Archaeologists often dig up idols whose worshipers have abandoned them over the millenia. The archaeologists who take possession of the objects certainly have no interest in their worship. For the purposes of this question, I will assume (l’kula) that one or the other of these constitutes sufficient bitul (nullification) of the objects’ avodah zara status, rendering them no longer ossur b’hana’a.
[Edit: In a comment below, JNF points out a responsum by Rabbi Dov Lior which explicitly says that such artifacts are “מותר, כי העבודה זרה הזו כבר התבטלה מן העולם” permitted, since this form of idolatry has vanished (= been nullified) from the world.]
But what of asheros etc. discovered in Ancient Israel digs? Their worshipers were likely Jews, who cannot nullify avodah zara, as are many (most?) of the archaeologists. Is there a way to permit Jews to derive benefit from these historically important objects?