Saturday, June 17, 2023

Codex Sassoon copycat in Turkey?

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Turkey recovers 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible in smuggling raids. The 28-page leather-bound collection of papyrus scriptures was seized during Turkey's latest smuggling crackdown in Istanbul (Ezgi Akin, Al-Monitor).

Once again, a story about the recovery of an improbably old Hebrew manuscript in Turkey. Obsevations:

As always, I commend the Turkish police for going hard on antiquities smuggling.

But the authorities need to consult with some actual experts before making these extraordinary claims about seized manuscripts. Repeatedly we read reports of one-thousand- or two-thousand-year-old Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts being recovered. These reports, dubious to start with, mostly sink into oblivion without followup. The photographs that sometimes emerge are generally of obviously modern fakes, which seem to abound in Turkey.

The photo in the article is of an actual 1,100-year-old manuscript, the Codex Sassoon. It was recently sold to a private buyer who has commendably donated it to a museum in Israel. But the photo has nothing to do with the 28-page book seized in Turkey. The latter seems likely to be another modern fake, although I would have to see photographs to be sure.

In recent years I usually have been ignoring such stories coming out of Turkey, but occasionally once comes up that I think calls for a response. I have collected many such stories here (cf. here).

Turkey produces many geninue, fascinating stories about archaeology, antiquities, and history. I have noted a few in the last year or so here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. It is a pity that someone feels the need to dilute them with stories like the current one.

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