Saturday, March 28, 2020

MOTB Repatriations

Steve Green has released a Statement on Past Acquisitions on the Museum of the Bible webpage. In it he acknowledges past failures to verify the provenance of many artifacts and the appropriateness of criticisms leveled against the Museum on account of his mistakes, citing bad advice from previous consultants. The big news is that Green officially announced that approximately 5000 papyrus fragments will be voluntarily repatriated to Egypt, and 6500 clay objects to Iraq. These artifacts do not have reliably documented provenance, and likely originated in the respective countries. In other words, it is quite likely that many of them were looted and illicitly exported from their countries of origin.

This is a big and important step in the right direction. Mike Holmes told me already in 2018 that they were in conversation with the relevant authorities, and all publications of this material were on hold until proper ownership and publication rights have been sorted out. It is nice to see this announced publicly and that they are making progress on this front. This will go a long way towards establishing the credibility and legitimacy of both the Green collection and the Museum of the Bible, and they are to be commended for this decision.

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