Cuneiform Tablets and the Antiquities Market: The Archives from Dūr-Abī-ešuḫ
AbstractIn this paper, different issues of dealing with unprovenanced antiquities are discussed from the Assyriologist’s point of view. How should one deal with unprovenanced artefacts? Should they be published at all? Is it satisfactory to publish only the artefacts? What is the importance of acquisition history, and to what extent should one trust the data provided by dealers and auction houses? Since the Old Babylonian (20th–17th centuries bce) city of Dūr-Abī-ešuḫ was virtually unknown until the early 2000s, its unprovenanced archives offer an excellent opportunity to address these issues. One can observe the appearance of cuneiform tablets from these archives in the main European and American centres of antiquities trade, as well as the scarcity of data concerning their acquisition history. However, since the main bulk of tablets still await publication, these observations must be considered preliminary. In an Appendix a previously unknown tablet from Dūr-Abī-ešuḫ, housed in a German private collection, is published for the first time.