Provenance Unknown: HT24 Lecture
Provenance Unknown: HT24 Lecture
27 February 2024

Provenance Unknown – a lecture series hosted by the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures, The Queen’s College, Oxford

The ethics of publishing unprovenanced manuscripts is a hotly contested issue, with scholars becoming more and more polarised on each side of the debate. This new lecture series aims to find new ways of approaching the topic, going beyond ‘for and against’ to explore the challenges presented by these texts in nuanced ways. Our aim is to stimulate considered debate with an audience varied in both background and opinion, finding ways forward to bridge the divide. All are welcome.


Yağmur Heffron (UCL), ‘Fruits of the poisonous tree: unprovenanced artefacts and the ethics of consuming archaeological knowledge’

Opening with a juicy (if cautionary) tale of archaeological mystery and scandal, this lecture will invite the audience to engage in entirely imaginary and possibly fantastical thought experiments around whether it can ever be possible to extract, rescue, or salvage information from suspiciously unprovenanced artefacts – especially those in private collections – in an ethical manner. The purpose of these experiments is to tease out the complex interrelationships between personal and professional gain, conflicts of interest, and power dynamics surrounding the consumption of archaeological knowledge, in order to test if the latter can be satisfactorily isolated. How much are researchers willing to sacrifice to make the fruits from a poisonous tree safe to eat?

Date and place: Wednesday the 28th of February 2024, 5.15pm, The Memorial Room, The Queen’s College