Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Policy on the Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts

I am grateful to a colleague for sending me detail of the Society of Biblical Literature's policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts. It is an endorsement of ASOR's Policy on Professional Conduct. There is a pointer to ASOR's Section III.E:
studies of the past are enhanced when an artifact is clearly associated with an intact archaeological context. Artifacts which lack a defined archaeological findspot or provenience have a greater potential to undermine the integrity of archaeological heritage in view of the possibility of admitting suspect artifacts into archaeological heritage. Looting is an illegal act that breaks the association between artifact and context. A looted artifact may be considered stolen property. Therefore, archaeological heritage that is looted is more likely to travel through illicit channels of distribution and/or exportation, which involve processes that may mask or confuse the identification of the artifact or its true findspot.
There is an acknowledgement of the problem of looting and the conditions for the "cuneiform exception" are made clear.

There is a deliberate recognition that there are intellectual consequences of publishing (or presenting) recently surfaced material: "introducing data of uncertain reliability to the realm of public knowledge".

It would be helpful for both organisations to focus on collecting histories and the authenticated documentation that support the presentation of such information.

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