Asserts purchasers of looted antiquities preserve valuable information
Oded Golan, chief defendant in the so-called “forgery case of the century,” was acquitted of all forgery charges Wednesday, more specifically of forging an inscription reading “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” written on a first-century C.E. bone box (or ossuary). “The hot-air balloon released by the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority],” he told Biblical Archaeology Review in an exclusive telephone interview, “has finally popped.”
An industrial and management engineer, Golan has been a collector of antiquities from the Land of Israel for decades. His collection includes thousands of artifacts and constitutes one of the largest and most important private collections in Israel.
“I never considered my collection as a source of profit or income,” he says. “Out of my love for the field, I took steps to save thousands of artifacts discovered in Judea and Samaria [West Bank].” This, he says, was the center of Israel and Judah in the Biblical period. “Without my actions, these artifacts would have been removed from the country and disappeared.” He claims that more than a million antiquities from the West Bank have indeed disappeared from the country in this way.
Some authorities contend that buying unprovenanced antiquities on the market encourages looting. Others say that once they are looted, we must learn what we can from them. Golan is among the latter. So are some leading scholars. There is a lot to learn from them, he says.
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