Saturday, March 21, 2009

THE SCHECHTER HAGGADAH, edited by Joshua Kulp, is reviewed by Rachel Pezzlo in Excerpt:
The Schechter Haggadah presents a compilation of sources and commentary, and not a pre-chewed presentation of material to be shared at the seder for inner spiritual reflection as many other recent popular family-participation haggadahs are. With its heavy textual basis, the haggadah may be most easily digestible for readers with a background in Jewish textual learning, though it still can be appreciated and enjoyed by a particularly curious and adventurous beginner.
THE SILWAN LAND DISPUTE is discussed by the Mayor of Jerusalem:
Barkat may relocate Silwan residents

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat hopes to reach an agreement on the relocation of Arab residents living in illegally constructed homes in east Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood, to make way for a planned archaeological park adjacent to the City of David.

"This is one of the most strategic sites in the city, on an international level, which must be an open public area," Barkat said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "It is certainly much more important than Central Park in New York."

The 49-year-old self-made hi-tech millionaire-turned-mayor said that he was determined to reach a solution to the problem in the coming months, together with both city residents and the government, after the issue is thoroughly planned by a municipal committee and deliberated in public.

"It is inconceivable that we will not follow the rule of law in the city," he said. "The question is, how do you get from the current situation to the desirable one."

He said it was fair to assume that deliberations between the two sides would lead to a solution - such as an exchange of land, or monetary compensation for Arabs living illegally at the site - and noted that a senior municipal official had held a recent meeting with local residents to discuss the issue.


While he praised the dialogue with Silwan residents, the new Jerusalem mayor insisted that the issue of house demolitions in the city was about law and order, and not about politics.

"The two issues need to be decoupled," he said. "I would like to see what [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg would say about illegal building in Central Park. Would he give up Central Park because there is illegal building there?"

Background here and follow the links back.

He also touched on the Museum of Tolerance controversy:
Earlier this week, Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Pepe Alalo of Meretz, which opposes any Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, conceded during a tour of the site by party officials that there was a tremendous amount of disinformation about the house demolitions in Silwan, and urged local residents to work with the city to reach a solution to the issue.

In the interview, Barkat also said he would honor a past city agreement with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center for the construction of a Museum of Tolerance at a central Jerusalem site that partially covers a Muslim cemetery, even though he would have preferred that it be built at a different location.
Background here and, again, keep following the links back.
THE DROUGHT IN IRAQ has an up side for archaeology:
Drought Reveals Iraqi Archaeological Treasures

by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR)

All Things Considered, March 20, 2009 · Iraq is suffering one of the worst droughts in decades. While this is bad news for farmers, it is good news for archaeologists in the country.

The receding waters of the Euphrates River have revealed ancient archaeological sites, some of which were unknown until now.


Flooding Covers Sites

In the mid-1980s, Saddam Hussein's government dammed the Euphrates in the area, flooding a 120-mile-long stretch of land near Iraq's border with Syria.

What once was an enormous reservoir that stretched as far as the eye could see has shrunk an astonishing 90 percent since summer, officials say.

Ratib [Ali al-Kubaisi, the director of Anbar province's Antiquities Department] says that at least 75 archeological sites had been partially excavated before the area was flooded. They ran the gamut of civilizations — from 3,000 B.C. to the Sumerian and Roman periods. Ancient Jewish settlements were also submerged in the area. But because of the receding waters, Ratib has been able to access some sites for the first time — including, for instance, a cliff with a series of pre-Christian tombs carved into its face. Though they have been heavily damaged by the water, Ratib says they still have value.

"I wish we could excavate these sites again. If we had the money and the resources, we could complete the work we began all those years ago," he says.

My emphasis. As always, there are looting worries as well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

HAPPY VERNAL EQUINOX to all those celebrating. Almost forgot.
A LIVE PERFORMANCE OF BEN HUR in Aramaic and Latin - and including the chariot race - is coming to the O2 Arena (in the former Millennium Dome in London):
Ben Hur premiere will thrill O2 audiences
By Simon Hayes on March 19, 2009 1:00 PM | (

Michael Jackson might be stealing all the headlines at The O2 this summer but there's another show heading to the venue that promises to be equally spectacular.

Ben Hur, the story of a Hebrew prince who falls from grace and ends up a slave, will have its world premiere at the arena on September 15.

The story, which features live animals and a cast of hundreds, has been transformed into a two-hour theatrical show by producer Franz Abraham.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

THE SABEAN MANDEANS (SABAEAN MANDAEANS) still have a hard lot in Iraq:
Dozens of men and women dressed in five pieces of fine white cloth inch their way barefoot into the muddy waters in ancient rites of purification.

They are joyously celebrating the "five white days" when Al-Rab or God created earth -- the biggest festival in the Sabean religious calendar.

Also known as Mandaeans, the Sabeans traditionally speak a variety of Aramaic, the language of Christ.

They call Adam their prophet and revere John the Baptist -- "saba" is Aramaic for baptise, "manda" means knowledge.

They trace their roots to pre-Christian times and some scholars believe the sect was a heretical branch of Judaism that spread south through the land of the two rivers or Mesopotamia in the second century AD.

However today the reality is post-invasion modern Baghdad and a fight to survive persecution, war and hardship.

The Sabeans are a dying community in Iraq. Their numbers have dwindled from 35,000 before the US-led war of 2003 to just 7,000-8,000, says the sect's leader Sheikh Sattar Jabbar al-Hulu.

"It has been a disaster for the community," the "rais" or chief tells AFP. While many have been killed in the sectarian bloodshed that swept the country, most have fled into exile. The diaspora today numbers between 32,000 and 33,000.
More here, here, here, and here.
A VISIT to the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo. This synagogue was the home of the Cairo Geniza, although these visitors seem not to have known that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RACHEL ELIOR'S THEORY that the Essenes had nothing to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in fact never existed, has caught the full attention of the media and is now being covered in numerous articles. The one from the London Times seems to merit the most comment, by way of having the most muddled coverage.
Scholars in uproar over challenge to Dead Sea Scrolls

James Hider in Jerusalem

For more than 60 years scholars have believed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic Jewish sect called the Essenes, who lived in the 1st century in the mountains and recorded their religious observances on parchments.

Now a new theory challenging the broadly accepted history is sending shockwaves through the archaeological community, even leading to the arrest of one prominent scrolls scholar’s son in the United States.
That's pretty misleading. First, I've not seen all that much scholarly reaction to her theory so far, perhaps because most of us are waiting until we actually read her new book when it comes out. True, it seems to be sending shock waves through the media. But let's not confuse the two please. In due course scholars (mostly philologists and historians, although some archaeologists too) will digest her argument and respond to it in critical reviews, articles, etc. By then the press will have mostly forgotten about the whole thing.

As for Golb's theory, it's been around for decades and has yet to pick up a scholarly following. Hence the sock puppetry defense of it that led to the current scandal. Elior's theory is related to Golb's, but Golb never claimed that the Essenes didn't exist, so it's not the same.
Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, claims in a forthcoming study that not only were the 930 scrolls written by Jewish priests living in Jerusalem but that the Essenes as a sect did not exist.

In her new book Memory and Oblivion, Professor Elior says that the scrolls were written by the Sadducees, a class of Jewish priests dating back to the time of King Solomon.

The scrolls were found by a shepherd in a cave at Qumran, on the edge of the Dead Sea, in 1947. One of the most important archaeological finds of the century, their significance was enhanced by the discovery of an untouched version of the Hebrew Bible dating back to 300BC.

Oh, if only! Sorry, no "untouched" (what does that mean?) Hebrew Bible from 300 BCE. Instead, many manuscripts of individual books of the Hebrew Bible. These, alas, were very much touched by two thousand years of lying around in caves, being eaten by worms, being made into rats' nests, etc. Most of them are just a handful of fragments, although the information they give us about the ancient text of the Hebrew Bible is very precious. They date from the third century BCE (very few of those) to the first century CE. I know of none dated to as early as 300 BCE.

The rest of the article looks okay, although it's very odd that there's no mention of Larry Schiffman, whose theory that the Qumran sectarians were an apocalyptic offshoot of the Sadducees also has a good bit of overlap with what Elior seems to be arguing. Although, again, Schiffman has not argued that the Essenes never existed.

There's better coverage by the AP in "Theory combats accepted wisdom on Dead Sea Scrolls" and Arutz Sheva in "Scholar Blows Up Theory on Dead Sea Scroll Authors."

Background here.

UPDATE: Douglas Mangum summarizes and adds to the current discussion in the Biblio-blogosphere at the Biblia Hebraica blog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Inscriptions of Israel/Palestine project seeks to build an internet-accessible database of published inscriptions from Israel/Palestine that date between ca. 500 BCE and 614 CE, roughly corresponding to the Persian, Greek, and Roman periods. The purpose of this database is to provide a tool that will make accessible the approximately 10,000 relevant inscriptions published to date, and will include substantial contextual information for these inscriptions, including images and geographical information.
Looks useful.

(Via the Agade list.)
THE JOURNAL OF SEMITIC STUDIES has a new issue out (Spring 2009; Vol. 54, No. 1). TOC:

Jan Keetman
Wechselwirkung Von Vokalen Und Gutturalen Im Semitischen Unter Dem Einfluss Anderer Sprachen: Die Beispiele Des Akkadischen Und Hebraischen
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 1-17; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn038.

Na'ama Pat-El
The Development of the Semitic Definite Article: A Syntactic Approach
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 19-50; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn039.

Gordon J. Hamilton
A Proposal to Read the Legend of a Seal-Amulet from Deir Rifa, Egypt as an Early West Semitic Alphabetic Inscription
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 51-79; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn040.

Vincent Decaen
Theme and Variation in Psalm 111: Phrase and Foot in Generative-Metrical Perspective
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 81-109; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn041.

Robert D. Holmstedt
Word Order and Information Structure in Ruth and Jonah: A Generative-Typological Analysis
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 111-139; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn042.

Francois Bron
Notes Sur Les Inscriptions Neo-Puniques De Henchir Medeina (Althiburos)
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 141-147; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn043.

Tzvi Novick
The Modality of Sarik in Tannaitic Hebrew
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 149-160; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn044.

Shlomy Raiskin
Talmudic Aramaic Fauna Names: Murzema and Shaqitna
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 161-167; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn045.

Nadezhda Vidro
A Newly Reconstructed Karaite Work on Hebrew Grammar
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 169-178; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn046.

Gerrit Bos and Y. Tzvi Langermann
The Introduction of Sergius of Reshlhringaina to Galen's Commentary on Hippocrates' On Nutriment
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 179-204; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn047.

Alessandra Avanzini
Origin and Classification of the Ancient South Arabian Languages
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 205-220; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn048.

Aaron D. Rubin
The Functions of the Preposition K- in Mehri
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 221-226; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn049.

Hilla Peled-Shapira
From Conventional to Personal, or: What Happened to Metaphor Under the Influence of Ideology - the Case of Gharhringib TulhringMa Farman
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 227-249; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn051.


Edward Lipinski
GEORGES BOHAS and MIHAI DAT, Une theorie de l'organisation du lexique des langues semitiques: matrices et etymons (Collection Langages). * PHILIPPE CASSUTO and PIERRE LARCHER (eds), La formation des mots dans les langues semitiques (Langues et langage 15).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 251-252; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn052.

David M Stec
AARON D. RUBIN, Studies in Semitic Grammaticalization (Harvard Semitic Studies 57).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 253-254; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn053.

Jon Taylor
JEAN-JACQUES GLASSNER. Translated and edited by ZAINAB BAHRANI and MARC VAN DE MIEROOP, The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing in Sumer.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 254-255; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn054.

J.N. Postgate
J.A. HALLORAN, Sumerian Lexicon: A Dictionary Guide to the Ancient Sumerian Language.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 255-257; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn055.

Wilfred G.E. Watson
STEFANIE U. GULDE, Der Tod als Herrscher in Ugarit und Israel (Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2 Reihe 22).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 258-259; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn056.

Bob Becking
HALLVARD HAGELIA, The Tel Dan Inscription: A Critical Investigation of Recent Research on its Palaeography and Philology (Studia Semitica Upsalensia 22).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 259-261; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn057.

Martin F.J. Baasten
ERNST JENNI, Studien zur Sprachwelt des Alten Testaments II.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 261-265; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn058.

Eveline J. Van Der Steen
ROBERT D. MILLER II S.F.O., Chieftains of the Highland Clans: a History of Israel in the 12th and 11th Centuries B.C. (The Bible in its World). * ANN E. KILLEBREW, Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: an Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel 1300-1000 B.C.E. (Society of Biblical Literature Archaeology and Biblical Studies 9).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 265-270; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn059.

Jeffrey Stackert
BERNARD S. JACKSON, Wisdom Laws: A Study of the Mishpatim of Exodus 21:1- 22:16.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 270-272; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn060.

Jenni Williams
HILARY LIPKA, Sexual Transgression in the Hebrew Bible.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 272-273; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn061.

K.A. Kitchen
KEVIN A. WILSON, The Campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I into Palestine. (Forschungen zum Alten Testament, 2. Reihe, 9).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 274-276; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn062.

William Johnstone
THOMAS B. DOZEMAN and KONRAD SCHMID (eds), A Farewell to the Yahwist? The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent European Interpretation (Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 34).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 276-278; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn063.

Deborah Rooke
ALICE HUNT, Missing Priests: The Zadokites in Tradition and History (Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 452).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 278-281; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn064.

Deborah Rooke
LENA-SOFIA TIEMEYER, Priestly Rites and Prophetic Rage: Post-Exilic Prophetic Critique of the Priesthood (Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 19).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 281-283; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn065.

Robert D. Holmstedt
NICHOLAS P. LUNN, Word-Order Variation in Biblical Hebrew Poetry: Differentiating Pragmatics and Poetics (Paternoster Biblical Monographs).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 283-285; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn066.

Doron Mendels
D. GOODBLATT, Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 285-287; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn067.

Simon Adnams Lasair
BEVERLY P. MORTENSEN, The Priesthood in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Renewing the Profession (Studies in Aramaic Interpretation of Scripture).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 287-289; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn068.

Gunter Stemberger
ALEXANDER SAMELY, Forms of Rabbinic Literature and Thought: An Introduction.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 289-292; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn069.

Steven Kaplan
EMANUELA TREVISAN SEMI, Jacques Faitlovitch and the Jews of Ethiopia.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 292-294; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn070.

Michael A. Knibb
ALESSANDRO BAUSI e ALESSANDRO GORI, Tradizioni orientali del "Martirio di Areta." La prima recensione Araba e la versione Etiopica. Edizione
critica e traduzione.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 294-296; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn071.

Hugh Goddard
JOHN C. LAMOREAUX (translator), Theodore Abu Qurrah (Library of the Christian East 1).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 296-298; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn072.

Andrew Marsham
GARTH FOWDEN, Qusayr lhringAmra: Art and the Umayyad Elite in Late Antique Syria (The transformation of the classical heritage 36).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 208-302; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn073.

Ami Elad-Bouskila
PAUL STARKEY, Modern Arabic Literature.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 302-305; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn074.

Short Notes

John F. Healey
STEVEN E. FASSBERG and A. HURVITZ, (eds), Biblical Hebrew in its Northwest Semitic Setting: Typological and Historical Perspectives (Publication of the Institute for Advanced Studies 1, The Hebrew University Jerusalem).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 307-308; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn075.

John F. Healey
HELENE LOZACHMEUR, La Collection Clermont-Ganneau: ostraca, epigraphes sur jarre, etiquettes de bois (Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres 35).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 308-309; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn076.

John F. Healey
KAREL JONGELING, and ROBERT M. KERR, Late Punic Epigraphy: an Introduction to the Study of Neo-Punic and Latino-Punic Inscriptions.
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 309-310; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn077.

John F. Healey
JEAN-CLAUDE HAELEWYCK, Grammaire comparee des langues semitiques: elements de phonetique, de morphologies et de syntaxe (Langues et cultures anciennes 7).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 310-311; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn078.

Deborah Rooke
SUSANNE SCHOLZ, Introducing the Women's Hebrew Bible (Introductions in Feminist Theory 13).
J Semitic Studies 2009 54: 311; doi:10.1093/jss/fgn079.

Monday, March 16, 2009

RACHEL ELIOR'S theory about the Essenes has been picked up by Time Magazine:
Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls 'Authors' Never Existed
By Tim McGirk / Jerusalem Monday, Mar. 16, 2009

Biblical scholars have long argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic and celibate Jewish community known as the Essenes, which flourished in the 1st century A.D. in the scorching desert canyons near the Dead Sea. Now a prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, disputes that the Essenes ever existed at all — a claim that has shaken the bedrock of biblical scholarship.

Er ... no. Sorry Mr. McGirk, but the bedrock of biblical scholarship remains as solid as ever. Up topside we may be debating whether to fiddle with the landscaping a little, but not for the first time.

There's not much new in the article apart from the bombastic hype. Sigh.

Background here.
Bones of contention

Kurt Sansone (Times of Malta)

A written undertaking between the heritage authorities and the Jewish community to reinstate the human bones found in four catacombs in Rabat barely lasted 24 hours after Jewish representatives pulled out of the commitment.

The heritage authorities are still in the dark as to precisely why the Jewish representatives withdrew once the archaeological works had started as agreed with members of the Jewish community observing the operation.

On its part, the Jewish community asked the "political authorities" to intervene in the matter claiming that the archaeological investigations did not respect the agreement reached.

"The heritage authorities wanted to document each and every bone found in the catacombs, measure them, take pictures and then pass them on to us. This process goes against our beliefs and we always objected to it," Lawrence Attard Bezzina, a representative of the Jewish community, said.

Mr Attard Bezzina said the process would have taken ages and "perpetuated the sacrilege".

Controversy has surrounded the tranquil site in Rabat, which forms part of the St Paul's catacombs complex, after the Jewish community asked for the ancient human remains to be given a proper burial according to Jewish rites and traditions.

The site is also an important archaeological area and, even though the heritage authorities have agreed to be respectful to Jewish burial traditions, they are insisting that they be documented and studied.

The catacombs are reportedly about 1500 years old. The article also has a picture of a menorah that is engraved in one of the walls.

Background here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

VIN DIESEL is now working on a massively multiplayer online game with a Punic Wars theme:
Vin Diesel’s dream is happening and it’s taking the form of an MMO called Barca B.C., a title previously only hinted at by Diesel and his Tigon studio. It’s been in development for some three years, and by Diesel’s estimation, could take another four years until consumers get their hands on it.

"My dream game is something we’ve been working on in-house. We haven’t talked about it much because we’ve been mulling over how to do it just right. My dream game is a game that we’re developing called Barca BC," Diesel said when asked what his dream game would be without the pressure of marketing and finances.

"The reason why it’s my dream game is because it is an MMO and -- remember you said funds were not an issue in this scenario, this is obviously a hugely expensive game -- but, it’s a massively multiplayer online game where you create an avatar that lives in the reality of Hannibal Barca, the Punic Wars and life 200 B.C," he said.

No word on the current status of his long-delayed Hannibal movie. But there is a web-based comic.
A DEBATE on the Gospel of Thomas:
'Gospel' of Thomas debated at Midwestern

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 | by Tammi Reed Ledbetter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)--With the Easter commemoration of Christ's resurrection only a month away, two Christian origins scholars took to the stage at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to evaluate the Gospel of Thomas as a means of better understanding the historical Jesus.

Most of the dialogue dealt with the date of the manuscript and the degree to which it parallels the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. However, the missing emphasis on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus left many in the crowd doubting Thomas.

Sharing the platform with Midwestern President R. Philip Roberts were Stephen J. Patterson, who sought to glean new insights into the life of Jesus by studying the Gospel of Thomas, and Craig A. Evans, who found little or no early or authentic material beyond what is preserved in the New Testament Gospels.

Sounds like it was an interesting discussion. And an interesting lecture series.
LOOTING OF ANTIQUITIES remains a ubiquitous problem:
Networks of plunder
Archaeologists tracing the labyrinth of antiquities trafficking hope to shut it down, or at least slow it up

By Bruce Bower (Science News)
March 28th, 2009; Vol.175 #7 (p. 20)

Every day for months, Morag Kersel walked through the streets of Jerusalem to interview researchers, antiquities dealers, museum officials and others about the trafficking of ancient goods: pottery, sawed-off pieces of statues, decorated blocks sliced off the tops of ancient door frames, and biblical coins, to name a few.

One day in 2003, Kersel, then a graduate student in archaeology, came face-to-face with a thriving Middle Eastern trade in ancient, looted coins that had been right under her nose for some time. One of her contacts mentioned that he often purchased such coins from a Palestinian man who shined the shoes of Jerusalem’s pedestrians. Kersel realized that she had been passing by that shoe-shine stand day after day.

Kersel, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, refers to this street-corner salesman by an assumed name, Mohammed, in order to protect his identity. Mohammed introduced her to a side of the antiquities trade that archaeologists, not to mention law-enforcement officials, rarely see: the chain of secretive relationships that turns looted pieces of the past into scrupulously documented keepsakes for affluent buyers.

The focus of the article is the biblical region and period, but it covers lots of ground elsewhere as well. The problem remains grim.