Frank Cross on Unprovenanced Artifacts

“I am indeed to be included among those who think that artifacts, particularly those bearing inscriptions, should be published whether dug up in scientifically controlled excavations or dug up by plundering antiquities dealers, collectors or their minions. Inscribed artifacts have so much—I am tempted to say most—to contribute to history and culture that they dare not be discarded and ignored. . . . To throw away inscriptional materials because they come from illicit digs (or forgers) is in my opinion irresponsible, either an inordinate desire for certitude on the part of those without the skills or energy to address the question of authenticity or the patience to wait until a consensus of scholars can be reached. It is noteworthy that those most eloquent in denouncing the publication of material from illicit digs are narrow specialists, especially dirt archaeologists.

Via, with further thoughts on the topic and the ironic quote of the editor of BAR (ironic given BAR’s history of publishing whatever regardless of provenance).

Interestingly, whether he intended to or not, Cross and his like-minded friends who think provenance doesn’t matter set the stage for fraud, looting, and forgery.  The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

Unprovenanced materials are trash from the perspective of historical reconstruction.  Trash.  Feel free to use trash if you wish, but your conclusions will be trash as well.