Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Steve Weizman has an interesting article on the home of Israel's National Antiquities Collection:
Some of the most breathtaking items are in smaller, climate-controlled upstairs rooms.

A bronze lion's face, one of a set of Byzantine coffin-handles and exquisite pieces of gold jewelry from various historical periods are stored near delicate Phoenician glassware, molds used to shape early Christian communion wafers and delicate flakes of gold, some of which Litani said may have decorated the diadems of noblewomen.

Other gold pieces, however, had a very different purpose in the myth-filled Hellenistic culture of 323-30 B.C.

"They were put in the mouths of the dead," she said, "to pay the ferryman of the underworld to take the deceased person across the river Styx to the afterlife."

As they point out, the building is a warehouse, not a museum. In other words you and I can't just drop by. Why isn't all this stuff on display?
New excavations in archaeologically rich Israel take place all the time, and there is enough material in the Israeli Antiquities Authority labs still undergoing testing and classification to fill another warehouse, said storerooms director Michael Sebanne.

"It's a bottomless pit," Litani said. "It just keeps coming."

What a wonderful embarrassment of riches!

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