The Israel Antiquities Authority is embarking on a first of its kind campaign to register the antiquities collections that are held by the general public in Israel. An individual that is listed in the state’s databank as the owner of an antiquities collection will be recognized by the state as a “collector of antiquities”.
 
Israel is one of the world’s richest countries in archaeological artifacts. As such, over the years private individuals have discovered thousands of archaeological finds during the course of development work, agricultural work, etc.
 
In 2002 the legal status of a collector of antiquities in Israel was regulated, which is defined as “one who collects antiquities otherwise than for the purpose of trading therein”. The law defines an antiquities collection as: “an assemblage of fifteen antiquities or more”.
It is estimated that there are at least 100,000 people in Israel who can be considered by definition “collectors of antiquities”, but only several hundred of them are recognized by the state.
In February 2009 regulations took effect that will enable enforcing the law which was passed in 2002. The IAA is now calling on the public to comply in accordance with the law and report any antiquities they possess. An individual doing so will be granted the status of collector according to law and will be issued a certificate. The antiquities will be registered as the property of the collector and anyone who wishes to sell the collection they own can receive permission from the IAA to do so. Thus on the one hand, the collector can sell the antiquities he possesses, and on the other, the state will know to whom the object was transferred.
 
Amir Ganor, in charge of the campaign on behalf of the IAA, explains that, “The country’s antiquities are a national, cultural and historical asset of utmost importance. We call on members of the public that hold pieces of history to assist us in gathering the archaeological information, which is part of the whole puzzle that makes up our past. Without parts of the puzzle it is difficult to know what the complete picture is exactly. The campaign is likely to result in a “flood” of important archaeological discoveries that are today hidden behind closed doors. The reporting will not affect adversely the public’s ownership of the items and the goal of the campaign is to document the national treasures and enable the IAA to keep proper track of them. Individuals who wish to hand over the inventory they possess to the IAA can do so, and whoever is interested can receive an appraisal regarding the historical importance of the items they own”.
 
The registration campaign will be divided into two stages. In the first stage, which will continue until 31.12.2009, the IAA will receive the reports submitted by individuals notifying that they are collectors of antiquities. In the second stage, the IAA will contact the registered collector and request a catalogue of the contents of his collection. The collector can ask the IAA for assistance in preparing the catalogue of the collection he possesses.
 
The IAA also allows the public to register by means of a form that is available at the IAA’s website – www.antiquities.org.ilRockefeller Museum, P.O.B. 586, Jerusalem 91004. – which can be completed online, as well with forms that can be obtained at the offices of the IAA throughout the country. The completed form should be filled out and returned by registered mail to the following address: Israel Antiquities Authority,
 
Amir Ganor adds, “We also call upon individuals who do not meet the legal definition of “collector” and possess unique antiquities, to report their items so that these will be documented in the IAA databank”.
 
Additional information is available on the IAA website.