Bezalel Porten’s Proposal to Amend the ASOR Professional Guidelines

Bezalel recommends the following amendment to the ASOR professional guidelines and offers it to the ASOR public for consideration:

Propose E.1.d.ii

ASOR recognizes the unprecedented phenomenon that in the early-1990s there were uncovered at (an) unknown site(s) somewhere in the general vicinity of Hebron close to 2000 Idumean ostraca. These have been scattered among nine museums and libraries and 21 private collections. The fact that they were written by scores of scribes is ample warranty for their authenticity. It is inconceivable that any modern team could have put together a corpus covering such diverse topics as commodity chits, payment orders, accounts, workers’ texts, name lists, land descriptions, as well as numerous fragmentary pieces. Virtually none of the topics and many of the personal names were previously unknown. In a period of no written sources, the texts illuminate family organization, onomastics, various facets of economic life (e.g. metrology), and land organization; and allow us to fine-tune the power struggles of the Diadochi as reflected in mundane contracts from the land of Idumea.

Study of the texts has yielded, among other things, a list of 19 chits for wheat flour written by a single scribe during a few months of 344 BCE. This list allowed us to identify and restore a text found at Maresha whose date was damaged. Written by the same scribe, this single, provenanced chit belonged at the head of the unprovenanced nineteen. The Maresha piece demonstrated the authenticity of the Idumean pieces and the latter informed us how to interpret the Maresha piece. Some thousand pieces have already been published in four different publications (Lemaire, Ephʿal & Naveh, Porten & Yardeni) and several individual studies have also appeared.

Therefore, in accord with its existing policy, established in November, 2004 by ASOR’s Board of Trustees, ASOR allows this limited exception to its publication and presentation policy: The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the ASOR blog The Ancient Near East Today may receive articles dealing with these ostraca. In all cases the author(s) should indicate that the pieces are unprovenanced and state in what collection or library they may be found.