Monthly Archives: June 2009
US Heritage Protection Legislation "inadequate" to Curb Antiquities Market
The pro-collecting lobby urges that the instead of current “restrictive ” laws, the archaeological heritage of all regions should become a free-for all to be “harvested” for collectable antiquities, perhaps with some form of voluntary reporting scheme like Britain’s Portable Antiquities Scheme in place to salvage some of the information which would otherwise be lost. In contrast to this we have views which urge that more should be done to protect archaeological sites from any kind of avoidable damage. On the back of the recent illicit antiquity raids in Utah, Gray Warriner an independent filmmaker has written an interesting essay in the Salt Lake Tribune. His thesis is that in the United States “Current laws are inadequate to protect antiquities” (Salt Lake Tribune 26th June 2009). He urges for a change in legislation to curb the antiquities market which drives the destruction of the archaeological record in the search for collectable atefacts. He likens this to the protection of threatened natural resources such as songbirds. More here.(MORE ...)
Gill considers the current legal action pending against the US Department of State regarding the import of antiquities
From “Why are ancient coins from Cyprus featured in a suit against the US Department of State?,” PR Newswire, 26 June 2009:
SWANSEA, Wales,June 26/PRNewswire/ –David Gill, archaeologist, considers the recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit on the US Department of State.
The FOIA suit was served in November 2007by three numismatic organizations; one of the three is based in Brussels, Belgium. The alliance objected to the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) restricting the import of ancient coins minted in Cyprus as part of a wider memorandum of understanding (MOU). CPAC was responding to concerns by the Government of Cyprus that the illicit searching for ancient objects (including coins) was destroying the archaeological heritage of the Mediterranean island. CPAC states, “The MOU offers the opportunity for the U.S. and Cyprus to cooperate in reducing the incentive for further pillage thereby protecting the context of intact sites for scientific study.”
Coin collectors were also concerned about the 2009 MOU with China. This agreement also restricted the import of certain categories of coins.
As a result, one of the three numismatic organizations decided to test the resolve of the US Department of State in April 2009by attempting to import a small number of coins from Cyprus and China in defiance of the newly established laws. These items were detained when their flight from London touched down in Baltimore.
Are these aggressive legal tactics really for the benefit of collectors, or are there other factors at work?
Butterflies and antiquities: no laughing matterThe Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c Peter Laufer thedailyshow.com Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Jason Jones in Iran
A post on Illicit Cultural Property highlighted an interview between John Stewart of The Daily Show and the author Peter Laufer which drew a parallel between art trafficking and the illegal trade of endangered species. Indeed, a similar parallel can be also be made between endangered species hanging “dead on the wall” as Laufer describes them, and looted antiquities ripped out of context on a collector’s mantelpiece. Worth a viewing. Thanks, Derek, for bringing this to our attention.(MORE ...)
The New Acropolis Museum opens in Greece
The top floor, with views towards the Acropolis, will display the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon.
Image © David Gill(MORE ...)
Using the AAMD Object Registry
After almost a year of inactivity on the Object Registry of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), it seems that a few more pieces have finally been added. Recently posted are acquisitions of sculptures from China, Mexico, and India by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These are the first additions since the Portland Art Museum presented its Indian sculpture from the 11th century on the site.
Olmec sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.637 It was on June 4, 2008 that the registry was uploaded for public use thanks to initiatives of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. At that time, the AAMD published a new report on the Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art. The policy was reworked as a response to the “financial and reputational harm” experienced by museums being forced to return objects. These guidelines recognize the 1970 UNESCO Convention as the threshold for future antiquities acquisitions. However, neither the guidelines nor the registry are tailored to review existing collections, which is part of the American Association of Museums (AAM) Standards regarding Archaeological Material and Ancient Art published in July 2008.
Please feel free to browse and share this information as well as look into the provenance of these objects.(MORE ...)
Preserving Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria
The Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues weblog has called attention to a campaign to preserve Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria which lays in the northwestern part of modern Bulgaria.
Like so many other places in Bulgaria, the site is being systematically destroyed by treasure hunters. I have discussed the destruction of Bulgaria’s archaeological record and cultural heritage several times before and I am glad to see attention brought to this preservation campaign. Readers will recall that Bulgaria was highlighted in the “Under Threat” list by Archaeology Magazine, which I and Kimberly Alderman both discussed (“Archaeology Magazine’s Under Threat List Includes Bulgaria” and “2008 Archaeological Sites Under Threat“, respectively). Anyone who has browsed through several volumes of Archaeologia Bulgarica knows what a negative impact systematic looting and destruction of archaeological sites has on the material record as it has affected virtually every site in Bulgaria.
I have already made a small donation to the initiative and would urge other concerned readers to do likewise.
Individuals may learn more and donate to the preservation effort by clicking here and following the “donate” link.(MORE ...)
Unrecorded Ancient Coins from Britain for Sale in the United States: Grumblings and a Positive Response
On May 18, I called attention to two different mass suppliers of ancient coins in the United States who regularly sell bulk lots of “uncleaned ancient coins” from all over Europe and the Middle East (“Having Cake and Eating it too: Unrecorded and Freshly Dug British Coins Sold in the USA,” Numismatics and Archaeology). These two sellers had recently offered bulk lots of coins from Britain, which apparently were not imported into the U.S. with an export license from the UK and, perhaps more importantly, were not recorded in Britain’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) designed to recorded finds made by metal detectorists. Ten days later, I provided an update following an inquiry, launched by the PAS, to the two sellers in question and the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) (“Update: ...(MORE ...)