Sunday, March 30, 2008

That Every Mouth May Be Stopped (p. 1 of 2)

"Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died..."--C. S. Lewis, "Miracles: A Preliminary Study" (p. 110, 1947 ed.; p. 169, 1960 ed.)

On Friday, November 16th, 2007 after returning home from the incredible all-day ASOR conference, I posted a message to Yahoo's ANE-2 list, letting interested people know I'd be blogging about it & the subsequent SBL conference, which I did in a series of 28 posts herein.

After that first announcement, Eliot Braun expressed dismay over discovering that Robert Deutsch, long-time manager of the Archaeological Center in Israel, had sold LMLK handles--something he's been doing for many years--his business has been operating since 1979, & is one of the most successful & prominent antiquities businesses in The Land. I originally published a link-page advertising this in the Dealers section of LMLK Dotcom on 7-20-2003, so it's not a very well-kept secret!

Disclaimer: Dr. Braun asked several questions, & since I didn't address them directly in ANE-2, I'll take the time to do so here. During a cursory web search I did today (after drafting both parts of this blog series), I discovered that Dr. Braun has worked for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), & is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeology, 2 institutions I have great respect for. The nature of my discussion here is in response to his specific concerns expressed on ANE-2 regarding my collection of LMLK handles (several of which are in storage at the Albright Institute, & many others at the IAA), & should in no way reflect negatively on his own field of research, or on his past employment at the IAA.

Infants, children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, people with chronic heart problems, & people who are not able to stay focused on specific issues (especially people who believe in goo-to-you-thru-the-zoo Evolution), I would strongly urge you to close your browser window now, or visit a website with a more pleasant, non-confrontational topic. Feel free to come back in May. For now, may I recommend the promotional blog for the new "Expelled" movie?

Now that you've been warned, back to Braun:

"Where do they come from and where is he selling them?"

That depends, of course, if they're legitimate. If they are, then they came from the land of Israel; if they're fake, I wouldn't have any idea where they came from (& they're not fake). As for where Robert Deutsch is selling them, I provided links above to his site, which is also based in the land of Israel. Purely a coincidence, I'm sure.

"I wonder about the legality of these transactions."

Wonder all you want. Wonder is wonderful.

"Is this what this list is about, disseminating such information?"

ANE-2 is about disseminating info pertaining to the Ancient Near East (ANE), which ASOR was organized to do over a century ago, & that's what the point of my original post was about. The person who decided to make the subject something else was Eliot Braun. So it seems odd that Dr. Braun would bring up a subject he considers to be out-of-bounds for the list, then ask if that was what the list was about. I would expect a person with legitimate PhD-research credentials (i.e., from a reputable university) to be a little more logical, & do the research first by inquiring with the list's moderators.

Before I had a chance to respond online, Joe Zias chimed in with the same wonderful wonder. Unlike Dr. Braun, Mr. Zias does not possess PhD credentials (legitimate or otherwise), so his misleading comments should not have surprised me; however, I had been under the impression that he had a PhD, as witnessed by my response to him, in which I addressed him respectfully as a doctor. As with Dr. Braun, I will also issue a disclaimer towards Joe Zias, that nothing I'm about to say in these 2 blogs should be interpreted as a lack of respect for his knowledge of Anthropology, nor his contributions to that particular field of study.

One remark he made that I did not address on ANE-2 was: "[I]nscribed materials ... are forbidden for export according to the law."

He repeated himself in a later message: "[A]ccording to the law, inscribed material is not allowable for export."

Notice that he stated the law on both occasions without citing a reference. What law?

This is your clue that he's ignorant on this subject. I've broken the law here in America on several occasions in several states, & each time I was caught, the police officer handed me a piece of paper citing a reference to a specific law (e.g., section 8069AP, or 10.32.040MC). If you're going to accuse someone of breaking the law, you should be specific because it's a serious matter, & if you're wrong, it could damage your reputation--especially your academic standing since fields of research demand objectivity & certainty prior to publication.

Challenge #1 of 3: So my first challenge to Mr. Zias would be to either cite the specific law he was quoting, or issue a public apology since I don't appreciate being falsely accused of committing a crime ... especially after I've donated half a decade of my spare time, & tens of thousands of dollars making original contributions to our collective knowledge of Ancient Near East history.

Next, Dr. Braun wondered what my contributions were. I gave a general answer, & stated that details would be forthcoming in this blog, where they would not be subject to censorship by ANE-2's biased moderators, who have repeatedly demonstrated anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, & anti-Bible biases in general, & censored/rejected messages I've posted that support Israel's cultural heritage from a Biblical bias. (On ANE-2, if you express a positive Bible bias, it's called "bias"; if you express a negative bias, it's called "objective scholarship".)

Again, it surprised me that someone with research credentials apparently lacks the fundamental ability to do the elementary research needed to answer his own question pertaining to my contributions to LMLKology (i.e., typing my last name & the word "LMLK" in any Internet search engine to find a tangible connection)!

But to make it even easier for Dr. Brain Braun, I don't mind taking this opportunity on my blog to brag about the accomplishments God has enabled me to make in this esoteric field. (Anything good/useful that can be attributed to me, needs to be credited to God working through me per Hebrews 13:20-1; but anything bad/useless I do is my own fault due to my own negligence.)

I must also preface them by revealing that I prayed to God before I owned a single LMLK handle, & asked God to use me in a way that would bring some modicum of glory to God so that my life would make a slight difference for the better, no matter how small.

Aside from those caveats, my contributions to LMLKology thus far have been:

Admittedly, not even a blip on the map of all human knowledge, but an original contribution nonetheless. And all because I was able to become the steward (i.e., responsible temporary owner) of artifacts legally exported from Israel. Critics might claim that my research could have been done without the need for my acquisition of the artifacts, but that's bogus because I simply would not have had the interest. Initially, I had no idea of their importance, nor that there was no extensive English book on the subject. God arranged for me to acquire them, & God inspired/enabled me to do the research. If the laws had been different, then God would have had to lead me down another path. And of course, there are plenty of other ways God could've answered that somewhat ambiguous prayer.

So I hope that helps Dr. Braun & Yitzhak Sapir figure out why it would have been "unsuitable" for me to answer this particular question of theirs on ANE-2. They don't allow God, or mere verbal support for God, to exist in their discussions. It has nothing to do with Science; it simply has to do with bias.

Belief in God didn't hinder any of the great men of Science (Bacon, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Priestley, Faraday, Henry, Mendel, to name a few) from making their contributions to it. If anything, maybe their interpretations or misinterpretations of the Bible might have hindered or helped them, but not their devotion &/or prayers to God. Theism & prayer should be encouraged in every school classroom. (Please note that I said "encouraged", not "taught" or "mandated".)

And in anticipation of someone asking, Why would anyone care about these seals?, I would point out the following:
  • They are key artifacts for dating strata in Israel.

  • They are key artifacts for understanding the evolution of alphabetic scripts.

  • They relate directly to what some military historians believe is the most important conflict ever, because if the outcome had been different, the 3 major monotheistic religions would've been different, or might not have come into being at all, & that would've had a domino-effect on the rest of world history (for better or for worse) like no other military event.

  • They're mysterious, & everyone loves a good mystery!

Dr. Braun specifically wanted to know, "[I]f such analyses were done what could the data obtained from them be used for[?] Enlighten us, please."

Well, for me, I've used the data obtained from them for demonstrating that 2Chronicles 29-31 may contain a reliable record (& I certainly believe it does based on this scientific evidence). Until I conducted my research (beginning with my unprovenanced specimens), & published my interpretation of the evidence, nobody had made any direct connection between King Hezekiah's worship reformation & specific evidence from the LMLK-sealed jars (only general economic connections to Hezekiah's royal administration by Vaughn's thesis in the 1990s). Not only do they support the Biblical record, but they tie the unique narrative recorded in 2Chronicles to the parallel records in 2Kings & Isaiah. Chronologically, those 2 sources state precisely that the Assyrian attack occurred in the middle of Hezekiah's reign--the 14th year of 29.

My analysis of the unprovenanced seals, combined with my later analysis of the provenanced seals, helped me accomplish this. They were inseparable. Though you can separate them now, you would not have had the seal drawings & totals to work with if the unprovenanced specimens had not been available to me.

Consider yourself officially "enlightened"!

Dr. Braun issued another polemic remark:

"It is generating a market for destruction of cultural patrimony."

That's basically a chicken/egg statement. Did my, or anyone's, interest in these artifacts generate the market, or did the market generate my interest? Well, you'd have to be embarrassingly ignorant to think that I personally generated the market. Though I had seen LMLK seals in BAR magazine years before I bought one, the only reason I bought one is because the market came to me, & generated my interest by making it available. It existed long before I knew it existed, & would've continued to exist even if I had never been born.

Dr. Brain Braun is using the kind of ill-logic that would have me feel guilt every time a bank robbery occurs because of my desire to have loads of money! Like as if it's my fault for wanting to accumulate money by putting it into a bank, so people who are lazier & more immoral than me are somehow forced into robbing banks so they can have an economic advantage over me. In essence, that's not a very well-thought-out argument for someone with a PhD.

To his credit, he did not post any additional messages on this subject.

The Bible & everything related to it is fascinating to many people, & that ain't ever gonna change; but I'll tell ya what can & has changed.

Look at what's happened to archeology in Palestinian terrorist-territory, specifically the region just north of Jerusalem at sites such as Jib & Nasbeh. No civil person would dare excavate in/near Ramallah nowadays--even if they could get permission--because of all the uncivilized animals-disguised-as-humans roaming the area. Even Hebron, a bona fide Jewish site with no historical connection to the late foundation of Islam is now unsafe to the point where visitors have to be escorted in bullet-proof tour buses.

Here's my point: If the handles I own had been excavated scientifically, they would never have appeared on the antiquities market. If the government funds used to combat Arab/Palestinian terrorism were freed up, it could be used to sponsor such scientific excavations, or do a better job of protecting The Land.

So a more urgent problem is not the prevention of antiquities sales, but the restoration of the entire country to complete Israeli control, which means killing (because they'll never go away voluntarily) the uncivilized troublemakers who hate Jews & Christians, & teach/train their children to blow themselves up. This would "generate a market" for the continuation & expansion of scientific excavations, & there's a good chance that it would reduce the looting that Braun & Zias are so concerned about, because it would present an opportunity to hire decent, law-abiding Arab/Palestinians.

Challenge #2 of 3: So my 2nd challenge to Zias & Braun (& like-minded individuals) is, Are you going to be as vocal in advocating the killing of Arab/Palestinians who have been caught & convicted of terrorism-related activities as you have been against law-abiding antiquities dealers & collectors?

[End of part 1 ... silent pause for gratuitous dramatic effect ... stay tuned for part 2 later this week ... note that portions of LMLK Dotcom (the root site, not the Research site) will be changing soon.]

G.M. Grena