Abstract: The Lure of the Relic: Collecting the Holy Land
Lecturer: Morag Kersel
The relationship between people and things is a crucial avenue of investigation in understanding past cultures. While the social aspects of material culture have come under closer scrutiny over the past few decades, what remains largely unexplored are the reasons why people collect archaeological artifacts from the Holy Land. An examination of the social contexts and the consequences of the consumption of material culture is integral to a fuller understanding of archaeology in the eastern Mediterranean. The interplay of these spheres provides an intriguing lens for the examination of the lure of relics from the Holy Land. Many of the motivating factors behind the collecting of eastern Mediterranean materials echo the rationales of early archaeological practice in the region — a desire to establish a connection to the land and the past through material manifestations; and a desire to save the past. Artifacts from this part of the world have long-held a fascination for pilgrims, tourists and locals, which can often be tied to a substantiation of faith based on the material past. At the same time the archaeological artifact, once removed from its context, acquires a new facet to its object biography, that of looted artifact. Employing case studies from Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority this lecture examines the collecting of archaeological materials, the effects on the archaeological landscape and the object biographies of those artifacts enmeshed in the trade in antiquities.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Karen Lange (2008) The Stolen Past: Looting in the West Bank. National Geographic, December.
Morag Kersel (2008) The Trade In Palestinian Antiquities, Jerusalem Quarterly, 33: 21-38.