Mar 6th 2019

Morag Kersel, DePaul University, The Oriental Institute

Pots from the City of Sin: The Consequences of Buying Holy Land Antiquities

“Who doesn’t want a pot from the city of sin?” said a buyer of an Early Bronze Age artifact possibly from the site of Bab adh-Dhra’ (identified by some as biblical Sodom).

Whatever the motive, the demand for archaeological artifacts from the Holy Land (modern Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories) results in archaeological site destruction, theft from museums, and a compromised understanding of the past. Critical to understanding the mechanics of the antiquities trade is the recognition that everyone wants to own a piece of the Holy Land.

Over 15 years of investigation have led to interesting insights related to why this is. Tracing how pots move from the mound to the market to the museum involves archaeological survey, aerial investigations using unpiloted aerial vehicles, archival research, and ethnographic interviews in order to understand better the competing claims for these archaeological objects and the deleterious effects on the landscape.

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