This editorial from the most recent issue of Biblical Archaeology Review does an excellent job of summarizing the concerns raised by studying artefacts that were inadequately, improperly, or even illegally excavated. Within this example, comparing two scholarly books, author Hershel Shenks outlines every major problem currently being debated; I highly recommend it as a brief introduction to a typically abstruse discussion.
The major points raised include basic issues for A Year in Provenance, and my own work:
- What effect does accepting or refusing to study unprovenanced archaeological material have on scholarship, and our ultimate knowledge?
- What impact could scholarly/academic policies have on the antiquities/art market?
- How do we cope with the reality that unprovenanced artefacts are next to impossible to definitively authenticate? How can we be sure our conclusions are correct when we are not even sure if our material is real?
Biblical Archaeology Review is a publication of the Biblical Archaeology Society, and tries to balance archaeological and theological perspectives. In BAS’s words: “Written to be understood, Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) magazine delivers the excitement of archaeology and the latest in Bible scholarship.”