Who Owns the Past?

Competing Claims for Antiquities from the Holy Land


Morag M. Kersel

Department of Anthropology, DePaul University of Chicago

Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 7:00 P.M., Cohen Lounge, Dickson Hall, Montclair State University*

Recent research into the legal trade in antiquities shows that multiple stakeholders with competing claims participate in the travel from the ground to the consumer in the marketplace. In Israel, for example, 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 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 from the Holy Land. 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.

*Parking available in Red Hawk Deck. Exit to Dickson from Level Five.