Friday, December 03, 2004

THE SCH�YEN COLLECTION has been mentioned before on this blog, with reference to its Qumran fragments and early biblical manuscripts.

Now it develops that this collection also includes many of the "Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism, also mentioned here not long ago. A Norwegian named Atle Omland has noted on the IraqCrisis list that he has a website on "Buddhist manuscripts from Afghanistan in The Sch�yen Collection."

I agree with him that this material should be repatriated as soon as it is practical to do so. My concerns are that we be very sure first of the security of the museum in Afghanistan, as well as of its topnotch conservation resources, and that top quality photographs should be taken of all of the fragments before they are moved again, to make sure no information is lost. (The photographs on the Sch�yen collection website are not top quality, although I imagine that the original prints are much better than the small digital files that have been posted. But probably infra-red or ultraviolet photos, or photos with various color filters would also be needed to bring out all the epigraphic information.)

More grist for the debate over how to handle antiquities on the market and in private hands.

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