Friday, December 14, 2012

The Tale of the Very Dodgy Papyri ...

It all started with Galatians 2:2-4, 5-6 ... at least that's what the Coptic papyrus fragment was identified as on this blog: A Coptic New Testament Papyrus Fragment (Galatians 2) For Sale on eBay

 Brice C. Jones  a PhD candidate at Concordia in Montreal emailed the seller about this and other fragments, and was told they came from Egypt. In the comments his colleague Geoffrey Smith says that the seller told him other fragments came from Oxyrhynchus.

Firstly "Oxyrhynchus" is a site associated with papyri (many published by an earlier Lobel), so this might have been made up by the seller to make them sound more appealing. In any case such papyri are sometimes found in Nubia, but almost always in Egypt. It's illegal to export them from Egypt, and these are not known to be old exports.

Also the seller admits he's posting from Turkey - and it's illegal to export antiquities from Turkey ...

I dropped a colleague at the Turkish Ministry of Culture an email, and he replied that he'd get someone onto it straight away.

I also mentioned it to Paul Barford, who blogged about it here and here - by that point the seller

 MixAntik was selling some papyrus rolls and these fragments:

With the zeal of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Barford noted that one buyer who'd left feedback ran a Yahoo Group dealing with antiquities (and so presumably should have known he was breaking Turkish law by exporting the items):

Then MixAntik changed his username to ebuyerrrr and set his feedback to private. The problem with private feedback is that eBay won't let you sell ... so he made his feedback public again and is flogging his dodgy wares. Caveat emptor if you do choose to bid, as you'll probably forfeit the item. These three fragments are currently available - smuggled out of Egypt and offered to be smuggled out of Turkey:

I took screenshots of the feedback so that one can track down items that have been sent abroad. What interested me was that if you follow GuitarsAndAntiques, he seems to be buying the papyri in Turkey, shipping them to the US:

Then framing them and selling them on:

This is a rather photo-heavy post, but since eBay won't do anything about this seller despite complaints from numerous groups, I wanted to snap as many as I could for when we try to trace them.

Interestingly, GuitarsAndAntiques has also bought from convicted smuggler Mousa "Morris" Khouli - although there is no evidence to suggest that the items Khouli is selling on eBay are smuggled (he has a very very expensive lawyer):

Despite his confession to and conviction for smuggling, as Paul Barford recently pointed out, Khouli is still boasting on his web site of being a "Life member of the ANA 5533" (here). Okay, the ANA ain't particularly prestigious, so maybe they needed his dues (they promised to get back to me about his breach of their code many many months ago but ...). Those dodgy nincompoops at the ACCG have also not suspended Khouli, but then again since they are pro-suggling they won't will they.


Paula Tutty said...

An absolutely disgraceful situation, I can't tell you how angry this makes me. I have raised it with everyone and have received so many promises that 'something will be done'. Well good work for raising this issue again, it's important that it isn't forgotten.

Dorothy King said...

I've complained so many times to eBay about sellers in countries where the export of antiquities is banned, listing them for sale - these, material in Pakistan, etc - and they don't help. I think the Turks want to stop this, but unless eBay provide them with his details ...

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