The Shady Online Trade in Ancient Texts

Candida Moss has written a good summary of some of the issues: 
Dismembering History: The Shady Online Trade in Ancient Texts - The Daily Beast:

Both priceless papyri that could shed light on early Christianity and forgeries are openly trafficked online. Determining authenticity is increasingly difficult.

This past week a new eBay auction announced the sale of “Ancient Egyptian papyrus with Greek letters—Bible.” Listed with the “buy it now” price of $1,098, the seller claimed that the fragment was written ca. 200 BC and was “collected in the 1960s … from an old Swiss collection, probably the Erik von Scherling collection.”
That piece is fine, as it did turn out to be from von Scherling and to have a solid pre 1970 provenance.

I have to admit I come to this issue from the Loot busting perspective not the Christian scholarship perspective, so I was pretty shocked how laissez-faire Jones was about the seller admitting it was looted:
Standards are a little sloppier when it comes to Christian materials. As St. Louis University historian Douglas Boin told me, the Society of Biblical Literature, where most Christian objects will be presented, has no such policy in place. In the meantime, shifty manuscripts continue to wend their way into major collections. In 2012, scholarly bloggers Dorothy L. King and Brice Jones highlighted the suspicious trading practices of an eBay seller known as MixAntix. Two years later, Roberta Mazza, an ancient historian and papyrologist at the University of Manchester, recognized a papyrus that had been put up for sale by MixAntix when she saw it on display at the Vatican’s illustrious Verbum Dominini II exhibit last April. A papyrus of dubious and potentially illegal origin ended up in an exhibit on the Word of God at the center of the Roman Catholic Church.
The better posts to read on this blog are this one where the dealer admitted to smuggling: Dorothy King's PhDiva: So I Bought A Papyrus on eBay .... And more recently this one where I explain how little people care that the smuggled papyri are ending up in a dodgy American 'museum': Dorothy King's PhDiva: I come to bury Green, not to praise him

Papyri are a very specialised field, and these were all stolen directly from the ground in Egypt rather than from museums, and so could not be reported stolen. That's why they do not appear on www.LootBusters.com


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