Following the problems over Martin Schøyen’s incantation bowls lent to University College London, careful arrangements are being made for scholars who are cataloguing his cuneiform tablets, many of which would have originated from Iraq.
Professor Andrew George, of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, told The Art Newspaper that everyone is adamant that “no cuneiform tablets should be kept at SOAS”. He stresses that “the tablets are in Mr Schøyen’s possession, in various locations, and when I work on them I go to Norway”, where Mr Schøyen lives. Professor George is preparing a catalogue of historical and literary texts. Volumes on Sumerian Proverbs (by Benda Alster) and Mathematical Texts (by Jöran Friberg) were published earlier this year.
Mr Schøyen has written a provenance statement for the published volumes in which he says that “the large holdings of pictographic and cuneiform tablets in the Schøyen Collection were collected in the late 1980s and 1990s and derive from a great variety of collections and sources”. He says “almost all” the tablets came from sixteen existing collections, which were built up at various times from 1893 to 1994. Mr Schøyen does admit that “others were acquired through Christie’s and Sotheby’s, where in some cases the names of their former owners was not revealed”.
Professor George told us that although “some tablets came from Iraq, others came from neighbouring countries”, and in the case of tablets from Iraq, it is often not possible to know when they had left.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘…while professor at sister college catalogues same collector’s tablets'