• "We have to support better policing of the sites", says the new Getty Museum Director. What does he have in mind?

    Lee Rosenbaum has a disturbingly revealing Q and A with Timothy Potts on the new Getty Museum director’s views on antiquities collecting policy. I happen to agree with Potts that even with the 1970 rule now being adhered to by American museums, “there is still a huge amount of ongoing looting and this issue is not being addressed.” I also agree that

    The only way to address it is on the ground in the source countries. We have to support better policing of the sites, better understanding by the local communities of the importance of the archaeological heritage, particularly to them. And it’s only through these programs that we’re really going to tackle the core problem, which is the illicit excavation that’s still going on and the huge urban projects, dam building, and so on.

    But what would it mean to “support better policing of the sites”?

    (For the full post, go to The Punching Bag.)

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  • Theft at Olympia

    In the early morning hours of February 17th, two armed men entered the Museum of the History of the Ancient Olympics in the city of Olympia in Greece. After subduing the guard on duty, the thieves broke glass cases and took 77 objects, ranging from small bronze statues to terracotta votive sculptures to a 3500 year old gold ring. These men are still at large. The loss of these objects is incalculable. 

    The Olympic games, since their inception in the 8th century BC to their revival in the 19th century AD, are, by definition, international. Athletes from various city states, kingdoms, empires and countries have participated in the Olympics over their long history to attain honor, glory and recognition; the Olympics celebrate human achievement, transcending race, nationality or religion. The theft of these artifacts, invaluable witnesses to ...

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  • Research and analysis: there is no substitute

    The announcement of Glasgow University’s new team to study the illegal trade in antiquities is welcome news to those who seek the truth about these issues—fact-based truths. The recent years have seen much discussion of these increasingly popular topics, encouraged by the ease of a few keystrokes on the computer. Opinion—whether based on knowledge or not—is too all often disguised as truth simply on the basis of being expressed.

    Given our mission to raise public awareness, SAFE has the responsibility to deliver messages that are accurate, and fact based. We therefore applaud this commitment to research, study, analysis, and look forward to the work of Dr. Simon Mackenzie, who heads up the four-year Glasgow project.

    We congratulate Neil Brodie, our 2008 Beacon Award Winner, who pioneered academic research in these topics with Professor Colin Renfrew (2009 SAFE Beacon Award Winner) at the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre for his continued efforts. The £1m grant from the European Research Council is a long-awaited gift to us all.

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