Monday, April 06, 2020

MOTB seeks to repair its reputation

TRANSPARENCY: Bible Museum, Admitting Mistakes, Tries to Convert Its Critics. In acknowledging that many of its artifacts had tainted histories and that others were fake, the institution hopes candor will build trust (Tom Mashberg, NYT).
“The museum did come clean here,” said Christopher A. Rollston, an associate professor of Near Eastern languages and civilizations at George Washington University who reviewed the findings about the scrolls. “But the museum will need to continue to engage in this sort of openness if they are to demonstrate that they are fair brokers of the public trust.”
That about sums it up.

By the way, there is some confusion in the article about the cuneiform Gilgamesh fragment. It reports that it is a fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh written in Sumerian.

The Gilgamesh Epic is in Akkadian (a Semitic language) not Sumerian. (Both languages were written cuneiform script on clay tablets.) Some Gilgamesh legends were written in Sumerian, but the Epic was not.

This is a fragment of the Gilgamesh Epic and it is written in Middle Babylonian (Akkadian). Details are here. The statement in the Times is a rather careless error.

According to the Times, this is one of the artifacts being returned because its provenance is "tainted." But this 2017 Science Magazine article reports the claim by a Museum representative that it was obtained from a private collector and that it had "clear provenance." I don't know what happened in the interim.

Background on the Museum of the Bible and the Green Collection is here and many links.

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