Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The debate over "Finds Gone Astray"

STILL MORE CONTROVERSY: Digging Up Controversy. A museum display of artifacts looted from the West Bank raises questions about the role archaeology plays in nationhood (Sara Toth Stub, U.S. News and World Report).
Thought to be about 3,000 years old, the items in the new "Finds Gone Astray" exhibit are among about 40,000 objects that Israeli officials have confiscated from antiquities smugglers and looters of archaeological sites in the contested West Bank during the past 50 years. They are being put on display for the first time, an unusual move for the museum, which like most others does not display stolen items.

"As a museum I believe it was not only our responsibility to display these objects, but it's our moral duty," says the museum's deputy director, Leora Berry. The exhibit, a joint project with the Defense Ministry, aims to raise awareness about the widespread theft and smuggling of antiquities in the West Bank, says Berry, and how the trade threatens the preservation of cultural heritage.

But with an opening ceremony in late December that included speeches about the importance of Israel's continuing control of the West Bank, and questions emerging about the ethics and legality of displaying the confiscated objects, the exhibit also offers a window into the growing role that archaeology is playing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For more on the "Finds Gone Astray" exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum and the debate over it, see here and links.

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