November 9, 2019

Saturday, November 09, 2019 - ,, No comments

Museum Theft: Numismatic thieves also strike at the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino

In the second of two museum thefts reported in Italy this week, two thieves broke into the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino around 2:00 am by forcing open a window in Palazzo Pretorio, in the early morning hours of 7 November.   As the alarm sounded drawing attention to their incursion, the culprits had to work quickly in order to complete their burglary before a private security firm, responding to the alarm, had time to intervene.

Once inside the museum, CCTV footage captured the pair on the second floor, where they proceeded to break into a display case and make off with thirty papal medals donated to the museum by a private collector. At present, it is not known whether their choice of objects was premeditated or simply an impulsive grab to get in and get out quickly before being captured.  Officials have reported however that the thieves took gilded gold medals from the case while leaving behind others which were dull in appearance but more valuable, being made of silver.

Saturday, November 09, 2019 - ,,, No comments

Museum Theft: Museo di San Mamiliano in Sovana, Italy


In one of two museum thefts this week in Italy, authorities have reported that fifty gold solidus, dating back to the 5th century CE have been stolen from the Museo di San Mamiliano in Sovana, Italy.  

Discovered during restoration works carried out under the floors of the city church of San Mamiliano in 2004, the hoard of gold coins is known as the Treasure of Sovana.  Coins like these, were once in use by the Byzantine Empire between the fourth and tenth centuries. 

In total, cultural authorities documented 498 coins in the cache which can be dated chronologically between the beginning of the 5th century with the reign of Honorius and the last decades of the century - the reign of Zeno. Each of the coins weighed in at approximately 1/72 of a Roman pound (approx. 4,5 grams), and is said to be nearly 24 karat gold (so in excess of 99% pure).

It has been reported that once the thief or thieves entered the museum, they were able to deactivate the alarm system connected to the local carabinieri station and then turn off the internal video surveillance system to impede their identification.  For good measure the thieves also stole a CCTV backup storage device, likely indicating they were familiar with the museum's security. 

Once inside the museum, the culprits attempted to break the safety glass surrounding the coins, but meeting some resistance, and pressed for time, the thieves made off with only a portion of the gold coins on display. 

The following is a list of the coins that make up the Treasure of Sovana divided by empire and by name of the emperor (or emperors) transcribed.  Note: Which coins are missing has not been released. 

Western Empire
  • Honorius: eight coins; mints of Milan and Ravenna.
  • Valentinian III: twelve coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Petronius: a coin; mint of Rome.
  • Miano: two coins; mints of Milan and Ravenna.
  • Libio Severo: ten coins; mints of Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Anthemius: seventeen coins; mints of Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Glycerine: a coin; Mint of Milan.
  • Giulio Nepote: six coins; mints of Arelate, Milan, Ravenna and an unidentified Germanic area.
  • Romulus Augustus: eight coins; mints of Arelate, Milan and Rome.

Eastern Empire
  • Theodosius II: twenty-three coins; mints of Constantinople, Ravenna and Thessalonica.
  • Pulcheria: a coin; mint of Constantinople.
  • Marciano: eleven coins; mints of Constantinople and Thessalonica.
  • Leo I: twelve coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan, Rome and Thessalonica.
  • Leo I and Leo II: a coin; mint of Constantinople.
  • Leo II and Zeno: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Basilisk: eight coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan and Rome.
  • Basilisk and Mark: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Zeno: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Ariadne (Wife of Zeno and Anastasius, daughter of Leo I, mother of Leo II): a coin; mint of Constantinople.


Today, the fifth-century solidus is highly sought after, as much for its gold purity, as for its historical interest. Purchased legally, they are usually more expensive than a denarius issued by the same emperor. 

November 8, 2019

Book Review – Females in the Frame, Women, Art and Crime

Guest Blog post by: Dr. Catherine Gardner

Penelope Jackson wrote this book as a result of a challenge unwittingly thrown down by Dr Noah Chaney. He somewhat naively noted in his 2015 book The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of Master Forgers “there is a decided lack of female forgers in this book; there are female accomplices and con men, but I know of no notable forgers in the history of forgery”.  This motivated Jackson to investigate further the role women play (have played) in art crime.  The result of her research is this easy to read book. 

Penelope Jackson is an Art Historian and is the author of: Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story (2016).  The offenders in this book are all men apart from one female thief who somewhat brazenly stole a piece of art from an exhibition in a small Otago town.  Jackson noted that the only other women in the book were at the receiving end of art crime. In Females in the Frame she wanted to uncover not only other roles women took in art crime but also try and understand their reasons for doing it.  For me, the why is often more interesting than the how.

One of the first things that you will notice (well I did anyway) is the depth of the research that Jackson has done for this book. In some instances, she has given institutions information about their artwork that they were unaware of.  In her way Jackson has added to the history of these artworks.

Jackson has given each chapter a theme which provides a useful cohesion to the book. These chapters are essentially case studies on the women involved.  I believe this makes the book more relatable as it brings the characters to life.  The chapters give examples of women who have destroyed art  (chapter 2 – Lady Destroyers), mothers who have protected their art criminal sons (chapter 3 – The Mother of All Art Crimes), women who have vandalised art (chapter 4 – She Vandals), women who conned artists and clients (chapter 5 - The Art of the Con(Wo)man), women who stole art works (chapter 6 - The Light Fingered),  forged art (chapter 7 - Naming Rights), those who used their professional positions to commit white collar crime (chapter 8 – The professionals) and her concluding chapter (chapter 9 – Afterword: Making a Noise about the Silence).

Jackson goes into detail in her chapters about the women who did what they did and why.  She has sympathy for some of the actions such as the Suffragettes who destroyed paintings rather than hurt people to highlight the inequity of women in society. Although the cause for women’s right to vote is a just one there is an overarching sadness in terms of artwork that has been lost due to vandalism, destruction or theft. Another example is of the Russian woman who stole from her work to pay for diabetes medication. Something I can’t imagine ever having to do living in my comfortable world but once again, I get a feeling of sadness and disappointment by Jackson who is fiercely protective of art works.   

She does save some particular ire for Clementine Churchill.  Jackson spends a considerable amount of time discussing Clementine Churchill’s alleged penchant for destroying unflattering portraits (according to her) of her husband.  One such painting was commissioned by the House of Commons and the House of Lords after the sum of 1000 guineas was raised.  This painting was to celebrate Churchill's 80th birthday.  The chosen artist was celebrated portraitist Graham Sutherland and the painting was unveiled at a televised event, meaning, thankfully, that there are photos of the painting. This painting was a gift from the nation but also to the nation of a highly regarded public figure. The story (in fact Jackson gives four possible accounts of its demise) is that Clementine did not like the portrait, that she believed it to be an unflattering likeness of Churchill and organised for it to be destroyed.  Arguably it showed him perfectly, quite possibly how everyone remembers him, stubborn, unbending and resolute, not to mention 80 years old.   Jackson rightly argues that this was never her painting to destroy.  This painting belonged to the people of Great Britain.  Likewise, Jackson asks the question about who truly has authority, ownership or the right to destroy any of these artworks.  

This segues rather nicely into the case studies of women protecting their art criminal sons and the lengths they would take to protect them, including the heart-breaking destruction of many irreplaceable pieces. Jackson is forever trying to understand why the women did as they did and explores the psychology behind their actions as well.  I believe this adds another layer of richness to the book.

Jackson also discusses where artwork has been accidently damaged by cleaners or more intriguingly or perhaps tragically by amateur restorers.  She highlights the work by two well-meaning but ultimately hopeless (that word might be too strong) women who did irreparable damage to very old and sacred work.  They meant well but there is a reason why such work is left to the professionals. In my view, the results were criminal and perhaps did more damage than any criminal/vandal could have done.

Another very interesting story that Jackson writes about is the case of an Australian woman, an acclaimed artist, who decided one day to paint under a nom de brush.  That in itself was not an issue, but it was the fact that she took on the name and persona of an aboriginal man and began to paint in an obvious aboriginal style that is the problem.  Add to that her total lack of understanding why a white, middle class woman pretending to be an aboriginal man might be offensive.  

Jackson’s book also sets the story straight on a few myths.  The belief that the novelist Patricia Cornwell destroyed a painting just to get DNA from the artist is debunked by setting out the facts of what happened. Likewise, in her final chapter she also sets the record straight on the film, The Monuments Men and separates the truth from the Hollywood version. This brings me to my favourite moment in the book, the story of Rose Valland (played by Cate Blanchett in the movie The Monuments Men).  As Jackson says the film should be called The Monuments Men and Women but Hollywood never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  It is this section in the book (in my view) that sums up so much of what Jackson is trying to highlight.   

Rose Valland (inter-alia) was responsible for saving and recovering many works of art that the Nazis tried to pilfer during world war two.  She put her life on the line so that these works could be recovered.  Rather than focusing on this remarkable act of bravery and the fact that she was a well-qualified art historian there seems to be more attention placed on how she looked; “plain looking, and plainly dressed” or described as; “a mousy little spinster” (with nerves of tungsten).  Jackson talks more than once about gendered language in her book and comments on the way in which women are portrayed in the media versus men.  

Jackson has written an accessible book that takes the reader on a journey into the world of art and crime and women.  She attempts to understand why the women did as they did as well as trying to redress the balance in how women are portrayed in print.  It is evident that Jackson has a real love of art and the overriding message for me was the need to protect and look after all art so that future generations can experience these marvellous works. 

November 7, 2019

Exhibition commemorating the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht: Treasured Belongings: The Hahn Family & the Search for a Stolen Legacy


In commemoration of the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the state-sponsored pogrom known as the “Night of Broken Glass” which took place November 9-10, 1938, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is hosting an speaking engagement Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm featuring Dr. Michael Hayden, MC, OBC followed by the opening of a special exhibition which is then scheduled to remain at the centre for a little more than one year.

The event Kristallnacht Commemoration and Dr. Hayden's talk will be streamed online on Facebook tonight, November 7th at 7pm (PST).

Dates:  
November 8, 2019 – November 27, 2020
Location:  
Wosk Auditorium, Jewish Community Centre Greater Vancouver
950 West 41 Avenue
VANCOUVER, BC October 23, 2019

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is an acclaimed teaching museum devoted to Holocaust based anti-racism education.  

Treasured Belongings: The Hahn Family & the Search for a Stolen Legacy brings together items from the Hahn archive alongside rich artefacts to detail the story of the family, their collection, and their descendants’ restitution efforts and exhibition speaks to timely themes of cultural loss, reconciliation and intergenerational legacy.

During Kristallnacht hundreds of synagogues in Germany and Austria were burned, Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, nearly 100 Jews were killed and 30,000 were sent to concentration camps.

Kristallnacht was a turning point in the Nazi persecution of European Jews and a defining moment for Max and Gertrud Hahn of Göttingen, Germany. 

Born in Göttingen, Germany in 1880, Max Hahn was a successful businessman, civic leader and passionate collector.  The Hahn’s Judaica collection was one of the most significant private collections in pre-war Europe, rivalling those of the Rothschild and Sassoon families. During the Kristallnacht pogrom, Max was arrested, and the Nazis proceeded to confiscate his silver Judaica and strip the family of their property and possessions. 

With the support of his wife, Gertrud, Max engaged in a lengthy battle to retrieve his stolen collection. While their children, Rudolf (later Roger Hayden) and Hanni, were sent to England for safety in 1939, Max and Gertrud were deported to Riga in December 1941, where they ultimately perished. Most of their collection was never recovered.

Roger’s son, Dr. Michael Hayden, MC, OBC, became immersed in his remarkable family history when he encountered photographs and documents left to him by his father. This original exhibition, developed by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, brings together items from the Hahn archive alongside rich artefacts and interviews to detail the story of the Hahn family, their collection, and their descendants’ restitution efforts. Involving extensive research and intensive negotiations with German museums and archives, the family’s ongoing search for their stolen collection speaks to timely themes of cultural loss, reconciliation and intergenerational legacy.

The Exhibition is supported by Michael and Sandy Hayden and children, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Vancouver, the Isaac and Sophie Waldman Endowment Fund of the Vancouver Foundation, Isaac and Judy Thau, Yosef Wosk, Audre Jackson, and the Goldie and Avrum Miller Memorial Endowment Fund of the VHEC.

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is Western Canada’s leading Holocaust teaching museum, reaching more than 25,000 students annually and producing acclaimed exhibitions, innovative school programs and teaching materials. The VHEC is a leader in Holocaust education in British Columbia, dedicated to promoting human rights, social justice and genocide awareness, and to teaching about the causes and consequences of discrimination, racism and antisemitism through education and remembrance of the Holocaust.

November 4, 2019

Monday, November 04, 2019 - ,, No comments

The cathedral of Oloron-Sainte-Marie was attacked in a smash and grab


In the early morning of November 4th, robbers committed a smash and grab robbery at the Cathedral Sainte-Marie d'Oloron located in the town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques.  Awakened to the sounds of a Viking-inspired battering ram, nearby neighbors reported the ruckus to the local gendarmes who responded quickly, but not before the thieves had made their getaway.


Upon arrival, law enforcement discovered that the culprits had used a tree trunk mounted onto a vehicle, to break open a small door to the right of the cathedral's main entrance.  Clergy from the 12th century UNESCO World Heritage Site have stated that the culprits then sawed through metal bars and broke into storage cabinetry, taking only things they could easily and quickly carry such as ciboriums, chalices, and cruets.  The accomplices, believed to be three men, abandoned the car used to break their way into the church, leaving the crime scene in a second vehicle.  

Given the tools required to cut through metal bars and the time it would take to mount something on to an automobile to break through a solid door, it appears that the robbers were well prepared and knew precisely what they wanted to take and how they could gain entry into the historic church.


This morning, Hervé Lucbéreilh, the mayor of Oloron, spoke publicly about the attack. 


By: Vittoria Ricci

November 3, 2019

Dear Christie's: What's the story on your provenance on this antefix?


An interesting antefix has been published with Christie's as part of their December 4, 2019 sales event which deserves a closer examination regarding its legitimacy on the ancient art market.  For those who do not know, an anteflix is an upright ornament, used by ancient builders along the eaves of a tiled roof to conceal tile joints.

The provenance for the antiflix is listed as follows:

Provenance

While not specified in Christie's very brief collection history, Ingrid McAlpine was the wife of Bruce McAlpine, husband and wife proprietors of McAlpine Ancient Art Limited in the UK. 

While not completely identical, the soon to be auctioned anteflix on consignment with Christie's, closely resembles another ancient Etruscan antefix in the form of a maenad and Silenus.  This one once graced the cover of the exhibition catalog "A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman."   That South Etruscan, 500-475 BCE, terracotta and pigment antiflix was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum from the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman collection via Robin Symes for a tidy sum of  $396,000 and exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1995.  Later, in 2007, that antiquity would be relinquished to Italy by the J. Paul Getty Museum after the antefix was matched to a Polaroid photo recovered during a 1995 police raid on warehouse space rented by Giacomo Medici at Ports Francs & Entrepôts in Geneva. 

The Christie's auction antefix also closely resembles another pair of suspect terracotta and pigment antefixes depicting a maenad and Silenus.  This grouping was once on display at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum.  Like with the J. Paul Getty purchase, an image of the Copenhagen antefix showing a fragmentary antefix were matched with photos in the seized Medici dossier.  As with the Getty terracotta, this object too was eventually restituted to Italy. 

Bruce McAlpine's name also comes up with other illicit objects later identified as having been laundered through the licit art market which were later assessioned into a collection at a prestigious museum.  An Attic black-figured hydria (no.3), once on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston came through McAlpine via Palladion Antike Kunst, a gallery operated by Ursula Becchina, the wife of Gianfranco Becchina.  In addition, the Italian authorities working on these restitutions seized a copy of a letter, written by the staff of Bruce and Ingrid McAlpine Ancient Art Gallery dated 8 July 1986 which tied them to at least one transaction with Giacomo Medici via companies the disgraced dealer operated through third parties, fronts or pseudonyms. 

One final illustration of the triangulation in the world of illicit transactions


The names of Bruce and Ingrid McAlpine appear alongside Robin Symes AND Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman for the donation of an Apulian bell-krater to the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. This vase too was restituted to Italy in October 2006.

All of which leads to several questions

Why was Bruce Alpine's name and the name of his ancient art firm omitted from the provenance record published by Christie's ahead of the December 4th auction?   

Was this omission an accidental oversight on Christie's part or an elective decision, perhaps as a way to reduce the possibility of the object's previous owners drawing unnecessary attention?    

What collection history does the auction house have, if any, that predates the 1994 McAlpine acquisition date?

and lastly,

What steps, if any, did Christie's take to contact the Italian authorities , in order to crosscheck whether or not this object might or might not be acceptable for sale? 
By:  Lynda Albertson

October 26, 2019

Conference Save the Date: Building a Responsible Art Market

Event:  Building a Responsible Art Market
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Date: Saturday 30 January 2020


They will also cover national implementations of the 5th European Anti-Money Laundering Directive and announce other exciting projects for the RAM Initiative.

More information about the program will be available shortly. Enquiries can be sent to info[at]responsibleartmarket.org.

October 25, 2019

Arrested and released for health reasons, German Dealer Michael Schultz is accused of having deceived clients with false documentation.


For more than 30 years, Michael Schultz operated one of Berlin's most prestigious galleries, focusing on contemporary European and Asian art and selling paintings and sculpture to Germany's rich and famous.  He also was associated with two other galleries, one in Beijing and another in Seoul and is known to have regularly participates at international art fairs in Cologne, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Miami Beach, and New York,

But his future in the art market was thrown into jeopardy following his arrest by Germany's State Criminal Police Office or Landeskriminalamt (LKA) on October 17, 2019.  Standing accused of fraud, Shultz who was arrested at home, was released pending trial by the German magistrate due to his poor state of health. 

At the heart of the investigation is a forged work of art purportedly by the renowned German visual artist Gerhard Richter.  

Original Richter
"Abstract Picture" (Catalogue Raisonné: 706-2)
painted in 1989.
The forged artwork, put up for auction at Christie's in New York, was given to a collector by Shultz as a repayment for an outstanding debt, when Shultz could not repay the original loan. The collector in turn consigned the painting for auction to Christies. 

As part of the auction house's due diligence, they in turn contacted the Gerhard Richter Archive of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden for information about the painting and from there things ultimately began to unravel.   The original artwork by Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné: 706-2, failed to match the artwork the collector had readied for auction. 

What prompted Shultz to pawn a forged work of art so easily verified through a digital online catalogue Raisonné is curious. Richter has long been known as the "Man Behind the Squeegee" and his highly crafted abstract minimalist artworks bring top dollar on the contemporary art market as they are highly sought after.  

To create his original works Richter first applies paint in scrims, then uses a length of perspex encased in wood, which he then moves left to right, or top to bottom to create textured smears of the many layers of the still-wet thickened paint.  A faux Richter, could never (conceivably) smear in quite the same way as an original. The forger would not only need to know exactly where and in what quantity the artist had placed the starting paint layers on the artwork but he/she would also have to employ the exact same squeegee sluices, using precisely the same motion and pressure to come anywhere close to replicating the work. 


What drove Shultz to perpetuate this fraud is unknown.  Perhaps it was driven by long-standing debts, as the dealer is known to have closed his gallery on Mommsenstraße, opened in 1986 in the rich district of Charlottenburg, center of the former west Berlin.  He also opened preliminary insolvency proceedings in September through the District Court of Charlottenburg. 

Interestingly, his bad luck with Gerhard Richter didn't just start now.  In 2015 Shultz had to answer to embezzlement charges Tiergarten district court when he sold a Richter he held as collateral for another art dealer who conversely, in this instance, borrowed money from him.  When that borrower defaulted, Shultz sold the other dealer's Richter for €300,000.  Given that the sold painting was actually the property of the second dealer's wife, (and therefore not the dealer's to use as a guarantee for debt, Schultz then claimed the painting had disappeared from his gallery. When the artwork was ultimately recovered, Richter was fined €15,000.


October 24, 2019

The Gospel Truth? How the laundering of papyri washes away its provenance sins

Archived Facebook Screenshot
The Castle Folio Page
Image Credit: ARCA
Earlier on this blog we reported on an entry published on the Obbink/Elder's Castle Folio Facebook page.  That post made reference to the alleged first-century Gospel of Mark fragment, now known correctly as P.Oxy LXXXIII 5345, in which the writer of the entry stated that an important text had been recovered thanks to the dismantling of a mummy's cartonnage mask.

In that Facebook entry, the excited company promoter stated:

"A print of the ancient Gospel of Mark has been discovered inside of an ancient Egyptian mummy mask that had been fashioned with recycled papyri.

Researchers have dated this fragment to be from before the year 90 A.D., making this fragment the oldest known copy of the Gospel of Mark!"  

Clicking on the Facebook link embedded with this social media post, one arrives to a dead page link on the Obbink/Elder Castle Folio website.  An archived image of that missing page, written by an unknown author with access to the hosted company website wrote on January 28, 2015 that a piece of the ancient Gospel of Mark had been discovered inside of an ancient Egyptian mummy mask that had been fashioned out of recycled papyri. The writer of the article then used the significance of the purported find as a defense for the controversial text fragment recovery method, as the process of extracting papyri ultimately destroys the mummy masks.  More on that extraction method and its total disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities later.

Archived Website Screenshot - Castle Folio Website
Image Credit: ARCA
The same image found on the Castel Folio Facebook page was likewise published, with the same Castle Folio website link on the same day on the company's Twitter feed.

Archived Twitter Screenshot
- @thecastlefolio Profile
Image Credit: ARCA
The gospel (truth) according to...

But the Mark papyrus fragment was already in the public limelight, without mention of any association with mummy cartonnage as far back as February 01, 2012.  Back then Dan Wallace, an American professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) mysteriously reported (apparently at the urging of others) on the fact that scholars had likely found a probable first-century copy of the Gospel of Mark. 

This purported "discovery" was mentioned during a lengthy public debate with Bart Ehrman held in Memorial Hall at UNC Chapel Hill which can still be viewed here.   At around 1hr and 13 mins into the video, Wallace stated that the fragment was being studied by "a papyrologist who has worked on this manuscript, a man whose reputation is unimpeachable" and whom "many consider (him) to be the best papyrologist on the planet."

Much later, Wallace would state that after that Feb 01, 2012 talk, he signed a Non Disclosure Agreement (he doesn't indicate with whom) requiring him "not to speak about when it would be published or whether it even exists. The termination of this agreement would come when it was published."  This type of NDA requirement is similar, if not identical to, ones signed by other scholars, who had access to ancient material from the Green Collection.

Just six days later, on February 7, 2012, during a Atlanta lecture series ex Green Collection buyer Scott Carroll also talked up the purported earliest fragment with no mention of mummy cartonnage, admitting he was at the Chapel Hill event and saying the fragment first came to his attention in January 2012.  As first noted by Brent Nongbri in June earlier this year Carroll Stated:

“I was with Dan, ah, five days ago, ah, prior to an important debate he had, ah, in North Carolina with a scholar by the name of Bart Ehrman on the reliability of the New Testament and New Testament manuscript evidence.  

In our collection, we have a wonderful collection of unpublished papyri.  We have a number of New Testament papyri. And the New Testament papyri consist of the earliest text of the Gospel of Matthew, the second earliest text of the Gospel of John, the earliest text of Romans, the earliest text of Paul’s writings altogether, and also the earliest text of 1 Corinthians. And, ah, some others within our research scope, including the earliest text of the Gospel of Mark and the earliest text of the Gospel of Luke.  

The earliest text of the Gospel of Mark, ah, came to my attention a month ago with a colleague, scholar, friend of ours Dirk Obbink from Oxford, and it is certainly, absolutely–dated by a person that has no agenda whatsoever–the earliest New Testament document in the world, and it is a first-century text of the Gospel of Matt–of Mark. That’s remarkable to know. And so there are many things like that that are coming up in our research and discovery, and it’s an absolute thrill to be a part of it.”

Carroll's statement in Atlanta contradicts his own earlier statement on a now deleted Facebook post where he implied having seen a fragment that was earlier than the earliest-known text of the NT, the so-called John Rylands papyrus.

The first provenance story and photo referring to the Mummy mask origin mentioned by Castel Folio in 2015 occurred during the 2014 Apologetics Canada Conference in Vancouver, BC Canada.  Speaking at the event was Craig Evans, professor of New Testament at the Divinity School of Acadia University.  Evans was the first individual (that I have found) who publicly stated that the "discovery" of the probable first-century copy of the Gospel of Mark was attributed to a papyrus fragment taken from the Egyptian cartonnage mummy mask.


On January 18, 2015 Owen Jarus, for Live Science also interviewed Evans who again reiterated his earlier statement that the purported 1st century Mark fragment was from a sheet of papyrus reused to create a mummy mask.  Unapologetically, he went on to say "we’re not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece."

Evans added that he was only allowed to discuss the fragment in general details because a member of the team had leaked some general information in 2012 and he was only repeating what others had already stated, given that he too, apparently, was subject to a Non Disclosure Agreement.  This statement is interesting because nothing "leaked" in 2012 made mention publically of a mummy cartonnage provenance connection.

On January 28, 2015 Evans went on to provided the International Business Times with the same image of the mummy masque from his earlier lecture Apologetics Canada Conference.

Image Credit: Craig Evans, Acadia Divinity College
 https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/mummy-mask-found-contain-oldest-known-gospel-first-century-ad-1484086
This was quickly followed up by the January 28, 2015, Castle Folio social media posts mentioned at the start of this article, which showed the same masks on a different background.  All of which served to fan the flames of the urban legend that was now spreading through the evangelical and textual criticism communities as the purported collection source for this rare biblical fragment, turning attention away from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri at the EES to which Obbink was then affiliated.

Scholars pressed for more information... 

  • Who owned the papyrus, or the mask from which it was taken? 
  • How extensive is the fragment? 
  • Could they see it?
  • Why did Wallace, Carroll and Evans believe that the fragment was from the first century? 
  • Who were the scholars who had examined it
  • What method was used to date it? 
As everyone was occupied with either the excitement of the purported find or with the controversial revelation that the fragment had been ripped from an ancient mummy mask, few reached deeper to question if the confessed provenance was truth or if it might be fabrication.  Instead most scholars focused on whether or not this yet unseen fragment, was in fact the oldest known fragment of the Gospel of Mark and debated the voracity of this claim in light of so little proof, while everyone held their breath and waited for the fragment to be published so they could understand more.

But in May 2018 the jinn was out of the bottle


The Egypt Exploration Society (EES) reported that a fragment published in their most recent edition of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (vol. 83), was, in fact, the aforementioned and much discussed NT Mark 1.  Identifying the fragment as P.Oxy. 83.5345; P137, the EES stated that this small butterfly shaped papyrus was not, as was long flaunted to be the case, from the first century.  Instead, it had been assigned to the late second/early third centuries by none other than Dirk Obbink.   Likewise the EES also made it clear that the fragment did not come from a mummy cartonnage, instead it was part of their Oxyrhynchus Papyri collection and had never been for sale.  They even open-sourced the pages in the new publication discussing P.Oxy. 83.5345 so that interested scholars could review their conclusions.

Upon hearing the official news that the much talked about, and no longer first century fragment of Mark had been published, and being no longer bound by any non disclosure agreements, Dan Wallace, issued an apology on his blog on May 23, 2018.  In this posting he stated "In my debate with Bart [Ehrman], I mentioned that I had it on good authority that this was definitely a first-century fragment of Mark. A representative for who I understood was the owner of FCM urged me to make the announcement at the debate, which they realized would make this go viral."

If Obbink "sold" the fragment to Hobby Lobby, as evidence in the case seems to indicate, was it Scott Carroll who Wallace perceived to be the owner when asked to talk up the fragment?  And who came up with the idea of saying that the fragment was discovered inside a cartonnage mummy mask instead of from within the EES archive?

Laundering mummy masks to launder stolen property

This leads me back to 2011 when Balor Magazine wrote about a "new" method for recovering ancient texts.  The article mentioned an extraction exercise conducted by Scott Carroll, then a research professor of manuscript studies and the biblical tradition at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, as well as the director of the Green Collection.  The event was witnessed and participated in by students and faculty from the Department of Classics and the Honors College at Baylor, as well as other guests.  Video recorded, Carroll is seen gently laundering of a third-century BCE Egyptian mummy mask in soapy water as if it were someone's lingerie.   After being doused, the ancient object was then broken apart gently to extract strips of papyri, some of which reportedly dated back to the fifth century.


Likewise, scholars at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia also took mummy cartonnage apart. For this involvement Craig Evans was interviewed by Live Science who confirmed  "We're recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters" 

Joslin "Josh" McDowell, an Evangelical Protestant Christian apologist also gave a video talk with slides documenting more images of papyri extraction through the dismounting of mummy masks.

"You shall know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

In the end, soaking these ancient mummy masks and then claiming to have extracted X-Y-Z papyrus fragment from the siggy masks during the process has created a reasonable loophole for dealing with distasteful dodgy provenance.  As this method provides the actors involved with a reasonable defense for how they came by ancient texts which in reality are not legitimate to sell.  All that has to be done, is to say that the ancient papyrus came from a deconstructed object, provide valid proof of the legitimate purchase of that cartonnage and then destroy it, as American and in some other countries, the legal owner of an ancient object can dispose of it as he/she sees fit.

By claiming that the Gospel of Mark fragment was found inside mummy cartonnage which has ultimately been destroyed during their extraction process, the actors involved in its illegal sale tried to side step the next obvious question...where the fragments came from. 

That is until the invoices of the transaction come to light and the incriminating pages of the Castle Folio manuscript were not so successfully "scrubbed".

By:  Lynda Albertson

October 22, 2019

Updates from the Egyptian Exploration Society and the papri purchased by Andy Stimer

The Egyptian Exploration Society issued an update Monday, 21 October 2019 indicating that collector Andy Stimer, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Hope Partners Industry, has confirmed to the EES that he is in possession of five papyri from their collection.  The USA collector appears to be cooperating with the EES and has agreed "to make arrangements for their return" and  "wishes to help the EES check whether he holds any other EES texts"

The EES listed the five biblical papyri Stimer reported purchasing (in good faith) as: 

Exodus 40: P.Oxy. inv. 30 4B.37/F(1-3)c
Psalms 3-4: inv. 100/103(b)
Ecclesiastes: inv. 102/124(b)
Romans 9-10: inv. 29 4B.46/G(4-6)a [three pieces]
1 Corinthians 7-10: inv. 106/116(c)

Their report also clarified that four of the papri identified in Brent Nongbri’s post of 18 October 2019, ‘Recently emerged papyri of dubious origins: a working list’, are safe within the Oxyrhynchus collection, and have been assigned to editors for publication.

Those are: 

Genesis 11: P.Oxy. inv. 11 1B.147/D(a)
Matthew 12: inv. 102/66(d)
Luke? [Luke 12]: inv. 106/113(c)
Luke 2: inv. 104/42(c)

In addition to the controversial Dead Sea Scrolls, Stimer is recorded as having donated the following objects to the Museum of the Bible: