Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How Assad’s Enemies Gave Up on the Syrian Opposition


Aron Lund ('How Assad’s Enemies Gave Up on the Syrian Opposition' The Century Foundation October 17th 2017) presents an account of how the attempts by so-called 'friends of Syria' from 2011 onwards to interfere in Syria to topple assad led to the outbreak of the current civil war there and the humanitariabn problems that this crated. In its heyday the US support for anti-Assad rebels, arms program 'Timber Sycamore' quickly grew into one of the most expensive covert programs in CIA history, spending about a billion dollars per year by 2015. Not surprisingly:
Official U.S. strategy was now to weaken Assad so much that he would agree to give up power, yet not so much that civilian or military institutions broke down or large cities were overrun by jihadis. But Syria was no computer game. The CIA and its on-the-ground implementers, an unwieldy cohort of rival regional intelligence bosses and rebel fixers, could not fine-tune insurgent activity to achieve predictable effects, nor could they rewrite the social and ideological landscape of rebel-held Syria by remote control. [...] Using a chaotic, hundred-headed Sunni guerrilla force to tweak the Syrian president’s personal cost-benefit analysis of a political transition was like trying to perform heart surgery with a chainsaw, and blood soon spurted all over the map.
Then, disgracefully, the 'friends' abandoned Syria to the bloodbath they had themselves instigated by their own naive political miscalculations. A thought-provoking read.

Vignette: Dirty trees, the American Sycamore

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

MoB Galatians Fragment Shelved


At DC presser, Museum of Bible's David Trobisch says it won't display disputed Galatians fragment until it can resolve provenance questions.
see my: 'Green Collection Objects "Yet to find a questionable piece"...'. PACHI Saturday, 5 September 2015
 and PACHI Saturday, 10 May 2014, 'Green Collection, well, there are collecting histories, and collecting histories'.


As for why there are problems, see here:
 PACHI Friday, 16 January 2015:
'Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (1) Introduction',
'Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (2) Pap.Robs',
'
Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (3) 2011 AnonStash at Christie's',
'Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (4) "The Trusted Mister X"',
I see I never managed to complete the fifth in the series.

PACHI Friday, 23 January 2015
'Sappho Pap. Obbink: Further Painting into Corners'.

Then PACHI Thursday, 27 November 2014,
'Mixantik and his 'Connections' with Christies'

 

The Dirt on the Dubious Dead Sea Scrolls


Alex Macdonald, Researcher at Macquarie University (Oct 16 2017) summarises 'The Dirt on the Dubious Dead Sea Scrolls: curiosities to consider as more information emerges'.
everyone thought that all the manuscripts and fragments from Qumran had been excavated and sold; the dominant dealer (known as Kando) suggested that the days of buying and selling DSS material were past. Nonetheless, since 2002 when an American dealer was offered an opportunity to buy more DSS, we have seen some 76 fragments come through the market for huge prices — hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to tens of millions. They seem to have come largely via one of Kando’s sons. Many of these are now in the collection of Martin Schøyen, and others are owned by various American evangelical institutions including the SouthWestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the new almost-open Museum of the Bible backed by the Hobby Lobby family (the Greens). All these fragments were bought on the premise that they were authentic antiquities, and volumes publishing the Schøyen fragments and the Museum of the Bible fragments have been published this year — but some of those papyri have been proven to be fake! In numerous instances this is through papyrological/ palaeographical methods, but in some cases (i.e. six fragments from the Schøyen collection) scientific testing has been conducted and confirmed the verdict of the scholars. This raises all sorts of questions including questions about how documents with no legitimate provenance information came into such collections.
This is followed up by the author presenting 'a few things that I think are worth noting', and indeed they are. Including this one:

There’s another enigma, a group with a cluster of related entities: “Ancient Discovery Investment Group”, “The American Judeo-Christian Heritage Foundation”, the “Artifact Research and Translation Foundation.” They want to bring a “priceless” collection of Dead Sea Scrolls — that is, the rest of William Kando’s scrolls — to America and thus “prove that mankind once enjoyed a relationship with deity.” The price is upward of THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS! Despite the lack of overt reference to the fact, they seem to be a group of Mormons.

Can the Museum of the Bible overcome the sins of the past?


Lizzie Wade, ' Can the Museum of the Bible overcome the sins of the past?' Science Magazine Oct. 16, 2017
In the forthcoming book Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby, Joel Baden, a Hebrew Bible scholar at Yale Divinity School, and Candida Moss, an expert on the New Testament at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, take the Green collection to task for having commissioned inexperienced scholars to analyze ancient texts. The duo also complains that the museum has not published a complete catalog of its objects, making it impossible for scholars to know whether it owns artifacts worthy of study, or how many may have problematic provenance. The Museum of the Bible is trying to allay scholars’ fears and establish itself as a legitimate academic enterprise.
No truly legitimate academic enterprise would base any of its work on recently purchased artefacts of 'problematic' (ie lacking) provenance. How many of the latter are in the institution's research collection and exhibits?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

ISIL territory Shrinking in Syria and Iraq



Thomas van Linge‏  Syria and iraq map updates: the situation as of 15/10/2017,
bigger file http://www.mediafire.com/convkey/4fc1/gpvv1c2w3a9cjt7zg.jpg
and  http://www.mediafire.com/convkey/174d/ih5spzw4ii7g4dyzg.jpg

Tallying Knowledge Theft by UK Artefact Hunters


How can this be in any way considered as acceptable? Today the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter indicates that in the twenty years since the PAS was created to deal with the information loss through the lack of mandatory reporting of finds made in the course of activities such as artefact hunting there have been
six million artefacts pocketed by metal detectorists alone.

Meanwhile, the Portable Antiquities Scheme Database rather pathetically celebrates:


According to these figures only one out of every six recordable items found during Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Resource is ever seen by archaeologists.

Five out of six are disappearing without trace.  



Why can’t we ID these people?


Heritage Action, with what seems a perfectly valid question: 'Why can’t we ID these people?'15/10/2017. Here's one metal detectorist pictured at Great Chesterford:




And, as HA point out, this is just one percent of the 24000 active detectorists postulated by Dr Sam Hardy's  latest calculations*:



In other words the serried ranks would look a bit like this in overview:

One, a hundred, twenty-four thousand. How much information is being lost weekly, monthly, annually as artefacts by the million disappear into their pockets? Why is there so little discussion of this?

*The Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter has at the basis of its algorithm a figure well below half of that, the PAS suggest its 'around 9,600 metal detector users across England and Wales', while until I saw Dr Hardy's figures I was using my own more recent revised value of 16k. What's yours?
 
 
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