Abstract: Who Owns the Past? Competing Claims for Antiquities from the Holy Land


As artifacts travel from the ground to the consumer in the marketplace, recent research has shown that there are multiple stakeholders with competing claims in the legal trade in antiquities. In Israel it is legal to buy and sell artifacts from legally sanctioned dealers, if the collections pre-date the 1978 national ownership law. Not all aspects of this trade are legal, however, and not all participants have an equal voice. The market in Israel is comprised of archaeologists, collectors, customs officials, dealers, government employees, looters, middlemen, museum professionals, and tourists, all expressing a degree of entitlement in the acquisition and disposition of artifacts. Adding to the complexity of the situation is the porous nature of the borders between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority as artifacts in the market come from those areas and go out to Europe, the Far East, and the United States. The journey of a Roman coin from the Palestinian countryside to the Upper West side of New York City allows the examination of the various positions in the debate over who owns the past.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Nina Burleigh (2008) Unholy Business- A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land. New York: HarperCollins.

James Cuno (2008) Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Morag Kersel (2006) From the Ground to the Buyer: A Market Analysis of the Illegal Trade in Antiquities, in N. Brodie, M.M. Kersel, C. Luke, Kathryn Walker Tubb, Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and the Antiquities Trade. Gainsville: University Press Florida, pp. 188-205.

Adel Yahya (2008) Managing Cultural Heritage in a War Zone. Archaeologies – Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, 4 (3): 495-505.

Zach Zorich (2008) Biblical Thievery Archaeology Magazine, November-December

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