Lobel Calls "bull" on Christie's Sappho "provenance"

This is going to be a long one, but this Lobel called "dodgy" on it whilst she was in Paris, and the more she reads, the dodgier she feels the provenance given for the Sappho Papyri is ...

This is the only public catalogue image of the papyri sold by the Manuscripts not Antiquities department, which is claimed as the 'provenance' of the Sappho and Green ex eBay Turkey papyri. There are more, and I think Christie's is being set up possibly, with dealers claiming that lot as the provenance as it was the only recent 'jumble' lot of papyri sold within the right time frame - here - but ...

Starting with the first announcement of new Sappho Papyri, a TLS article by Obbink and a PSF draft of a ZPE article which was quickly removed. First the Sappho papyri are from a private collection, from a codex or book, the original scroll format having been 'repaired' in Antiquity:

Then there is talk of cartonnage and then the final 'provenance' - Christie's and a long collecting history was 'revealed' in New Orleans, as per Obbink's AIA handout:

As I said on Twitter at the news, I found it odd that the Sappho Papyri would be "revealed" to have the same provenance as the Green Hobby Lobby Museum papyri that came from Istanbul via eBay, and whose seller admitted to smuggling them ...

For the sordid tale of the Green dodgy eBay papyri see here PhDiva: I come to bury Green, not to praise him and the links in that piece going back.

For the "Christie's" provenance of the Green pieces I discussed / tracked, see Roberta Mazza:
Provenance issues: Information with thoughts to follow | Faces&Voices:
The Galatians 2 Coptic fragment (GC.MS.000462) was purchased in 2013 by Steven Green from a trusted dealer; the Museum of the Bible/Green Collection archives do have files attesting that the papyrus was part of the David Robinson papyrus lot sold at a Christie’s auction in London in November 2011. The files do not explain what happened to the manuscript between November 2011 and October 2012, when it was on sale on eBay, and how it went from eBay to the dealer who sold it to Green. The only person who would be able to explain how a papyrus legally acquired at a Christie’s auction in London went on sale on an eBay account located in Turkey at this point would be the above mentioned trusted dealer, whose identity remains undisclosed.
My other issue was the change from book to cartonnage ... as they are about as different as, well, as a hardback book is from papermache objects, doh!

Plus, as I mentioned here in 2013, Eksioglu, the dealer that sold the Green papyri regularly brings cartonnage to try to flog to dealers in London ... or rather he had been doing that until about 2012, when he seems to have stopped trying to flog cartonnage in London ... guess we know where he started flogging it instead given the countless "how to" videos the Green Scholars have put up on the internet, and the many boasts they have made of finding manuscripts by melting the cartonnage down.

Then we get to the AIA talk Obbink posted here and the new draft of the ZPE article Obbink posted here, and ...

Starting with the talk, it all sounds *fine* enough, but ...

 The various new fragments of Sappho could well be in the same hand, from the same place etc.

But unless a really good scholar who knows this period of cartonnage - ie not Obbink - looked at the cartonnage before it was taken apart (which everyone seems to agree was not the case), then 'sending' it to the Fayum in later Antiquity to be repaired is not fact but speculation and a guess.

Old scroll, damaged then repaired, then so worn out to become not worth repairing so recycled as cartonnage makes sense.

That all sounds fine and a good solid well pre 1970 provenance, and is pretty much what was written in the details of the Christie's auction listing (here):
59 packets of papyri fragments, approximately 20 x 45mm to 300 x 100mm, the majority in Greek, from various manuscripts containing texts in a variety of hands and including documentary, petitionary and literary excerpts, receipts, contracts and accounts. A number of fragments belonged to the collection of David M. Robinson, a large part of which was subsequently bequeathed to the Library of the University of Mississippi. The collection is briefly described by William H. Willis in 'The New Collections of Papyri at the University of Mississippi', Proceedings of the IX International Congress of Papyrology, 1961, pp.381-82. Two of the packets were part of the collection of P. Deaton. The handwriting of the papyri, often cursive, ranges from the 2nd to the 4th century AD and some texts indicate a probable localisation in the Heptanomis region of Ancient Egypt. P.Rob.inv.22, for example, seems to be a fragment from a receipt for a wheat transaction (\Ksunagor[astikon]\k) in the small town of Bakchias, meris of Herakleides in Arsinoites nome (\Kapo kwm[hV] Bakciad[oV thV Herakleid]ou meridoV tou Arsinoitou nomou\k), on the western bank of the Nile, southwest of Memphis. Another fragment, from the second half of the second century, is a month's report of the \Ksitologoi\k of Theadelphia, also in Arsinoite nome.
This is where the issues start ...

Galatians is pretty recognizable, so I am surprised anyone would have missed it, particularly not the various scholars that went through these papyri from well studied "packets" particularly as the New Testament is a pretty important document to American Christians ... and because the other associated papyri that went to other museums and collections were pretty well studied and ... well, it is possible.

I also until last week was vocal about giving Obbink the benefit of the doubt, and assuming he was just protecting the identity of a private collector ... who at times has increasingly sounded like a dealer, but privacy is important, and even though people think they have the "right" to know everything, the right to privacy is another enshrined American concept. But ...

Christie's describes the "handwriting of the papyri, often cursive, ranges from the 2nd to the 4th century AD and some texts indicate a probable localisation in the Heptanomis region of Ancient Egypt" (incidentally the Heptanomis link at Christie's is extrapolated to place the Sappho in the Fayum).

If we got back to Obbink's first posted draft, the handwriting:

Yes, of course it is possible that whilst "often" cursive, some of the Christie's papyri were "written in a formal round hand" and that the very good people in the Manuscripts department simply missed this important cue when cataloging, just as all the scholars who had looked through the packets had failed to notice rather large fragments of a well known and important New Testament text ... although oddly they don't seem to have missed many other more obscure details in their listing.

Note in the first draft of the ZPE article there were mentions of gesso ... but when we come to the AIA draft these have vanished:

And so Obbink is back to it being a book binding ...

And this is the "explanation" for the separation of the Sappho fragments to a 'collector' and the New Testament fragments, nor restricted to Galatians, to a Turk who flogged them on eBay from Istanbul with one piece ending up in the Green Collection:

I have only spent an hour or so on this today, but there are some glaring issues with the Sappho Papyri and their provenance, and I was clearly wrong to have given him the benefit of the doubt, and wrong to have asked others to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I don't believe, based on everything disclosed, that either the Sappho or the Green / eBay papyri were likely in that Christie's lot, but rather that it was opportunism of provenance.

I find it odd that Turkish eBay dealer Eksioglu sells cartonnage, and Green scholars find things melting cartonnage AND now the Sappho Papyri were from newly melted cartonnage ... two made sense, three is beyond coincidence as no matter what is claimed, melting cartonnage to 'retrieve' papyri is not the norm amongst scholars, museums or dealers - the chances of finding legible important fragments is so small it is not worth loosing an actual piece of cartonnage even if say the mummy head is damaged.

In fact, if you contact the eBayer using a fake name he will offer you: "l am the honest man if l show you any fragment or cartonagge ( mummy mask team) we must be agree before."

Here's the deal, amongst the other items the eBay Green-supplier was offering - I have this through a reader who I will keep anonymous - and which Christie's "missed" were bits of Mark (not a particularly obscure Gospel in the New Testament), of Barnabus, as the eBayer boasted:

"l will show you important greek,greco- roman - jewis-aramaic -early christianity 
coptic codex mark-gospel-jhon style and christianity arabic syrani language fragments. 
Also "barnabas" fragments diffrent meaning than bible.
(see photos below)
"l will show and sell you a lot of very important text but you must be sure l know what 
l have what is it meaning for example we have to sell a 1.th corintihans papyri 
book "4.M" so l need a honest collector you are professor this is your jop 
but this is my business thank you for your understanding"

Oh, and they also MISSED THE JESUS WIFE PAPYRUS at Christie's is you believe this provenance:
"Please my friend l said "jesus said my wife" you said 700 usd !.. 
Please l know what l have!.. Martin schoyen was buyed a few collection from me"

I am willing to believe Christie's misses the odd item, and scholars miss the odd item, but ... This Lobel calls bull. The Jesus Wife papyrus is now thought by many not to be quite right, so is this whole elaborate provenance not to hide looting but other issues?

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