26 Feb 2021

Museum of the Bible and missing EES papyri

An update

On 14 October 2019 the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) posted a statement announcing that the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) had agreed to return to it thirteen fragments of texts which had been shown to belong to the EES.

In the course of 2020 the EES and MOTB have identified another twenty-one papyrus fragments, of varied content, which belong to the EES, and the MOTB is now making arrangements for their return. These items too had been removed from the EES collection without authorisation and acquired by Hobby Lobby and its agents from a number of third parties. The EES is grateful to the MOTB for its co-operation, and the research on two of these texts by scholars under MOTB auspices will receive appropriate recognition when the EES publishes the texts.

The MOTB has informed the EES that it has repatriated all remaining unprovenanced texts in its collection to the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The EES Trustees accept that these may contain some unrecognised small scraps from the EES collection, but because this cannot now be proven, they have agreed that the MOTB is free of any further claims by the EES, and they welcome the transfer.

The police investigation in the UK is continuing into the unauthorised removal of texts from the EES collection and their sale to Hobby Lobby and others.