Oxford Professor Accused of Hawking Ancient Artifacts to Hobby Lobby

13 ancient fragments found in Green family's Museum of the Bible
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2019 2:12 PM CDT
Oxford Professor Allegedly Sold Ancient Artifacts to Hobby Lobby
Steve Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby and a founder and major backer of the Museum of the Bible, poses for a portrait Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, at the museum in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

An Oxford professor stands accused of selling fragments of texts dating as far back as the third century BC ... to Hobby Lobby. Thirteen fragments from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri—a collection, held at Oxford University, of more than 500,000 pieces of ancient Greek papyrus and parchment discovered by archaeologists in Egypt—were found in the Museum of the Bible, the DC institution founded by the Greens, the evangelical Christian family that also owns Hobby Lobby. The Egypt Exploration Society, which oversees the collection, started its probe in June after a director at the museum released a copy of a 2013 contract between Hobby Lobby stores and the accused professor, Dr. Dirk Obbink, for the sale of four items believed to be from the Oxyrhynchus collection, plus two other items.

After a three-month investigation, the London-based society has accused Obbink, an American the Guardian calls "one of the world's most celebrated classics professors," of selling 11 of the 13 fragments found at the museum to Hobby Lobby between 2010 and 2013, the New York Times reports. The other two fragments, per a museum spokesperson, were sold to Hobby Lobby by an antiquities dealer in Israel. The museum says Hobby Lobby acquired the artifacts "in good faith," but is arranging to return them. Obbink, who has not responded to the allegations but who last year denied trying to sell another ancient fragment to the Green family, is still employed by Oxford, per the BBC, but he was prohibited from gaining access to the Oxyrhynchus collection after the probe was launched and the university confirms he is under investigation. (The museum is no stranger to controversies like this ... or like this.)

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