th, the Egyptian Army protected our heritage sites and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. However, in the last 10 days the army has left these posts because it has other tasks to do,” said Zahi Hawass, who resigned this week as minister of antiquities in protest at the lack of proper action on the looting.

The above was here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 28, 2011 at 08:02

Zahi Hawass, Egypt Antiquities Chief 'Plans to Step Down in Protest'

leave a comment »

CNN is reporting:

Egypt’s antiquities minister, Zahi Hawass, said Friday he plans to step down to protest police inaction as the country’s ancient treasures are being looted and vandalized.

“The police cannot do enough, or anything to protect Egypt’s antiquities and treasures, and I can’t stand by while that happens,” he said. “It is a protest really, that not enough can be done now to protect these sites and treasures.”

Hawass said two dozen sites have been looted or vandalized since the uprising that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Hawass said he has not resigned yet but will if asked by new Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

Sharaf, a former transport minister tapped to be the post this week, is in the process of forming a new Cabinet. Hawass said he does not intend to be a part of it.

“I have no interest in doing that at all,” he said.

Hawass, former secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, was appointed to the post of the antiquities minister on January 30 under Mubarak.

His biggest mistake was taking that ministry post (which was a newly founded position). It was just a week or two before the protests broke out making Hawass essentially part of the Mubarak regime. Always after sensation and the media attention, one has to but admire the spin he’s now putting on it is good. But come what may, the pressure on him to step down is building… and that has nothing to do with him protesting police inaction regarding damage to Egypt’s antiquities.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 4, 2011 at 12:34

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 909 other followers