That Anonymous Letter of Complaint Has its Object Confused

24 Jul

Brigham Young University Greek expert Lincoln Blumell is baffled by an anonymous letter to the university that alleged he is preparing to publish a translation of ancient Iraqi artifacts illegally obtained by arts-and-crafts retailier Hobby Lobby.

Hobby Lobby president Steve Green earlier this month agreed to forfeit thousands of cuneiform tablets and pay a $3 million fine. Soon afterward, a letter purportedly from eight past and present BYU scholars accused Blumell of violating professional standards by translating some of the tablets and preparing them for publication.

“Adding value to these artifacts and legitimizing their seizure by publishing them, even in reputable presses by trained scholars, contravenes professional standards of ethics,” the letter stated. BYU’s reputation would be damaged if Blumell did so, the authors wrote.

However, Blumell said he can’t read cuneiform, never looked at the Iraqi tablets and isn’t preparing anything about them for publication.

He did visit the Museum of the Bible, which Hobby Lobby and Green plan to open later this year in Washington, D.C., but he visited a different collection.

“I looked at some Greek paypri from a different find and provenance,” he said. “The larger question, of course, is if Hobby Lobby obtained an Iraqi collection under dubious circumstances, what else has been obtained under dubious circumstances in the museum, which is a fair question to ask. My involvement in it was looking at some Greek texts, nothing involved with the scandal about Iraqi material and cuneiform texts. I looked at a totally different find and language.”

The anonyous letter, first sent to the Salt Lake Tribune, called for BYU to conduct an investigation of Blumell, an associate professor of Ancient Scripture.

“To be honest, I’m not sure what you’d investigate,” he said. “All I’ve done is gone and looked at some Greek documents.”

On the anonymous complaint, see here.

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Posted by on 24 Jul 2017 in Archaeology


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