In memoriam Oscar White Muscarella (1931-2022)

Last night I received the sad news that Oscar White Muscarella has died. He was, without question, the conscience of the field of Near Eastern archaeology. At a time when it was rarely even discussed openly, he argued that the acquisition of looted and otherwise unprovenanced objects contributed to the destruction of archaeological sites and that museums had to be more responsible with their collecting practices. He also frequently pointed out that ascribed provenance was essentially worthless, and that many more objects in museum collections are modern forgeries than was previously admitted. And he put his career on the line for these ideas. I was always impressed by scholarship, especially by his detailed knowledge of so many different types of objects, even if his methods sometimes fell short.

Anyone interested in learning more about Muscarella should read the introduction to his collected essays (Archaeology, Artifacts and Antiquities of the Ancient Near East: Sites, Cultures and Proveniences, Brill, 2014) and the introduction by Elizabeth Simpson to the Festschrift in his honor (The Adventure of the Illustrious Scholar: Papers Presented to Oscar White Muscarella, Brill, 2018).