Thursday, June 12, 2014

Masters of Fire

The New York Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) is hosting an exhibition, Masters of Fire: Copper Age Art from Israel (February-June 2014). It is accompanied by a catalogue edited by Michael Sebbane, Osnat Misch-Brandl, and Daniel M. Master (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). The 157 exhibits are on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Museum, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Katzrin Museum and Tel Aviv University. There are seven explanatory essays (with critical apparatus) by Daniel M. Master, Thomas E. Levy, Dina Shalem, Osnat Misch-Brandl, Yorke M. Rowan, Michael Sebbane, and Orit Shamir.

As Roger S. Bagnall reminds us the Nahal Mishmar hoard lies at the heart of the exhibition. Material from excavated and recorded contexts are vital for the interpretation of this period of the Middle East. Associated finds build up a richer picture of society and how it developed.

Among the financial sponsors of the exhibition and this catalogue are individuals who appear to have been associated with recently surfaced antiquities such as the gold phiale returned to Sicily, and the cuneiform tablets returned from Cornell to Iraq. It is good that an exhibition like this can encourage those benefactors to move their interests from collecting to the public display and interpretation of archaeological finds.

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