Oscar White Muscarella

Oscar White Muscarella (26 Mar. 1931 – present) is “one of the foremost archaeologists of the ancient Near East. Oscar Muscarella is a former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a formidable scholar who has excavated at sites in Turkey, Iran, and the United States. He has published eight books and nearly 200 articles, excavation reports, and reviews on topics ranging from the arts of antiquity and the importance of connoisseurship, to the difficulties of dating and the problems of forgeries, the looting of ancient sites, and the antiquities trade.”[2]

Oscar is the person who coined the terms “Forgery Culture” and “Plunder Culture”.

“Muscarella has been a vocal and tireless champion of ethics and the exposure of criminal and unethical behavior on the part of collectors and museums for decades, and more than any other scholar, he has underscored the damage inflicted upon scholarship by the naïve incorporation of unexcavated artifacts alongside excavated ones in studies that seek to elucidate the past”
Daniel T. Potts, professor of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and History at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World[3, p.528]

For a list of his publications, check here: https://ctruth.today/2021/05/29/o-w-muscarella-publications/

Life

1931, Mar. 26 – He was born in Manhattan, New York, New York, USA to Oscar V. White and Anna Falkin. Oscar’s father was of British decent and mother of Russian-German Jewish descent.[1, p.1]

1937 – After spending some time in foster care due to familial issues such as his father’s alcoholism and his mother’s abandonment, his mother returned and took his brother and him to live with her in Manhattan.[1, p.2]

1939 – He was baptized as a Roman Catholic under the name Antonio Oscar Muscarella. His mother married a man named Sam in that September.[1, p.2]

1941 – Sam legally adopted Oscar and his brother Bobby.[1, p.2]

1942 – Thousands of families, including his, were evicted because of the Robert Moses plans for Stuyvesant Town. They moved to the Bronx and his sister Arline was born not long after.[1, p.2]

c.1945 – He was 14 and worked as a “hustler” at the Polo Grounds selling refreshments.[1, p.2]

c.1947 – He was 16 and smoked a pipe for the first time.[1, p.3]

1948 – He graduated from Stuyvesant High School and enrolled in New York University. He accidentally enrolled in the Pre-Med program and performed poorly aside from his History class. He worked at a candy shop with his parents that quickly went out of business.[1, p.3]

1949, Sep. – He enrolled in the Evening Session at City College (CCNY), where he was allowed to attend without tuition after the first year.[1, p.3] At CCNY, he was a History Society member, a Student Council member, and spent some time reporting for the school’s student newspaper.[1, p.4]

Early 1950’s – He took a liking to jazz and frequented the Cafe Society, Hickory House, Bop City, 3 Deuces, and Birdland. One of his favorite musicians was Lennie Tristano, of whom he had the pleasure of meeting in person.[1, p.4]

1952 – The Polo Grounds fired him for attempting to secretly unionize the hustlers and porters.[1, p.2]

1952-1955 – He worked at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).[1, p.3]

1953 – He took a break from working at the NYSE in order to participate in his first archeological excavation, which took place in Mesa Verde, Colorado, USA.[1, p.4]

1955 – He graduated from CCNY with a history degree. He stopped working for the NYSE and went on his second excavation, this time in Swan Creek, South Dakota, USA. It was here that he received his acceptance letter from the University of Pennsylvania. He was admitted into the department of Classical Archaeology with a tuition fellowship and stipend, which he described as a “dues ex machina event”, for he was originally thinking he was going to be entering the department of Anthropology with no funding, meaning he would not be able to afford such a position.[1, p.4]

“Everything I ever became in the academic world I owe to Vito [Caporale].”
Oscar commenting on his favorite professor from CCNY[1, p.4]

1957 – He traveled to Turkey where he helped excavate Tumulus MM in Gordion. He also discovered Megaron 3 on the City Mound. Additionally, this was the year he married Grace Freed.[1, p.5]

1958 – His daughter was born in a taxicab and they named her Daphne.[1, p.5]

1958-1959 – He was a Fulbright Scholar at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.[1, p.5]

1960-1964 – He taught ancient and medieval history at CCNY while completing his dissertation.[1, p.5]

1961 – His son was born was New York and they named him Lawrence.[1, p.5]

1964-1969 – He was Assistant Curator of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET).[1, p.5]

1965 – He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.[1, p.5]

1969-1978 – He was Associate Curator of ANE Art at the MET.[1, p.5]

1970 – He wrote a four page complaint about the poor conditions of the museum, “…low salaries, women curators being paid less and promoted less frequently than their male counterparts, lack of academic freedom resulting in low morale, the cutting down of old trees in front of the museum—and Hoving’s ruthless and autocratic management style.” The recipient of the letter, John F. Kennedy’s former Secretary of the Treasury, Douglas Dillon was upset by the complaints. Hoving, who also reviewed the letter, was upset too.[1, p.6]

Prudence Harper protested against Hoving in December of 1970 by submitting to him a resignation letter. This resulted in Oscar gaining the position Prudence had formerly held, head of the department. Oscar was coterminously criticizing the acquisition policies of the museum and organizing the junior curators. All of this resulted in him being seen as a “dissident curator”, which carried a negative implication but wasn’t far from the truth if dissident is defined as “opposing official policy”.[1, p.6]

1971, Mar. – Plans were being made by the officials to remove Oscar from his position.[1, p.6] Among the various tactics used to succeed with this plan was having Oscar’s colleagues refuse to excavate sites with him. Two of these colleagues were Prof. Robert Dyson from the Penn Museum and Prof. Donald Hansen from the Institute of Fine ARts, NYU.[1, p.7]

1971, Apr. – Requests for Oscar’s departure were made directly to him, at first by Crawford speaking on behalf of Hoving and then three days later by Hoving and Roussaeu on behalf of Crawford.[1, p.7]

1971, Jul. 21 – Oscar was officially notified that he was going to be fired on the 31st of December that year, which gave him about 5 months to figure out what to do next.[1, p.7]

1971, Oct. – Oscar was allotted more time to figure out his game plan. His new termination date was the 31st of March, 1972.[1, p.7]

1972, Jan. – He lawyered up by hiring Steven J. Hyman of Kunstler, Kunstler & Hyman.[1, p.7]

1972, Mar. – Instead of being let go, he was again allotted more time and given half a year of academic leave.[1, p.7]

1972, Aug. 30 – He received a letter stating that he was to be let go on the first of October, about two months.[1, p.7]

1972, Sept. – He took legal action against the October 1st date. On the 28th, the Supreme Court of the State of New York filed Oscar’s complaint, Muscarella v. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[1, p.7]

1973, Jul. 1 – Oscar was informed that he was being reinstated retroactively over the past two years. This was the result of an investigation of the MET headed by the National Labor Relations Board. They found that numerous people had been unwarrantedly fired. The Board moved to reemploy a handful of those people and Oscar was included.[1, p.9]

1973, Oct. 12 – Hoving attempted to fire Oscar again, this time for being, to say it concisely, incompetent and unprofessional.[1, p.9]

1974, Sept. 5 – Hoving attempted to fire Oscar for the 3rd time. No hearings had yet occurred.[1, p.10]

1975, Jul. – After months of legal issues, the New York Supreme Court ruled that Oscar was to maintain his employment at the MET. The accusations of Hoving about Oscar’s incompetency and unprofessionalism were still undergoing examination.[1, p.10]

1976, Mar. 24 – The “Report of the Fact-Finder” was published which settled the case between Hoving and Oscar. The accusations fell short and were found to be unsubstantiated. Some of the very people who originally pushed for his removal. Much to Hoving’s chagrin, notable figures such as Vaughn Crawford, Robert Dyson, and Prudence Harper testified during this case and they, along with others, mentioned that Oscar was “a very competent scholar”, “a very highly distinguished man; very, very, competent man”, “…a great scholar” and that his work was “…of the very highest quality and the very greatest value to scholarship” and impeccable. In the end, the MET had to cover all of the legal fees, their own total of $400,000 and whatever Oscar owed.[1, pp.10-13]

1978, Mar.-2009 – He was Senior Research Fellow of ANE Art at the MET.[1, p.5] This position was considered a promotion but Oscar called it “a Mickey Mouse title”. His problems with the MET’s authorities continued, not through threat of termination, but through withholding information about such things as meetings, gallery changes, and new acquisitions or staff. They also tried to censor his writings and speeches.[1, p.14]

2000 – He published his “cult classic”, The Lie Became Great.[1, p.14]

Excavations

Oscar participated in 26 excavations during his career.

Mesa Verde, Colorado, USA: 1953

Swan Creek, South Dakota, USA: 1955

Gordion, Turkey: 1957

Gordion, Turkey: 1959

Hasanlu, Iran: 1960 (Co-Director with Robert H. Dyson, Jr.)

Hasanlu, Iran: 1962 (Co-Director with Robert H. Dyson, Jr.)

Gordion, Turkey: 1963

Agrab Tepe, Iran: 1964 (Co-Director with T. Cuyler Young, Jr.)

Hasanlu, Iran: 1964 (Co-Director with Robert H. Dyson, Jr.)

Ziwiye, Iran: 1964

Dinkha Tepe, Iran: 1966 (Co-Director with T. Cuyler Young, Jr.)

Nush-i Jan, Iran: 1967

Dinkha Tepe, Iran: 1968 (Co-Director with T. Cuyler Young, Jr.)

Sé Girdan, Iran: 1968 (Director)

Qalatgah, Iran: 1968 (survey)

Sé Girdan, Iran: 1970 (Director)

Alişar Hüyük, Turkey: 1993

Ayanis, Turkey: 1994

Çadır Höyük, Turkey: 1994

Gordion, Turkey: 1994

Ayanis, Turkey: 1995

Ayanis, Turkey: 1996

Ayanis, Turkey: 1997

Ayanis, Turkey: 1998

Ayanis, Turkey: 1999

Ayanis, Turkey: 2000

Quotes

“It is unfortunately not erroneous to state that a high percentage of the information, conclusions, reconstructions and ideas published about the art and archaeology of the ancient world is (one or more of the following) utterly wrong, contrary to common sense, based on uninvestigated claims or false data, and conducted without regard for proper archaeological methodology.”
Oscar White Muscarella (2013)[4, p.879]

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References:

[1] – Simpson, Elizabeth. The Adventure of the Illustrious Scholar (Culture and History of the Ancient Near East). Lam, BRILL, 2018. Accessed 29 May 2021.

[2] – Brill’s overview of The Adventure of the Illustrious Scholar (2018). https://brill.com/view/title/20609. Accessed 29 May 2021.

[3] – D. T. Potts (2016) – review of O. W. Muscarella, Archaeology, artifacts and antiquities of the Ancient Near East (Brill, 2013). https://www.academia.edu/32301658/Potts_2016_review_of_O_W_Muscarella_Archaeology_artifacts_and_antiquities_of_the_Ancient_Near_East_Brill_2013_pdf. Accessed 29 May 2021.

[4] – Muscarella, Oscar White. Archaeology, Artifacts and Antiquities of the Ancient Near East (Culture and History of the Ancient Near East). BRILL, 2013. Accessed 30 May 2021.

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