The Past Sold: Case Studies in the Movement of Archaeological Objects

April 3 – May 12, 2017

Archaeological artifacts are always moving – out of excavation sites, across geopolitical borders, into museums and private collections. This movement can be positive or negative, authorized or unauthorized, legal or illegal. The Past Sold presented contrasting modes of artifact movement: the legal, state-sponsored sale of Early Bronze Age antiquities from Bab adh Dhra’, Jordan, during the late 1970s, and the illegal looting of archaeological sites in Jordan, Iraq, and Syria that continues to this day. The exhibition, which emerged from the Past for Sale research project at the Neubauer Collegium, brought together ceramic pots from the Oriental Institute and the McCormick Theological Seminary, along with unpublished archival documents, maps, photographs, and aerial drone video footage. By calling attention to these materials and the ways they are displayed, The Past Sold invited us to consider new perspectives on the movement and representation of antiquities.

Major support for this exhibition was provided by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago, with additional support from the Oriental Institute, the McCormick Theological Seminary, and DePaul University.