Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fordham's acquisition of Christian mosaics

Source: Fordham University
Fordham University has acquired a series of nine Christian mosaics derived from the eastern Roman Empire ("Museum Acquires Rare Early Christian Mosaics", press release). The mosaics include inscriptions and they suggest a link with the city of Apamea in Syria through the name of Epiphanios, a bishop there in the 5th century. One of the inscriptions provides a date that is the equivalent of AD 463. The series seem to come from an ecclesiastical building.

The press release tells us that the University acquired the mosaic in December 2013 "from an anonymous donor".

Professor Michael Peppard has been engaging in a debate over on Twitter. On January 10 he claimed that the mosaics surfaced on the Beirut market in the 1960s and were "legally purchased" in 1972. He has suggested that photographs were known in 1968. He indicates that further details will be published in ZPE during 2014. Further discussion was terminated on Twitter.

We know that the city of Apamea has been the target of looting (see a recent example here).

Will Fordham release the full details of its due diligence process? Has the documentation been authenticated? Which scholars were contacted to advise on the possible issue of looting? What attempt has been made by Fordham to ensure that these mosaics are not the result of more recent looting? Who is the anonymous donor? What is the full collecting history of these mosaics?

For an earlier discussion of Fordham on LM see here.

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