Monthly Archives: November 2010
Forensics, looting, and the law: The view from Ohio
An article I first encountered in the online version of the newspaper The Columbus Dispatch, out of Columbus, Ohio, caught my eye awhile ago when searching for current news to discuss, but then things got busy and it slipped my mind. Rediscovering it now, I realise that the innovative project it describes is worthy of dissemination here. The article describes a course held last August to provide archaeologists and law-enforcement officials/investigators from around the region, and from across the US, the tools, on-the-ground training, and ‘forensic’ perspective they need to investigate cases of prehistoric and historic site looting (see photo at left). For the 4th time, this course was held within Wayne National Forest near Nelsonville, Ohio, an area containing a variety of archaeological sites spanning 12,000 years of occupation, and including Hopewell-culture burial grounds significant to several Native American descendant tribes. ...(MORE ...)
Finders Keepers – Craig Childs
Childs sets out to describe the history behind humanity’s need to understand its past. He artfully crafts a story based in part on his own personal, and very diverse, travels about the globe. He tells of grand discoveries as often as simple broken pots. Childs successfully creates a sense that each item has a tale to tell and is valuable for that alone, if nothing else. He also notes the vast disparity between people of all walks of life in terms of how they interact with, and understand, the past as embodied in ruins and artifacts. Archaeologists, collectors, looters, and families all make their appearances; all lending their views on ...(MORE ...)
Cradle of Gold – Christopher Heaney
In his book, Heaney utilizes an easy, conversational style to tell an interesting and surprising tale of the life and adventures of Hiram Bingham. The reader is treated to Indiana Jones-like stories of the explorer’s travels throughout Peru and of the wonderful discoveries he made. Heaney’s use of original sources is at times inspired and always appropriate. The little tidbits about Bingham and his family are often poignant and truly create a feeling in the reader that one knows the man himself.
At the same time, the reader is shown the sometimes shady underbelly of the profession of archaeology (or perhaps just “exploring”) and its connections to the mistreatment of indigenous people, the illicit artifact trade, and much more. Sadly, these practices date back hundreds or thousands of years, perhaps as far back as humanity ...(MORE ...)
The US Antiquities Trade and National Values
Twelve US congressmen mainly from Wisconsin and Texas have signed a letter to the State Department with a number of demands concerning recent and upcoming cultural property bilateral agreements with China, Cyprus, Italy and Greece. A facsimile of this letter on US Congress letterhead dated Sept 27th 2010, is posted on the Ancient Coin Collectors’ Guild website and it is difficult not to conclude that the ACCG’s lobbyists are behind this disgraceful initiative. I give a transcription of the full text with a longer discussion on my blog.
The authors question whether the State Department is properly respecting the “legislative intent” of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act This ...(MORE ...)
SAFE Beacon Awards 2010
The Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) Beacon Award is given to those who stand out in their fight against illicit antiquities trade. On Oct. 29, over 100 people attended an event awarding it to four individuals at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The awards were given to Senior Special Agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement James McAndrew, Attorney Robert Goldman, Federal Prosecutor David Hall and retired FBI agent Robert Wittman for their part in the investigations and prosecutions in cases involving stolen art and cultural objects. For brief details of these see here.
The four unsung heroes shared their experiences of the difficulties and talked about the importance of saving antiquities at a reception after the award ceremony. ...(MORE ...)