Endorsement of Open Letter on Fake and Unprovenanced Manuscripts

This post has recently been updated with a response from Brill.

The SCS Statement on Professional Ethics emphasizes the need for due diligence regarding the provenance of artifacts in many different areas of scholarly work, including initial publications of objects and texts and the management of institutional collections. In recognition of the importance of this issue, the SCS Board of Directors has voted to endorse an open letter on the publication of fragments that were acquired by the Museum of the Bible and published by Brill. You can read the text of the letter below, which was originally published by Dr. Roberta Mazza on November 5, 2018 and signed by many individuals. You can also read the response from Brill, originally published by Dr. Mazza on November 7.

Open letter to Brill: Fake and unprovenanced manuscripts

For the attention of Brill.

FAKE AND UNPROVENANCED MANUSCRIPTS

On 22 October 2018, the Museum of the Bible issued a press release informing the public that five of their recently acquired fragments that were claimed to come from the Dead Sea Scrolls are modern forgeries. These five forgeries are included in the first volume of the series ‘Publications of Museum of the Bible’ which was published by Brill in 2016.

This volume has received sustained criticism from members of the academic community because it failed to provide information about the acquisition circumstances and collection history of the thirteen fragments it presented. In the introduction, the editor in chief stated only that they were acquired “on behalf of Mister Steven Green in four lots from four private collectors” adding the dates of purchase (November 2009, February 2010, May 2010, October 2014). Questions about the authenticity of all thirteen fragments were raised by many specialists, including one of the co-authors of the volume, and are still waiting to be fully answered.

This is merely the latest in a series of cases in which academics’ concerns about the provenance and authenticity of manuscripts have been ignored, despite the fact that most scholarly associations (e.g. ASOR, SBL, SCS, AIA and ASP) have policies and guidelines on these matters. It is clear that there were sustained serious flaws not only in terms of ethical collecting standards and museum best-practice, as the owners of the fragments have acknowledged, but also in publication good practices. As a group of specialists involved in the study of ancient manuscripts we ask Brill to clarify their position. Why did Brill allow the fragments to be published without proper discussion of their provenance, when one co-author had doubts about their authenticity?

This episode again demonstrates the urgent need for publishers as well as academics to exercise due diligence, through their peer reviewers, in checking that publications of antiquities, including ancient texts, acquired recently on the market give a full and annotated discussion of the acquisition and provenance history. We strongly suggest that Brill and other publishers treat this as seriously as they do copyright, and in their instructions to authors and contracts include a clause requiring the author or authors to be responsible for providing a full and proper explanation of the provenance and legitimacy of such recent acquisitions.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Roberta Mazza (University of Manchester)

Roger Bagnall (ISAW, New York University)

Dominic Rathbone (King’s College London)

Christopher Rollston (George Washington University)

Årstein Justnes (University of Agder)

Paul Schubert (University of Geneva)

Andrea Jördens (University of Heidelberg)

Rodney Ast (University of Heidelberg)

Amin Benaissa (University of Oxford)

Todd Hickey (University of California, Berkeley)

Bernhard Palme (University of Vienna)

Jennifer Knust (Duke University)

Brent Nongbri (Macquarie University)

Malcolm Choat (Macquarie University)

Caroline Schroeder (University of the Pacific)

Philip Alexander (University of Manchester)

Luigi Prada (University of Oxford)

Jennifer Cromwell (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Sofia Torallas Tovar (University of Chicago)

Michael Langlois (University of Strasbourg)

Nikolaos Gonis (University College London)

Graham Claytor (Hunter College, CUNY)

Please see the following link for the most up to date list of scholars who have endorsed the letter:

https://facesandvoices.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/open-letter-to-brill-fake-and-unprovenanced-manuscripts/

Response from Jasmine Lange, Chief Publishing Officer, Brill

In response to your Open Letter, Brill would like to express that we are aware of the ongoing discussion about forged fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as announced by the Museum of the Bible in its press release on 22 October 2018.

The forged fragments were included in the first volume of the Publications of Museum of the Bible (Brill 2016). The issue of the authenticity of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls was recently addressed by Kipp Davis, one of the editors of this volume, in Brill’s academic journal, Dead Sea Discoveries (‘Nine Dubious ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’, fragments from the Twenty-First Century.’, https://doi.org/10.1163/15685179-12341428).

The role of Brill, as with all other academic publishers, is to facilitate the peer review process in order to ensure that publications meet the required academic criteria. In order to safeguard the originality and quality of our publications, each and every work is subject to peer review. In addition, we receive advice from multiple senior scholars in the appropriate field. As a member of Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), we take our responsibility as academic publisher very seriously.

Brill and its editorial boards work in good faith and with integrity to further the advancement of scholarship. Given the highly specialized nature of many of our publications, Brill relies upon the judgment and expert advice of its editorial boards. Provenance has always been and remains a difficult and contentious issue with museum collections around the world, both public and private. We always aim at improving our processes and policies and we welcome you to have a discussion about formulating additional policies related to provenance and associated topics that promote integrity and strengthen the interests of the academic community.



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The SCS has received a response from a group of graduate students to Professor Joy Connolly’s blog post Working Towards a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics. This repsonse is posted below.

The student authors are anonymous and neither SCS staff nor Officers know their identities. As agreed with the Communications Committee, this piece is not appearing on the SCS blog, since the current policy is not to publish anonymous submissions on the blog. However, the Communications Committee and SCS staff agree that it is important to give students a voice and publish their contributions to debates about the future. The SCS leadership recognizes that there are circumstances under which anonymity can protect younger and more vulnerable members of the profession (see the dialogue following the board statement on ad hominem anonymous attacks), and shares the hope of the students, expressed in their final paragraph, that we can move towards a future where the protection of anonymity will no longer be necessary. 

The SCS office requested just one edit, on placement service data, to the submission. The post has not been otherwise edited or revised.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 03/21/2019 - 8:59pm by Helen Cullyer.
Penland Rome China 00

How can we forge better and lasting connections between the ancient Mediterranean and modern Chinese culture? At the end of the last school year, I had the occasion to sit down with my student, Hongshen Ken Lin (林鸿燊) to talk about his experiences in Classics. Ken was at the end of his senior year and had been accepted early to Harvard, where he planned to combine his love of Big Data and digital humanities with something equally remote and challenging: the study of Roman and Greek Antiquity.


Penland Rome China 01
Hongshen Ken Lin on the Harvard China website.

According to Ken, he became interested in studying Latin through a family trip to Rome combined with a freshman history class in the Ancient Mediterranean at his new US school. That was the first time he realized that Latin existed. He had not had much exposure to Roman and Greek history in China.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 03/21/2019 - 8:38pm by Liz Penland.
Call for Papers
October, 26th 2019.
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
Third University of Florida Classics Graduate Student Symposium
 
Justice turns the balance scales
Δίκα δὲ τοῖς μὲν παθοῦσιν μαθεῖν ἐπιρρέπει (Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 250-1)
“But Justice turns the balance scales,
sees that we suffer and we suffer and we learn.” (trans. Robert Fagles)

The importance of the concept of justice in ancient literature and culture set the foundation for the philosophical, social, and political reflections on the subject in the centuries that followed. From archaic theodicy, to the great plays of the Tragedians, from Caesar’s debate with Cato, to life under tyrannical emperors, δίκη [dīke] and iustitia (νόμος [nomos] and ius…) come to the fore as key ideas to interpret the world and man’s role/duty in it.  Many human experiences that ancient literature describes broached the issue of justice, be it at a personal level (the problem of suffering, retribution, progress, etc.) or at a societal and historical level (administration of justice, redistribution of land, great legal cases of ancient history, etc.). These ideas have been the point of reference for many literary works and philosophical/political reflections in the cultural tradition that reaches us today.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 03/21/2019 - 11:15am by Erik Shell.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Department of Classics and the Ancient Theater Performance Group of Cornell University present....

TROADES 
“The Trojan Women”
by Seneca

In the original Latin
 
Directed by Daniel Gallagher and Nathan Chazan
  
Sunday, April 21, 2019 – 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 – 7: 30 p.m.

Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium – Klarman Hall
 
Admission is free.
For more information:lmb296@cornell.edu

---

(Photo: "Empty Theatre (almost)" by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Thu, 03/21/2019 - 8:20am by Erik Shell.

The Many Faces of War V: An annual interdisciplinary symposium on the experience and impact of war throughout history

 October 17th-18th, 2019 at South Dakota State University

This annual interdisciplinary conference aims to address both the experience and impact of war for those fighting as well as for those on the periphery of combat.  

The conference is aimed equally at postgraduate students, researchers in the early stages of their careers and established academics. There are no specific geographical or temporal parameters regarding the subject matter of papers, and scholars and students of ancient, medieval and modern warfare are encouraged to submit proposals. We would also encourage the proposal of panels of three papers.

 This year we encourage a focus on veterans and associated studies or experiences. Suggested topics are: PTSD; the social stigma of retreat or cowardice; social security systems for war widows and orphans; the effect of training on a soldier’s mindset and actions (before, during and after combat); the social position of soldiers and veterans;  literature and poetry of war; the art and architecture of war and remembrance. 

Proposals/abstracts should be no longer than 250 words and should be sent to:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 03/20/2019 - 8:42am by Erik Shell.

SCS is pleased to announce the addition of a candidate to the 2019 election slate for President-Elect. Professor Shelley P. Haley has received the support of over 30 SCS members, and, in accordance with Bylaw 30, she has been added as a candidate in the upcoming summer elections. You can view the updated slate here.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 03/18/2019 - 1:34pm by Helen Cullyer.

The 2019 Election Slate is now available. Please click here for a list of candidates nominated by the Nominating Committee and for instructions for those members who wish to petition to be added to the ballot. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 03/18/2019 - 11:41am by Helen Cullyer.
Three Roman votive offering representing faces. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/vy2engnk

Emma-Jayne Graham discusses her newly launched digital project with Jessica Hughes called The Votives Project, which examines ancient religion, medicine, and the divine through the lens of votive offerings in ancient sanctuaries and beyond. 

“There must be lots of people working on material like this – wouldn’t it be great to be able to talk to them too?” This was the gist of a conversation with my colleague Jessica Hughes which eventually led to the creation of The Votives Project: a website and network of people from different backgrounds who study, create, or use votive offerings or other related ways of communicating with the divine.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 03/14/2019 - 3:45pm by Emma-Jayne Graham.

11–14 November 2019
Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University, Brno

The event represents a unique opportunity to bring together scholars from various disciplines of Classical Studies and other Humanities to share ideas on the playwriting of Titus Maccius Plautus, especially the performative aspects of his comedies and the process of their reception and adaptation to different languages and for the stage.

The participants are invited to fit their talk into one of the following panels:

1) Plautus on Page
Possible issues: How does the linguistics, art history, social/cultural/judicial studies, etc. contribute to our understanding of Plautine comedies as play texts? What are the sources and limits of reconstructing the actual stage practices of the ancient Roman theatre performances? Ancient intradialogical and extradialogical stage directions – how to read and understand them? And other.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 2:30pm by Erik Shell.
Blue Women

All tickets are now reserved for the free staged reading and discussion of Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation at BAM on March 15 at 7.30pm. There will be a standby line. Reserved seats must be claimed by 7:20 p.m. Unclaimed seats will then be released to those on the standby line. 

Doors open at BAM Fisher (321 Ashland Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11217) at 6:30 p.m. for a book signing by Emily Wilson. Please bring your own copies for signing, as we will not be selling books.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 8:51am by Erik Shell.

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