Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Aleppo Codex

The archaeological blogosphere has been full of comments about the pros and cons of repatriating the Iraqi Jewish archive. Yet, there has been no discussion of the far more culturally significant Aleppo Codex that left another country hostile to Jewish culture years ago. See

The Codex left Syria well before academic archaeologists began to press for repatriation even where such returns raise serious questions about preservation of the objects in question.

The Codex is clearly better off in Israel than in Syria. The strong likelihood is that the Iraqi Jewish archive would be more likely to be preserved and studied as well if it remains outside of a hostile Iraq. Yet, our State Department as well as its supporters in the archaeological community apparently do not see it that way. They plan to accede to Iraqi demands for repatriation, although there are no guarantees the archive will be available for academic study or even preserved.

Will there also be calls for the return of the Aleppo Codex? Or, is the analysis different because it left Syria well before the 1970 UNESCO Convention was promulgated?


Alexander said...

Dear Mr. Tompa:

It seems inescapable that the Aleppo Codex belongs to Syria. It is clear that the Codex was taken illegally from its source country, and it should be returned forthwith. At least that's the conclusion one has to draw from your archaeological friends, including Mr. Barford. Unless Mr. Barford finds some ridiculous and laughable way to squiggle in the other direction. He is very good at that. As a question, does not Mr. Barford collect material that may be of dubious origin? He has yet to be fully transparent about his own activities. One has to wonder.

With good wishes,


Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Barford collects Japanese wood block prints, some of which are no doubt much rarer than the unprovenanced coins he complains so much about.

I'm all for his collecting these prints, but think he should hold himself to the same standards as to provenance etc. that he demands of others.

Paul Barford said...

I am sorry, Alexander, have we been introduced? Do I know you? You write:
As a question, does not Mr. Barford collect material that may be of dubious origin? Perhaps you would like to enlarge on that remark? Of what, precisely, are you accusing me?

Then there is:
Will they stop at nothing? Do you think that Mr. Barford may be involved with these archaeologists?Ones supporting “corrupt practices of the US-supported Mubaraks” and “truckling with” US-deposed Saddam Hussein? Of what, precisely, do you think I might be accusing me?

If you want to discuss my views on portable antiquities collecting, why hide behind an anonymous blogger profile posting sly questions over on Peter Tompa’s blog? Why not come over to mine and express your concerns to my face?

Paul Barford said...

With regard "Alexander's" strange comment on the Mubaraks, That should of course read:
"Of what, precisely, do you think I might be accused?"

Alexander said...

Dear Mr. Tompa:

With further thought about the Aleppo Codex, it seems to me that, as an exact parallel to issues raised by some of your scholarly commentators, it was stolen from Syria and should be returned forthwith. I look forward to their response -- in fact any response -- and find it odd there has been none on the matter to this point. You should consider exploring this issue further, given the significance of the document to Syrian history and to the need for those who criticize the acquisition of material that may be illegally removed from source countries to exhibit, themselves, a uniform moral and ethical code. In this case, of course, the object was stolen, no question about it and it is difficult to see how one could take a contrary view.

One commentator, Mr. Barford, who ever he is, seems to be frizzed-out at my earlier comment. But there are questions that Mr. B. does not appear able to respond to:

First, is Mr. B. now, or has he ever been, associated with any archaeologist who curried favor with the Saddam regime? Peter Tompa thinks not. Mr. B., who in a revealing moment misquotes what was said, does not reply. Why would he do that?

Second, Mr. B. chastises collectors. But he is a collector. Does Mr. B. have full provenance records of the material that he collects? Is he willing to make these publicly available on his blog? All of them? Mr. B. evades the question as to whether has material of dubious origin. Why would he do that?

Third, Mr. B. goes further in correcting himself in another comment. Why would he do that? Here, one has to surmise that he is obsessed with your excellent blog, reads it minutely, then scurries to find ways to evade answers to hard questions or change the subject (to portable antiquities or whatever).

Poor soul. For someone to need such attention as Mr. Barford does, and ignore the mirth and laughter that surrounds his comments, one has to ask whether we are seeing a deficiency of discipline or maturity, and perhaps of some deep never-satisfied need for attention. Will he ever give a full response to the questions he should answer? One rather doubts it. To repeat, it is all rather laughable. And sad. He seems to want an introduction. Why would one want to do that?

Warm regards and thank you again for your excellent work.


Paul Barford said...

Hi Alexander.
I did invite you over to my blog to present your comments on mine, but you seem determined to use Peter Tompa as a go-between.

Firstly if you looked at my blog, you will see I gave my opinion on the Aleppo codex. You seem not to have noticed it. Why, if you are so "interested"?

"is Mr. B. now, or has he ever been, associated with any archaeologist who curried favor with the Saddam regime? I have worked with archaeologists who have excavated in Iraq (among other countries, my Institute carries out a lot of work abroad). Some of my former students were working alongside US forces in Iraq after 2003, whether that means they curried favour with the Bush regime I could not say, I hope not. I cannot say whether any of the people I know "curried favour" or even met Saddam Hussein. Certainly I never heard of any of them going for him with a knife or trying to place a noose round his neck, if that's what you mean. (But your question was originally about the Mubaraks).

"Mr. B. evades the question as to whether has material of dubious origin. Why would he do that?" I have cats of dubious origin, I recklessly eat street food of dubious origin (but I avoid McDonalds as their "meat" seems of even more dubious origin), I keep finding ballpoint pens around the house of dubious origin. I really do not know what you have in mind say I "have" material of dubious origin. You still have not enlarged on your accusation, so its a bit difficult to answer your question.

Primarily I collect old (and new) books on a variety of topics, do you want me to give you "provenances" (ie collecting histories) for all of them?

"Will he ever give a full response to the questions he should answer?" "SHOULD" I? Says who, and by what scale of "obligations"?

"He seems to want an introduction. Why would one want to do that?
Basically "Alexander" because I write under my own name so it is clear to anyone who cares to know who is saying what and why. It is easy for any Tom Dick and Harriet with a metal detector or dugup artefact collection to hide behind a multitude of internet pseudonyms and snipe away, and say what they want about others.

If you are making allegations about me here, why not have the courage to do so giving your real name?

"One has to wonder", "Alexander", doesn't one?

(I suspect Mr Tompa would prefer you to continue your pseudonymous interrogation my blog rather than here. No need to clutter up his Aleppo thread with lists of old books and who a blogger on the other side of the world from Washington does and does not know and "truckle" with - or not).

Paul Barford said...

Needless to say this "Alexander" never did care to actually pose the question to my face on my blog, preferring to make insinuations on another. Neither does it seem did he actually read my post on the Aleppo codex.