Looting is everyone’s concern

SAFE is grateful to Marni Walter for sharing this reflection with us in observance of the 2013 Donny George Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage.


During the early years of the new millennium, the scope of antiquities looting and destruction of cultural heritage seemed to drastically expand. To all the archaeological damage done for profit to feed the demands of various art markets, we were forced to add incalculable threats from political unrest and wartime conflict.

At that time I was working as an editor at the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) for the American Journal of Archaeology, while also enrolled as a graduate student in archaeology at Boston University. In heritage management courses, we would compile statistics on the unprovenanced antiquities (most of them!) in the high-end auction catalogs, scrutinize the collections of prominent collectors, and report on the imbalances in wealth of the “source” countries versus the places of import. At the AIA, we debated about whether we should continue to publish using the longstanding von Bothmer publication fund (as Dietrich von Bothmer, a former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, became increasingly criticized for acquisitions, such as the Euphronios krater, in an earlier era of museum practices).

Marni Walter at prehistoric site The author recording excavation details at a prehistoric site in New Hampshire, U.S.A.

We were thrilled when a hefty manuscript by Christopher Chippendale and David Gill landed on the AJA editorial desks: this important and thorough study was published in July 2000 as “Material Consequences of Contemporary Classical Collecting” (AJA 104:463–511). In fact many excellent studies were published in the early 2000s onward that showed the cold hard numbers on archaeological losses. It has been gratifying to see the growth in academic attention to many aspects of cultural heritage protection, with entire conferences (like the subject of my last post) dedicated to the subject. Sharing research among specialists is vital to moving forward, but we also need to talk to everyone else, and gain the support of the widest possible range of people.

When in 2001 the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddha statues at Bamiyan and many others throughout Afghanistan, and in 2003 thieves looted and vandalized the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, the need for broad support (including military personnel among many others) was suddenly more obvious. These events were not at all accidental or collateral war damage, but deliberate actions of hostility. Of course war, and its spoils, have been around since antiquity itself, but now unprecedented levels of media attention followed. Ten years later the reports and the images from the ransacked museum are still vivid. Many people recognized—even in the midst of the human tragedies of war—the dramatic loss of knowledge and spirit of the “cradle of civilization,” and the senseless, destructive impulses that caused it.

As archaeologists, art historians, or other related scholars, we cannot dismiss the issues by saying “looting is not my specialty.” If we believe that our research is important enough or inspiring enough to do in the first place, then doing something about destruction of cultural heritage is simply a fundamental part of our work.

We are fortunate that SAFE was borne out of these circumstances, founded as a response to a dramatic event, but recognizing that the problems would require more ongoing and widespread attention. No single solution will stop or curb looting to any significant degree, but one common thread will help greatly: the public, anyone with any interest in archaeology, history, art history, cultural diversity, etc. So many people are just as fascinated, if not more so, after learning how we gleaned a whole story, an entire village or camp scenario, from mapping the locations of all the stone tools, or bits of ceramics, and whatever small puzzle pieces we found. Many of them will sympathize, and help, if they are aware of the issues.

As archaeologists, art historians, or other related scholars, we cannot dismiss the issues by saying “looting is not my specialty.” If we believe that our research is important enough or inspiring enough to do in the first place, then doing something about destruction of cultural heritage is simply a fundamental part of our work. It could be showing a community the importance of context for what local excavations revealed, or writing in support of a bilateral agreement, or contributing stories or research summaries to SAFE. Whether working on public awareness and action, legislative and policy changes, improved security, or research on causes and effects, SAFE, for ten years running, is an ideal venue to bring all these approaches together.

We can hope that all our efforts will add up to a broad change of public attitude. Convince the next generation of would-be collectors that it’s so old school to hoard priceless artifacts in their houses as knick-knacks on the mantle. Modern “collectors” would rather support an excavation and its related museum displays or public programs. These collectors will find it so much more satisfying to potentially have an excavation or museum display in their name, along with all the information and discoveries that were revealed from it. Future vandals will know that plundering their country’s museums will only rob themselves and their own people of a collective source of wealth. It’s an ideal world, but one worth working toward.

Ultimately, it’s not about saving every individual artifact on the planet. It’s about cultures of all varieties and sizes flourishing and retaining their uniqueness, the pieces that tell their story. It’s about respecting cultures and environments that are not our own, and, to paraphrase SAFE founder Cindy Ho, choosing to live in a world with a rich cultural heritage.

Photo: “The opposite of looters’ pits. Scientific excavation is key to a wealth of information about the past,” by Marni Walter

Oscar Muscarella observes the SAFE Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage with a reflection

A growing number of archaeologists have been or are becoming active in publicizing and fighting the plunder and destruction of cultural sites around the world. And most professional archaeological organizations periodically proclaim their adversity to plundering, the destruction of archaeological sites worldwide, but in fact do little to stop it. For example, the Archaeological Institute of America in its publications and annual meetings allow a small number of anti-plunder lectures—mostly concerning a specific country, but do not concern themselves full time with this crucial archaeological  issue when sponsoring lectures, or establish on-going annual sessions on these matters. Instead they promote and glorify the arch plunderer Indiana Jones as a model for students and the public. The Society of American Archaeology is the single exception that I know that fight the plunderers. As for journals, The Journal of Field Archaeology (but not The American Journal of Archaeology) single handily fight the plunderers. And some websites, such as Chasing Aphrodite, Looting Matters, and the SAFE blog, are continuously active in this activity. But the only active USA organization, a non-professional lay group (organized by Cindy Ho), Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE), has singularly and continuously fought the good fight from its inception. They cite plunder wherever it occurs, naming names of the plunderers, their supporters and their opponents. That it is unique is a very sad indication of the present state of affairs. I have been a proud member from its incipience and encourage others to join.

David Gill receives AIA’s 2012 Outstanding Public Service Award

Heartfelt congratulations go to David Gil, for this well-deserved recognition from the Archaeological Institute of America. SAFE and SAFECORNER would like to take the opportunity to thank Prof. Gill for years of research and study on looting and the illicit antiquities trade, and above all, his efforts to keep the public informed of these problems with his blog “Looting Matters”, a pioneering effort in this field. Not only that, SAFE is grateful to David for his advice and contributions to SAFECORNER. Congratulations!!!

Shelby White’s Foundation Expansion

In February 2010 the billionaire Shelby White created a selected group of individuals to function within the Leon Levy Foundation, its purpose to “make available information” from excavated sites that have not been published. But information only from nations having a partage system at the time of excavation, i.e. a division of finds between the host nation and the excavators, are eligible. But archaeologists—the Foundation’s new group excepted—knowledgeable of Plunder Culture actions are aware that they consider plundered antiquities to be a “partage,” exploiting its neo-logistic coinage by J. Cuno. An example is White’s refusal to return to Turkey half of a statue of Herakles plundered from Perge, purchased from an antiquity dealer, thus normal partage to this group. The Foundation’s statement suggests that the publication of unexcavated plundered antiquities will not be excluded from funding.

The Foundation’s new group has ten members. White is an antiquity collector, who is the Chair, determined by her financial gift. The other members include four museum Directors (T. Potts, R. Hodges OBE, J-F. Jarrige, and S. Herbert), and one ex-Director (de Montebello); one museum curator (D. Arnold); a number of “distinguished archaeologists” (Rose, Hodges, Potts, S. Heath and S. Minyaev). They will determine who gets/is denied publication funds. Four of the members are museum Directors, one an ex-Director, and one an antiquity collector: the majority of the members.

Brian Pennsylvania Rose, Deputy-Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, is the President of the said-to-be Archaeological Institute of America. He is infamous for crippling the AIA, smilingly reaching out to the plunderers, proclaiming that plunderers and archaeologists have a “Common Ground.” He first linked the AIA to plundering activities by declaring Indiana Jones, an archetype plunderer, as a model “in stimulating the public’s interest in archaeology….as a benefit to archaeology….archaeologists…dig Indy.” Rose celebrated the actor who played Indiana Jones at an AIA Gala “Honoring” party, and had him appointed a Trustee of the AIA (Personal disclosure: I resigned from the AIA last year after more than 50 years’ membership). And now he has carried his goals further by becoming a supporter of White. In published photos he is posed next to White, both collegially smiling. Rose has now added Shelby to his list of those plunderers he digs Query: will he soon get her an appointment as Trustee of the AIA? Hodges has written for and advised the antiquities dealer Jerry Eisenbergs’s plunder-defender journal Minerva, which for years contained advertisements from antiquity dealers. He was quoted in the New York Times 12/6/07: 10) condemning Fordham University’s Museum for accepting a gift of plundered antiquities: “The message it sends is there is nothing wrong with looting and buying illegal objects,” the very same message he now blithely proclaims: because he digs Shelby (and her potential gifts to his Museum).

Potts abandoned archaeology to become a plunder supporter as Director of the Kimball Art Museum to “build up” its antiquity collection; he is now Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. Heath has served as Vice President of the Un-Professional Committee of The AIA. He is also a Visiting Scholar at White’s Institute. De Montebello is the group’s Special Advisor” At The Metropolitan Museum de Montebello has purchased hundreds of antiquities from all over the world, as “partage” from “source nations”. He has also named an MMA gallery in White’s name. Minayev may be an innocent bystander. No Foundation member will serve archaeology; they will defer to de Montebello and White.

Rose and Hodges have now brought the AIA and the University Museum further into the depths of the plunder culture. Query: are there any honest archaeologist members among the AIA’s Officers and Trustees who will react to this, impeach its President? Surely no member of the University Museum’s Governing Board will react to Hodges; he has an OBE. Furthermore, excavations conducted by Rose/ Hodges’ museum not under partage (its correct meaning) are not eligible for publication funding by the Foundation of which they are prominent members. Thus, sites like Gordion in Turkey that remain to be fully published will be denied Foundation funds!

My position on raising funds for publication has been stated by me for some time in lectures and publications. I have no objection, archaeological or moral, to archaeologists seeking funds from White (I even once asked her Foundation to fund an archaeological publication; she refused): provided they do not cater to her, or support her plunder activities as return payment, viz. Lawrence Stager of Harvard University. K. D. Vitelli received money from White, but never ceased to oppose her and other plunders, for which she was criticized for not supporting her in her partage activities. Further, I do not oppose the publication of antiquities, no matter where their modern provenance exists, provided that scholars disclose this information and note their unexcavated nature: one cannot ignore unexcavated objects, they exist, we cannot throw away the baby with the dirty bath water. The new Levy Foundation group will reject such disclosure. The archaeological discipline is fragmenting while too many scholars look the other way.

Oscar White Muscarella

Talking about "partage"


The May 21st Looting Matters post refers to a Leon Levy Foundation “early February 2010″ gathering of “distinguished archaeologists, museum directors, and curators from around the world” on “how best to make available the trove of unpublished information from important ancient world sites excavated under “partage” agreements.” “Partage” is the system “through which western universities and museums worked in concert with host countries on digs, then divided the discoveries…”

According to the photo caption from the Foundation web site, the attendees were “Top Row: Richard Hodges, Timothy Potts, Dorothea Arnold, Jean-Francois Jarrige, Sebastian Heath, Sergey Minyaev. Seated: Philippe de Montebello, Brian Rose, Shelby White, Sharon Herbert.”

This photograph raises many questions from different angles. In this post, we will discuss one of these issues: The choice of participants.

1) It appears that all the attendees–at least all those who had their photograph taken–either dig in source countries, collect objects from source countries, or display them in western museums. Or all of the above. In other words, these are visitors to “important ancient world sites”.

What about the hosts? If “partage” is indeed a partnership between hosts and visitors, an act of sharing, then why were representatives from the other side–the host side with the “important ancient world sites”–absent from this discussion? Were they not invited? Were they invited but did not attend? Did they attend but did not have their photograph taken? Surely it would be informative (and collaborative) to hear from those who attended the recent Cairo Conference what their views of “partage” might be.

2) Why did “distinguished archaeologists, museum directors, and curators from around the world” not include the Americas or the African continent? Or does “the ancient world” not include these parts? If so, how do the host countries feel about this?

While we look forward to the findings of this Leon Levy Foundation meeting of the experts, SAFECORNER urges the Foundation to consider a better represented conference. Surely the Leon Levy Foundation could attempt a true sharing of the views from both visitors and hosts of the ancient world.

Perhaps then, true discussion can begin about how information collected under “partage” should be disseminated.

Photo: The Leon Levy Foundation

More False Claims about Lobbying on Antiquities Issues

David Gill has recently addressed claims made by Peter Tompa that appear to have little basis in fact. Tompa is a lobbyist who represents commercial trade interests. He has alleged that the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) “was involved in behind-the-scenes lobbying on behalf of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, the Cypriot government body that issues excavation permits that allow CAARI affiliated archaeologists to excavate on the Island.” The assertions are not substantiated further.

Ellen Herscher, the vice president of CAARI and an independent scholar, responded to Tompa’s claims after they were posted to the Museum Security Network. She stated:

CAARI’s Director and several trustees publicly submitted statements in support of the agreement. This position is in accordance with CAARI’s Code of Ethics, which states that the organization “is dedicated to the protection and preservation of archaeological sites in Cyprus and the information they contain.” There was no “behind-the-scenes lobbying” involved.

Secondly, “CAARI-affiliation” has nothing to do with the granting of excavation permits in Cyprus. Permits are the sole responsibility of the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus.

It is unfortunate that the ACCG continues to publish these erroneous statements, despite the fact that CAARI has responded and refuted them in the past.

Gill asks the question:

Are “false claims” being deliberately planted by some of the North American coin-collecting community as part of the background to the test case over the coins seized in Baltimore? (For some more discussion of the “test case”, see Gill’s “The Baltimore Coin Test Case“).

The question is a provocative one, especially in the context of other false claims recently made by one group Tompa is involved with, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG).

On November 13, 2009 The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) convened for an interim review of the bilateral agreement with Italy and asked for public comment to be restricted to Article II. Among other things under Article II, which covers Italy’s obligations, Italy would allow long-term loans to American institutions, access to scholars, and prosecute antiquities traffickers within its own borders. Evidently, the CPAC asked that public comment be confined to Article II due to the concerns of many members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) who felt that Italy was favoring institutions that had returned objects to Italy and that more longer term loans ought to be made. Indeed, there were several AAMD members at the interim review who gave presentations to the CPAC (their written comments have been posted online).

Immediately after the interim review, Tompa insinuated that archaeologists departed from Article II and raised the specter of coins and their potential inclusion in the upcoming renewal with Italy (see Tompa’s “Interim Review of the Italian MOU“). He later claimed, innacurately, that Stefano De Caro, who spoke on behalf of Italy’s Culture Ministry, argued that all coins made within the borders of what is now modern Italy should belong to Italy (see Tompa’s “Is the Italian Cultural Bureaucracy the Best Steward for Coins?“). However, after being challenged, he conceded that he may have misunderstood.

The ACCG’s founder, who was not even present at the interim review, then authored a press release alleging that archaeologists opportunistically raised the issue of coins; he also portrayed the AIA representative’s comments as radical (see Sayles’ “Archaeologists Plead for Import Restrictions on Common Coins“; for a more balanced view, see the AIA representative’s reflections on the interim review). While Sayles pretended as if there is not near universal agreement among the archaeological community that looting and indiscriminate sourcing for the antiquities trade is detrimental to archaeology, he failed to note that many collectors have themselves voiced concerns that the status quo, which the ACCG seeks to protect, requires some internal reforms in the trade. Some have even gone so far as to observe that the ACCG is oriented more towards the concerns of commercial dealers rather than to collectors or the interests of preservation.

Wetterstrom, president-elect of the ACCG and its representative at the interim review, then authored an editorial in the Celator (a collector magazine that he operates) claiming that archaeologists at the meeting received special treatment and were not limited in the length of their presentations. He also writes that he was cut off early while reading his written comments that the CPAC already had in front of them (Tompa has reproduced Wetterstrom’s text in his “Another Perspective on CPAC and the Interim Review of the Italian MOU“).

Sayles then solicited another online press release, prompted by Wetterstrom’s editorial (“Collectors Claim Bias Epitomizes State Department Committee Management“). Here, Sayles falsely reports that “Other speakers, who advocate import restrictions on coins, were reportedly allowed to exceed the published time limit with comments ranging up to 30 minutes.”

In spite of the repetition of the claims by ACCG leadership, they have no basis in fact.

1) Archaeologists (note the ACCG’s use of the plural) were not afforded any special treatment. All speakers were allowed only five minutes and were told to finish if they reached their time limit. Wetterstrom, like all other presenters, received a full five minutes and was cut off only after exhausting his time while reading his letter verbatim. All other speakers made “off-the-cuff” presentations. The only individual who made a longer presentation was Stefano De Caro who had traveled from Rome for the meeting, and who spoke approximately 20 minutes. Although it is implied he was improperly given excess time, the ACCG fails to note that foreign dignitaries are customarily not limited in the length of their presentation. This is proper since they represent the countries who have petitioned for an agreement with the U.S. government. As regular attendees of CPAC meetings, the ACCG is well aware of this fact.

2) Archaeologists did not raise the specter of coins. The order of presentation clearly demonstrates this since Tompa and Wetterstrom spoke before any archaeologist. Both individuals urged the committee not to consider coins any future renewal of the agreement and both made reference to the “test case.” Archaeologists and numismatists who addressed the issue of coins during their presentations were simply responding to arguments made by Tompa and Wetterstrom that coins were not worth protecting because they are “common” or “cheap” on the market. But if one requires further proof, compare the written comments of Kerry Wetterstrom and Wayne Sayles, submitted to the CPAC in advance of the interim review, with the letter submitted by Sebastian Heath, the AIA representative. It is clear from the letters that, contrary to the ACCG’s portrayal of events, the ACCG were focused on arguing that coins not be considered in the future. On the other hand, the AIA representative made no suggestion that coins be included in a renewal and instead had prepared to focus on Article II of the MOU as requested. It was only in oral comments that archaeologists and numismatists were forced to respond to issues beyond Article II that were raised by representatives of commercial interests.

Gill’s question about whether or not false claims are being deliberately fabricated is penetrating, especially in the context of the misrepresentation of events at CPAC’s interim review. Is it indeed hoped that the spin put on these events will construct a reality that is more conducive to their litigious activities? In this regard, it is worth noting that one of the points in the ACCG’s 37 page complaint about the seizure, which they staged, states that archaeologists argued that the agreement with Italy be extended to coins, while failing to note that they brought up the question of coins in the first place (pdf here, see point 80).

Brian Rose on looting: "history that’s been murdered"

In an interview with American Public Media’s Dick Gordon, AIA President and Professor at University of Pennsylvania Brian Rose describes his recent first trip to Iraq where he saw ancient sites cratered by looters.

Professor Rose also speaks about the cultural heritage briefings he has been giving to American soldiers on the archaeology of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his visit to the Iraq Museum.

The interview can be heard here in the second part of the broadcast.

New Reviews of Books on Cultural Property

On-line reviews for the American Journal of Archaeology 113.1 (2009) are now available. These include four books relating to cultural property:

  • Art as Plunder: The Ancient Origins of Debate about Cultural Property. By Margaret M. Miles. Reviewed by Molly Swetnam-Burland.
  • Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage. By James Cuno. Reviewed by David W.J. Gill.
  • The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities: Professional, Legal, and Ethical Perspectives (A Symposium Held at the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, February 24, 2007). By Robin F. Rhodes. Reviewed by Neil Brodie.
  • The Return of Cultural Treasures. By Jeanette Greenfield. Reviewed by Julie Hollowell.

Legal Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage: National and International Perspectives in Light of the "Black Swan" Case

At the Joint AIA/APA Annual Meeting, behind held at the Marriott Downtown Hotel in Philadelphia, SAFE board member Eric Powell will moderate a “must attend” Workshop on Saturday, January 10, 2009 for anyone interested in evolving legal mechanisms that involve underwater cultural heritage.

The recent discovery of the “Black Swan” treasure off the coast of Spain by the US-based underwater salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. has re-ignited the long-simmering debate between underwater archaeologists, scholars, treasure hunters and their investors, attorneys and sovereign nations over who has the right to claim, recover and market the world’s undersea archaeological resources. Recent legal action lodged by the Government of Spain against Odyssey Marine, now being heard in federal court in Tampa, FL, promises not only to settle ownership questions over the estimated half billion dollar “Black Swan” treasure that Odyssey Marine recovered, but to serve as a landmark decision that maritime attorneys, commercial salvagers, archaeologists and governments will employ as precedent in future cases. Lost amid the flurry of rhetoric, claims and counterclaims, however, are the questions that archaeologists often ask: After decades of experience in which commercial treasure hunters have torn apart ancient sites and allowed their finds to be scattered, how can we know whether commercial treasure hunters – operating in secret and driven by the demands of investors for “cost effective” methods – truly adhere to practices that meet internationally recognized archaeological standards? Does the practice of “admiralty arrest,” by which commercial salvagers claim legal rights to a site, while keeping its location secret, prevent archaeologists from examining the same location that they discover independently? What final authority exists that allows archaeologists to assert their rights amid the tangle of international and national laws, competing jurisdictions and evolving legal concepts that govern or influence the outcome of such cases? Four leading authorities from the archaeological and legal worlds will discuss the specifics of the Black Swan controversy and its broader implications for both cultural heritage policy and the practice of archaeology.

Confirmed Panelists:

Michele C. Aubry

As an Archeologist in the headquarters office of the National Park Service in Washington, DC, Michele Aubry develops policies, regulations, and guidance on archeological and related historic preservation program requirements for application at federal government-wide levels. In addition, she provides assistance to the NPS, other federal agencies, and governmental and non-governmental partners. She also coordinates NPS programs that document, interpret, preserve, and protect archeological sites in units of the national park system. Author of the NPS Abandoned Shipwreck Act Guidelines (1990), she is an expert in the laws, regulations, policies, and programs relating to underwater cultural heritage at the federal, state, and local levels of government. She served as a U.S. Delegate to the UNESCO meetings of Government Experts that developed the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001). In addition, she served on U.S. negotiating teams that developed international agreements, signed by the United States, concerning the shipwreck RMS Titanic (1999) and the sunken French vessel La Belle. She provided advice to the Kingdom of Spain about the shipwrecks Juno and La Galga, said to be within Assateague Island National Seashore, and obtained NPS services for the conservation and long-term storage of the objects that had been collected by the commercial salvager, Sea Hunt Inc., and turned over to Spain at the conclusion of litigation. She is currently working with the Government of the United Kingdom and Biscayne National Park about NPS management of the shipwreck HMS Fowey. In 1999, Ms. Aubry was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to the state’s Advisory Committee on Archaeology, and has served as Committee Chair since 2004. She is a graduate of the University of California at Riverside (M.A., 1977) and Occidental College (A.B. cum laude, 1972).

David J. Bederman
An acknowledged authority on international law and its impact on American government, the protection of property rights, the management of natural resources and admiralty and maritime law, David J. Bederman is the K.H. Gyr Professor of Private International Law at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Having served as a litigation consultant to the U.S. Departments of Justice, State, Treasury and numerous federal agencies, as well as a legal advisor at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in the Hague, Professor Bederman also advises and represents clients on important constitutional and international law issues, including a number of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, significant international arbitrations, and issues related to underwater cultural heritage issues, sovereign immunity questions and property rights matters. He is a member of the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., advising the firm on various legal situations, including the salvage of SS Republic, the “Black Swan” discovery and other treasure ships. In addition to a number of books and dozens of articles and essays, his major publications include Globalization and International Law (2008); The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution (2008); The Spirit of International Law (2002); International Law in Antiquity (2001); and International Law Frameworks (2001). Prior to his current position, Professor Bederman served in private practice with the Washington law firm Covington & Burling LLP and has lectured widely, as Fulbright Distinguished Chair for Canada, lecturing in international and constitutional law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, and as visiting professor at the University of Virginia Law School and New York University Law School. A graduate of Princeton University (A.B. international affairs, 1983), the London School of Economics (M.Sc., Marine Affairs, 1984) and the University of Virginia (J.D., 1987), after which he clerked for the Hon. Charles E. Wiggins, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Professor Bederman also holds the coveted Diploma of the Hague Academy of International Law, as well as a Ph.D. in Law from the University of London. His ongoing research interests involve legal theory and history, admiralty and maritime law, and federal practice and procedure.

Caroline M. Blanco

As Assistant General Counsel for the Environment at the National Science Foundation, Caroline M. Blanco she provides advice on the environmental and cultural resources laws. Prior to assuming her current position, she served as a trial attorney in the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where, where from 1991 until 2007 she specialized in heritage resources law and historic shipwreck litigation and was twice a recipient of the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service. Ms. Blanco is co-author of Cultural Property Law: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Management, Protection and Preservation of Heritage Resources (American Bar Association, 2004) and Heritage Resources Law: Protecting the Archaeological and Cultural Environment (John Wiley & Sons, 1999) and has written several articles on underwater cultural property law and an essay (coauthored with Ole Varmer) on U.S. laws protecting underwater cultural heritage published in Legal Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage: National and International Perspectives (Kluwer Law International, 1999). She also served as a member of the U.S. negotiating team responsible for developing an international agreement to protect RMS Titanic in 1999. Prior to her government service, Mr. Blanco was a litigation associate at the law firm of McCutchen Doyle Brown & Enerson, San Jose, California. She received her J.D. degree, cum laude, in 1999 from Washington College of Law at American University in Washington D.C. She is a founding member of the board of directors of the Lawyer’s Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP).

James A. Goold
An attorney at the Washington, DC office of Covington & Burling LLP, James A. Goold, manages a practice that spans a diversified range of domestic and international litigation, arbitration, and regulatory matters, including US and international product liability litigation and related counseling and regulatory/legislative projects and litigation for and against foreign governments on matters involving admiralty and cultural preservation disputes and insurance coverage arbitrations. He is currently lead attorney representing the Kingdom of Spain in the “Black Swan” case, now being heard in federal court in Tampa, FL. Mr. Goold has served as past Chairman of the Board of Directors and General Counsel for the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (College Station, Texas and Bodrum, Turkey) and Chairman of the Executive Committee and General Counsel of the RPM Nautical Foundation (Key West, Florida). In recognition of his distinguished service for the Kingdom of Spain in past admiralty law cases, Mr. Goold was named Commander of the Royal Order of Isabel the Catholic (Cruz del Orden de Isabela Catolica) in 2000. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Law (J.D., 1976) and Weslyan University (B.A., 1972).

Jerome L. Hall
A Nautical Archaeologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of San Diego, Jerome Lynn Hall’s ongoing research projects include a 17th-century northern European merchant shipwreck in Monte Cristi Bay off the north coast of the Dominican Republic, as well as the documentation and publication of a 1st-century A.D. Kinneret Boat recovered from the Sea of Galilee. Hall’s most recent writings on submerged cultural resource management include “The Fig and the Spade: Countering deceptions of Treasure Hunters,” in AIA Archaeology Watch (2007) and “The Black Rhino,” in the Journal of Maritime Archaeology (2007). Dr. Hall has served as the underwater archaeologist for Puerto Rico and President of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, where he received his doctorate in anthropology with a specialty in nautical archaeology in 1996.

Ole Varmer
As attorney-advisor in the Office of International Law at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce) in Washington, DC, Ole Varmer is an expert in the laws pertaining to historic shipwrecks with primary responsibility for providing advice involving cultural and historic resources, maritime zones and boundaries and coastal zone management, Mr. Varmer served a key role as member of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization on the draft UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in 2001. As counsel for NOAA’s Marine Sanctuaries Program, he helped negotiate a resolution for the continued historic shipwreck salvage operations in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and, working with the Secretary of State of Florida and The Historic Shipwreck Salvage Policy Council (HSSPC), formulated guidelines within the strict parameters of the Marine Sanctuaries Program that encouraged multiple use of cultural resources while following strict archaeological guidelines. He is co-author of Heritage Resources Law: Protecting the Archeological and Cultural Environment (Wiley, 1999) and author of numerous articles on cultural heritage law, including “The Case Against the ‘Salvage” of the Cultural Heritage,” Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce (1999), and chapters in Legal Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage: National and International Perspectives (Kluwer, 2000), The Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage: National Perspectives in Light of the UNESCO Convention 2001 (Nijhoff, 2006), and Underwater Cultural Heritage at Risk: RMS Titanic (UNESCO/ICOMOS, 2006). He is a graduate of Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York (J.D., 1987).

Moderator: Eric Powell, Senior Editor, Archaeology Magazine

Easter Island project receives major grant for site preservation

According to a news release issued by Larry Coben, co-chair of The Archaeological Institute of America Site Preservation Task Force:

The Archaeological Institute of America Site Preservation Task Force (“AIA”) announced today that it had awarded a $94,000 grant for the preservation and conservation of Easter Island’s famous megalithic moai statues. The AIA gave the grant to the Easter Island Statute Project (the “Project”), directed by UCLA archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg and co-directed since 2000 by Rapa Nui’s Cristián Arévalo Pakarati. The Project will develop and apply stone preservation techniques to arrest the rapid deterioration of these statues as a result of the fragile nature of their volcanic stone, climate change and unregulated tourism.

The Project will utilize the grant to focus initially upon the conservation of two of Easter Island’s most famous moai, known as the “mama” and the “papa”. According to local tradition, the statues were named while poking fun at the early 20th century explorer Katherine Routledge and her husband William Scoresby Routledge, who were the first to explore and map the island. These statues stand in the Rano Raraku quarry, the source of most of the statues’ stones and still the location of almost 400 giant statues. The knowledge gained in the study of the mama and papa will then be utilized to preserve the numerous additional statues on the island.

According to Dr. Van Tilburg, “this grant will jumpstart our efforts to preserve this remarkable cultural resource for future generations of local Rapa Nui and the world at large. The fragility of the stone, coupled with the fact that Rano Raraku is a major tourist destination, creates an urgent conservation imperative. We thank the AIA for their assistance in this monumental task”. Added co-director and local resident Pakarati, “The AIA grant will enable we local Rapa Nui people to conserve and benefit from the cultural heritage of our ancestors”.

The grant is the second by the AIA’s new Site Preservation Task Force, and the first outside of the Mediterranean region. The Task Force was created earlier this year to combat the accelerating loss of our priceless cultural heritage. “The Easter Island Statue Project exemplifies the new paradigm of preservation that the Task Force seeks to employ,” said University of Pennsylvania archaeologist and Task Force co-chairman Larry Coben, “not only that all preservation will be carried out to the highest technical standards, but most critically that successful preservation requires the empowerment of, and economic development for, local communities.”

The grant was awarded in a ceremony in the office of Rapa Nui Mayor Petero Edmonds, who thanked the AIA. According to Edmonds, “for projects to be successful they require the empowering and strong involvement of the local community. This Project is a wonderful example of the sort of local, national and international cooperation required”.

The AIA Site Preservation Task Force and Grant program is dedicated to combating the loss of the world’s priceless cultural heritage. The Task Force was formed in 2008 in response to the rapidly accelerating destruction of ancient monuments and sites due to war, looting extreme weather, alternative economic uses and neglect. The Task Force believes that new approaches are required for successful and sustainable preservation. In particular, sustainable preservation requires a focus upon people not stones; that is, success requires the empowerment of and economic development for local communities. The all volunteer Task Force thus consists not just of archaeologists, but experts in business, economics, development and international relations.

Photos: Larry Coben

A Long Legacy of Protecting Cultural Heritage

A couple of days ago I visited the AIA’s Archaeology Watch resource page. I have visited the site several times before, but I have always glossed over the first little paragraph at the top of the page. This time, however, the little blurb about the Antiquities Act caught my eye. I was well aware that the AIA (Archaeological Institute of America), founded in 1879, was chartered by an Act of the U.S. Congress in 1906, but I had not realized until then that its charter coincided with President Theodore Roosevelt’s passage of the Antiquities Act and the role the AIA played in it is development. This may not be news to anyone but me, but I founded it interesting for a couple of reasons.

The Antiquities Act was supported by the AIA and lawmakers in order to give the American president power to counter looters and ‘pot hunters’ from destroying Native American cultural heritage in the American West [a Wikipedia article on the Act is also available – caveat emptor].

The AIA has been actively involved in raising awareness on problem of pillage and advocating protective legislation now for over 100 years. The AIA is frequently targeted by dealers for its stance on cultural property issues. In light of this fact, I find it even more peculiar that several antiquities dealers attempt to characterize the AIA’s position on the illicit trade in antiquities and looting as 1.) a recent development and 2.) a deliberate attempt to exclude “independent scholars” [i.e. dealers/collectors] from participating in academic discourse (for example, see my discussion at Numismatics and Archaeology: “‘Dilettanti and Shopmen': Divergent Interests in Looting and Cultural Heritage Issues,” 7 May 2008). Is this just one component of the tactics employed by profiteers, who attempt to portray their activities as scholarly in their public-relations battle with archaeologists and cultural preservation advocates? (cf. J.L. Hall, “The Fig and the Spade: Countering the Deceptions of Treasure Hunters,” AIA Archaeology Watch. 15 Aug. 2007).

For a very long time there has been a clear difference between the interests of scholars and scientists and those who exploit our history for mere financial profit. The public should not be deceived. The AIA has a long legacy of supporting efforts to protect cultural heritage from destruction.

Harrison Ford and the AIA

Cross posted from Numsimatics and Archaeology: “Harrison Ford and the AIA” 13 June 2008.

Several weeks ago, I reported on the Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) appointment of Harrison Ford to its Board of Directors (Numismatics and Archaeology: “‘That Belongs in a Museum!’” 21 May 2008). Harrison Ford is popularly known for his role as the dashing, adventurous archaeologist, Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr., in the Indiana Jones films. Since Harrison Ford’s appointment to the AIA Board of Directors, there has been some controversy over the appointment (there are some links to these discussion in the comments section of my previous post).

SAFECORNER recently posted a reaction by Oscar Muscarella, a well-known scholar and advocate against the illicit trade in antiquities and an active AIA member (“‘Indiana Jones is a Plunderer.’ What do you Think?” 5 June 2008). SAFECORNER has asked for public comment on the controversy and has received a dozen comments so far.

In the AIA article announcing Ford’s appointment to the Board, the AIA President, Brian Rose, stated: “Harrison Ford has played a significant role in stimulating the public’s interest in archaeological exploration.” Surely, this is an accurate statement and the films have cult status among many young archaeologists. As an undergraduate studying archaeology and classical studies, I was a member of my university’s “Archaeology Club,” which organized trips to local archaeological sites, “pot parties” (not what you are thinking – these consisted of purchasing cheap Wal-Mart ceramics, smashing them and then gluing them back together again), and other social gatherings. One of the most popular events were the regular Indiana Jones movie marathons. I recall several students in archaeology that I went to college with said that the Indiana Jones films were partly responsible for their desire to study archaeology. As archaeologists, we are fully aware of the differences in archaeological practice and ethics used by the fictional Indiana Jones and archaeologists working in the real world. But what about the general public?

The controversy does not seem to be so much a question of whether or not the Indiana Jones films will inspire someone to loot an archaeological site, but what message the AIA is sending by putting the actor behind Jones’ character on its Board of Directors. The AIA has adopted a bold stance on archaeological ethics and has supported research on and legislative measures against the illicit trade in antiquities. Does the appointment of “Indiana Jones” to the AIA Board then exacerbate public perception that artifacts are there for the taking by anyone who comes across them? This seems to be the question at the heart of the controversy and is a question well worth asking. For example, when I tell people I am an archaeologist, I am always asked at least one of two questions, “So you’re into dinosaurs?” or “Do you get to keep what you find?” Muscarella’s concerns are justified.

I wonder, however, if it may be too early to assess the capacity in which Ford will work with the AIA. Indeed, the first line of the AIA article reads: “‘Indiana Jones” shows his commitment to real archaeology.'” Ford himself stated, “Knowledge is power, and understanding the past can only help us in dealing with the present and the future.” It has been reported that Harrison Ford has lent his star-power to advocacy against wildlife trafficking in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State and WildAid. Will Mr. Ford also use his celebrity status and his Indiana Jones stardom to help raise public awareness on the problem of plunder and the illicit antiquities trade in his new role at the AIA? I hope so.

Already, some from the collecting and trade community seem concerned about Harrison Ford’s new role at the AIA. Two prominent members of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG), a lobby of ancient coin dealers and collectors that I and others have discussed elsewhere (relevant posts at SAFECORNER and Looting Matters), have expressed fear that Ford will help raise public awareness on looting and the trade in antiquities. Jim McGarigle, an ancient coin dealer who lobbied Republican Congressmen in Wisconsin, on behalf of the ACCG, to put “collectors rights” on the state’s Republican party platform, apparently with no concern regarding the source or nature of collected material, recently stated on the Unidroit List:

“I predicted something like this would occur over a year ago [Ford’s appointment]. Be ready for the AIA to pull out the big guns on collecting with an easy celebrity reference where they can put on the ‘White Fedora’ and try to place the black one atop the heads of ancient and world coin collectors.

Maybe it’s time to start writing scripts about a heroic ancient numismatist [dealer/collector] who beats up the bad guys, saves the world and gets the girl or an antiquity collector who solves a murder every week.”

Peter Tompa, the ACCG’s current president, recently blogged about Ford’s support of the State Department and WildAid against wildlife trafficking and expressed concern that he would also help the AIA in its efforts to raise awareness on antiquities trafficking:

“I also have to wonder if Harrison Ford and the State Department are also working on PSAs that will expose the evils of collecting ‘illicit cultural property’ now that Ford has joined the AIA board.”

Like many people, I am sure Harrison Ford has an interest in archaeology and ancient history and I am delighted he is so enthusiastic about it that he decided to become an active part of the leading professional organization for archaeologists. I am anxious to see in what capacity Mr. Ford will be working with the AIA and wish him the best in his exciting new position.

"Indiana Jones is a plunderer." What do you think?

Dr. Oscar Muscarella, outspoken critic of the antiquities trade and the plunder of artifacts from archaeological sites, sent us the following:

“Brian Rose has stated that the movie character Indiana Jones ‘has played a significant role in stimulating the public’s interest in archaeological exploration,’ …{but] Jones is the very antithesis of an archaeologist. In fact, he has played a significant role in stimulating the destroyers of sites, the plunderers who supply ‘antiquities’ to a museum.

Indeed, let me say loud and clear: the AIA President has made a serious and very unfortunate blunder. He has publicly proclaimed that he has no idea what archaeology is, what it is not, and he has thereby compromised the AIA and its membership, which includes me, and thousands of others.”

Dr. Muscarella leads SAFE Tours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Tell us what YOU think.

Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Engage the Final Frontier

The current and last issues of Archaeology, a publication of the AIA, discussed the future prospects of space tourism and the need to protect historical objects orbiting our planet and left behind on the moon. Objects from the earliest days of the American and Russian space programs, these relics testify to humanity’s first efforts to travel beyond the confines of the Earth and to reach out to worlds far beyond us.

Over the next few decades, as space tourism becomes commercialized, average people may be able to take trips to the moon. Some archaeologists caution that plans need to be in place to protect artifacts in orbit and on the lunar surface. Something as iconic as Neil Armstrong’s footprints on the moon’s surface could easily be destroyed by the mere brush of a hand.

An interview regarding these concerns can be found on the Archaeology magazine website. For the articles see Archaeology 60:5 (Sept./Oct. 2007) and 60:6 (Nov./Dec. 2007).

 

Archaeologists don’t care about ancient coins?

The notion that classical archaeologists do not care about ancient coins, or are ignorant of the utility of their study, is a myth repeatedly perpetuated by vocal members of the coin dealer lobby. One evident example is on the FAQ page of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG):

“Aren’t archaeologists good custodians of ancient coins?

While a few dedicated archaeologist-numismatists do care about coins and have used them to make important contributions to the study of numismatics, many, if not most, archaeologists view coins as just one means to date archaeological sites. Most well preserved specimens that numismatists prize do not even originate from archaeological sites. That is because most large hoards rarely come to light at archaeological sites; the ancients typically sought to hide their savings away from the prying eyes of neighbors. Instead of large hoards of well preserved coins, archaeologists typically find large numbers of ancient “small change” that was lost over time. Such coins are often so corroded by direct exposure to the soil as to be deemed uncollectible. Archaeologists tend not to treat such coins as important historical objects in themselves. Instead, after they serve a limited purpose as but one means to date archaeological sites, coins are all too often dumped into plastic bags and left to deteriorate in storage that usually lacks proper environmental controls.”

While there are some small grains of truth in aspects of this statement (e.g. some archaeologists and numismatists are slow to publish and make finds available for study), the claim that is made (essentially that archaeologists are not competent enough to study coins) is unsubstantiated and false; furthermore, the absolute contrary is demonstrable (see, for example, “Why Coins Matter,” “Misunderstanding the Portable Antiquities Scheme.” The Intellectual Consequences of Collecting Classical Coins,” “It’s All the Same: the Looting of ‘High Art’ vs. the Looting of the Minor Arts,” “Coins, Contexts and Collecting,” and “Can Cultural Property Legislation Kill an Academic Discipline?“).

The falsehood that archaeologists are too incompetent to advocate for the the protection of ancient coins from archaeological sites, even though they are important archaeological objects routinely found at archaeological sites, is evidently perpetuated by vocal members of the dealer lobby in order to present themselves as more appropriate custodians of ancient coins, in an attempt to lend credence to their arguments that ancient coins should be freely traded without a concern for the circumstances concerning their origin and journey to the market and to protect “trade secrets.” The latest unsubstantiated assertion of this idea was posted yesterday by one of the lobby’s top leaders, Wayne Sayles, who is the founder and Executive Director of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG). In the blog entry “Intrinsic Interests,” he attempts to contextualize the interest of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in cultural property issues relating to ancient coins as “sudden” and as an assault on private collectors, referencing the AIA’s post on Archaeology Watch about “Coins and Archaeology”. Mr. Sayles has routinely criticized classical archaeology in general terms and the AIA more specifically for its concerns relating to the protection of cultural heritage and archaeological sites (see for example “Hijacked by Zealots” and “Archaeology: a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?“).

In his latest post, Mr. Sayles disparages the AIA and classical archaeologists in general by saying:

“The more that archaeologists learn about coins from antiquity, the more they will realize that the context within which they are found is merely one aspect, and a small one at that, of the tremendous historical resource that coins present.”

He continues:

“Unfortunately, the AIA’s motives for this blossoming interest are suspect. Having virtually ignored coins for scores of years, why is the AIA disposed now to highlight the value of coins to archaeology? The answer is really quite basic. The numismatic community, comprised primarily of independent scholars, has argued effectively that archaeologists do not have a preeminent claim to the acquisition or study of ancient coins, much less to the dissemination of knowledge about them and about the past from whence they came. If the AIA were to acknowledge this simple fact, it would expose a chink in the armor of their perceived supremacy. So, be prepared to see a lot more ink spilled by the AIA and other archaeological support groups regarding the “importance” of coins. Oddly, collectors have always known that coins are important. This awakening by archaeologists is probably a good thing if they really consider the issues rather than just fill the web and print media with institutional propaganda.”

These comments reflect either a lack of knowledge regarding both classical archaeology and academic contributions to numismatics or a desire to gloss over them. Instead of responding to sweeping generalizations and unsubstantiated assertions with the same, I shall respond with some facts:

Fact 1. Contrary to the assertions, classical archaeologists have always cared about ancient coins and DO study them (the Archaeology Watch webpage in question addressed the value of coins in archaeology); additionally, numismatists regularly participate in AIA activities and are an integral part of that organization. Please do not take my word for it, but take the evidence into account. A keyword search of “coins” from the online abstract archive for the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 AIA meetings returned 57 papers directly addressing or relating to numismatic topics; I include the full list of results:

Abstracts from the 2007 Meeting

-The Philaïd Coinage of the Thracian Chersonesus, Sarah Bolmarcich, University of Michigan

-Symbolic Rivalry on the Imperial Coinage of the Island of Lesbos, Matthew F. Notarian, University at Buffalo-SUNY

-Icaria: History and Coins, Evangelia Georgiou, University of Ioannina

-Political Ideology and Roman Architectural Coin Types of the Republic and Empire, Nathan T. Elkins, University of Missouri-Columbia

-Roman War and Republican Coin Types, Rosemarie Trentinella, New York University

-Cistophori and Identity in Roman Asia Minor, Marsha B. McCoy, Austin College

-Research at the Castle of Marko in the Republic of Macedonia, Michael Fuller and Neathery Batsell Fuller, St. Louis Community College

-Excavations at Sarhoyok-Dorylaion in Phrygia Epictetos/Turkey, Taciser Tufekci Sivas, Anadolu Universitesi

-Discovery of the Roman Forum of Buthrotum (Butrint): Current Excavations, David R. Hernandez, University of Cincinnati

-Spectator Galleries on Honorary Arches: An Overlooked Function of Roman State Architecture, Martin Beckmann, Wilfrid Laurier University

-Maxentius and the Temple of Roma, Elisha Ann Dumser, Ursuline College

-Hellenistic and Roman Coins from Gordion: A Case for Monetization, Kenneth Harl, Tulane University

-Traces of Hellenistic Petra: Excavations on the Temenos of the Qasr al-Bint, Petra, Jordan, Andreas J.M. Kropp, University of Nottingham

Abstracts from the 2006 Meeting

-Starry Heroes in Late Ancient Rome, Dennis Trout, University of Missouri-Columbia

-Dharma or Diplomacy? A Reassessment of Cultural Policy in the Indo-Greek Kingdom, Jed M. Thorn, University of Cincinnati

-The Heroon at Messene: New Observations on Order, Style, and Date, Pieter B. F. J. Broucke, Middlebury College

-New Glass Finds from Cyprus: Evidence for Ritual, Dating, and Trade, Danielle A. Parks, Brock University

-Images of the Illustrious and the Reconstruction of the Past on Titus’s Restored Coins, Sarah E. Cox, Columbia University

-Monumental Messages: The Meaning of Changes in the Representation of Architecture on Roman Coins in the Early Empire, Martin Beckmann, University of Heidelberg

-Determining the Function of the So-Called Temple of Romulus in Rome, Elisha Dumser, University of Pennsylvania

-The Intensive Urban Survey Project at Kastro Kallithea, Greece: First Results, Margriet J. Haagsma and Sean Gouglas, University of Alberta, Athanasios Tziafalias and Sophia Karapanou, 15th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities

-The Last of the Scythians, Nancy T. de Grummond, Florida State University

-Presenting the King: Herod the Great and Political Self-Presentation, Adam Kolman Marshak, Yale University, and Rebecca Donahue, Boston Society of the AIA

-Italian Bronze Age Pottery and Twenty-First-Century Scholarly Communication, Susan S. Lukesh, Hofstra University, and R. Ross Holloway, Brown University

-Harboring Fantasies in Roman Crete, George W. M. Harrison, AIA Member at Large

-Numismatic Paronomasia and the Case of Caesar’s Elephant, Edward Zarrow, Yale University

-Augustus’s Altar-ed State: The Altars of the Lares Augusti on Augustan Quadrantes, Lea Cline, The University of Texas at Austin

-The Origins of the Commemoration of Women on Roman Coinage, Tracene Harvey, University of Alberta, Edmonton

-The Function and Distribution of the Flavian Colosseum Sestertii: Currency or Largess? (Results of a Die Study), Nathan T. Elkins, University of Missouri-Columbia

Abstracts from the 2005 Meeting

-The “Numismatic Habit”? Roman Coins and Roman Inscriptions from Augustus, Edward Zarrow, Yale University

-Stone Offering Boxes (Thesauroi) in the Ritual and Administration of Greek Sanctuaries, Isabelle Pafford, UC Berkeley

-The Bust-Crown, the Panhellenion, and Eleusis: A New Portrait from the Athenian Agora, Lee Ann Riccardi, The College of New Jersey

-The “Skyphos Sanctuary” on the North Slope of the Acropolis, Kevin T. Glowacki, Indiana University, and Susan I. Rotroff, Washington University in St. Louis

-Imperial Cult in the Colosseum, Nathan T. Elkins, The University of Missouri, Columbia

-The Use of Die Studies as a Corrective to Late Seleucid History, Oliver D. Hoover, The American Numismatic Society

-Royal Women in Nabataea: The Case of Rabbel and Shuqailat, Bjorn Anderson, University of Michigan

-Conceptions of Rome: The Meta Sudans on Roman Imperial and Provincial Coinage, Brenda Longfellow, University of Michigan

-Under the Gaze of the Empress: Succession and Political Participation in Severan Coinage, Julie Langford-Johnson, Indiana University, Bloomington

-Communicating Royal Power in the Bosporan Kingdom, Patric-Alexander Kreuz, Freie Universität Berlin

-Keeping Up with the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, Olga Palagia, University of Athens

-Hellenistic Geronthrai: Archaeological Evidence for the Changing Life of a Perioikic Community at the Foot of the Parnon, Mieke Prent and Joost H. Crouwel, University of Amsterdam, and Elizabeth Langridge-Noti, The American College of Greece

-The Origins of Pompeian Domestic Architecture: New Evidence from the House of the Surgeon, Rick Jones and Damian Robinson, University of Bradford, and Steven J.R. Ellis, The University of Sydney

Abstracts from the 2004 Meeting

-False Fronts: Separating the Imperial Cult from the Aediculated Facade in the Roman Near East, Barbara Burrell, University of Cincinnati

-A Late Roman Settlement “Explosion”? The Continuity and Reuse of Sites in the Eastern Corinthia, David K. Pettegrew, The Ohio State University

-A Sample of Bullae from Zeugma, Sharon Herbert, University of Michigan

-Embellishing the Garden: A Glimpse of Private Life in Julio-Claudian Cosa, Jacquelyn Collins-Clinton, Cornell University

-The Apadana Coin Hoards, Darius I, and the West, Antigoni Zournatzi, The National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens

-Ponēra Khalkia: Towards the Contextualization of Archaic/Classical Plated Coinage, Peter van Alfen, American Numismatic Society

-Regional Economy and Reconstruction: The Stymphalos Hoard of 1999, Robert G.A. Weir, University of Windsor

-Beyond Payment: Alternate Uses of Coins in the Ancient World, Sebastian Heath, American Numismatic Society

-Excavations in the Athenian Agora, John McK. Camp II, American School of Classical Studies at Athens and Randolph-Macon College

-Preliminary Report on the Hellenistic Material from the Dutch Excavations at Geraki (Geronthrai) in Laconia, Elizabeth Langridge-Noti, American College of Greece, and Mieke Prent, University of Amsterdam

-The Emperor, the Sun, and the Son: The Arch and the Colossus in Constantine’s Rome, Elizabeth Marlowe, Columbia University and American Academy in Rome

The 2008 meeting’s preliminary program is also online and includes several papers and panels directly addressing numismatics.

Fact 2. In addition to scholarly numismatic journals, such as the Numismatic Chronicle or the American Journal of Numismatics, other journals frequently host articles on numismatic topics, especially archaeological journals. Since July 2005, the American Journal of Archaeology(AJA), a publication of the AIA, has hosted at least four articles that address numismatic topics:

The Date of the Sardis Synagogue in Light of the Numismatic Evidence
Author: Jodi Magness
Volume: 109.3, Pages: 443-475

New Archaic Coin Finds at Sardis
Author: Nicholas Cahill and John H. Kroll
Volume: 109.4, Pages: 589-

Archaeology of Empire: Athens and Crete in the Fifth Century B.C.
Author: Brice Erickson
Volume: 109.4, Pages: 619-

Visualizing Ceremony: The Design and Audience of the Ludi Saeculares Coinage of Domitian
Author: Melanie Grunow Sobocinski
Volume: 110.4, Pages: 581-602

The AJA is a quarterly academic journal, which typically hosts between 3 and 5 articles per journal; and thus, numismatic topics can comprise a rather significant part of intrinsically related disciplines represented in the journal (e.g. ceramics, numismatics, topography, etc.), considering the journal addresses classical archaeology as a whole. For our readers that have JSTOR access or live in proximity to a good library, one can see that back issues of the AJA contain a plethora of numismatic articles and that the AJA is an important resource for numismatic research (more specifically see Sebastian Heath’s recent comments, on Sayles’ blog entry, about the history of the AJA and its long association with numismatists and numismatic publication). Other archaeological journals, which may be unfamiliar to many collectors and dealers, such as the Journal of Roman Archaeology, frequently host numismatic topics.

Fact 3. Contrary to what some members of the dealer lobby would have the general public and their constituents believe, the AIA has a strong relationship with numismatists. For example, the current AIA president is an alumnus of the American Numismatic Society graduate seminar on Greek and Roman numismatics, has taught graduate seminars on numismatics, and also has published books and articles that incorporate numismatic evidence. There is also a numismatist currently on the AIA’s Board of Academic Trustees. Additionally, one of the AIA’s largest “interest groups” is the “Friends of Numismatics,” which is comprised of alumni of the American Numismatic Society graduate seminar and other numismatists; the Friends of Numismatics meet annually at the AIA meeting. (Note: the “Friends of Numismatics,” associated with the AIA, should not be confused with the ACCG’s “Friend of Numismatics” award, which the lobby uses to honor individuals who “advance” or “protect” ancient coin collecting).

Fact 4. Unlike the AIA, the ACCG is a new organization, founded within the past few years, which arose in response to cultural property advocacy efforts that conflict with the interests of ancient coin collectors and especially dealers, who comprise most of the organization’s officers, all of its “benefactors,” and the majority of its “patrons.” The ACCG’s goals are highlighted on its “objectives” page. One of the ACCG’s primary aims is “to fight for the continued existence of a free market for all collector coins.”

Mr. Sayles pretends as if archaeologists know nothing about coins, objects which are commonly excavated at classical archaeological sites, and attempts to portray advocacy efforts to protect the contextual study of ancient coins and archaeological sites as misguided, since (in his mind) archaeologists should know nothing about coins. In my view, the AIA’s Archaeology Watch page, which Mr. Sayles rails against, reflects a concern many archaeologists have had for decades about looting and the role of the antiquities trade – which includes the trade in ancient coins – in the destruction of archaeological sites and historical information.

Why was the Archaeology Watch page on “Coins and Archaeology” posted this year? Anyone who has been following the discussions on ancient coins and cultural property (for example, on Looting Matters, SAFECORNER, or elsewhere) knows that Cyprus’ request for import restrictions on ancient coins and the U.S. State Department’s subsequent recognition of that request has caused an outcry from the coin dealer lobby, a lobby that attempts to thwart any legislation or protective measures designed to protect archaeological sites and cultural heritage should that legislation include anything that may hinder a completely unregulated and “free market” in ancient coins. Although I am not privy to the immediate circumstances regarding the AIA’s decision to post the “Coins and Archaeology” page, I suspect the ACCG’s outspoken activities, its unceasing assaults against the AIA and classical archaeology in general, and its gross oversimplification of the issues might have contributed to it.

The unregulated trade in ancient coins is responsible for some systematic looting and is forever destroying an important avenue into critical historical inquiry. These issues have already been examined in “Why Coins Matter” and a more substantial work is in preparation. The dealer lobby consistently downplays the value of context and asserts that collectors and dealers are the only people able to produce “scholarship” on ancient coins (see “Can Cultural Property Legislation Kill an Academic Discipline?”). Indeed, context is not the only aspect of numismatic or scholarly inquiry, but it is an important one and one that is essential to serious economic, circulation, and even iconographic studies. Context is an highly important aspect of any archaeological object or historical document and this aspect of an object should not be destroyed or ignored if at all possible. What if the Reka Devnia hoard had been found by a looter or metal detectorist and sold on the market with no record of its find spot or context? (The Reka Devnia hoard is one of the largest, if not the largest, ancient coin hoards ever discovered and contained c. 350 kg of silver Roman coins; it was excavated at Marcianopolis (see David Gill’s blog entry “Misunderstanding the Portable Antiquities Scheme” and comments there)).

In his newest blog post, Mr. Sayles betrays his misunderstanding of archaeology and has again drawn a distinction between “collectible” coins and “worthless” coins that are on the market. Another numismatist has commented that what Mr. Sayles has egregiously labeled “junk” and “trash” are invaluable historical sources. To an archaeologist and field numismatist, all coins are essential to understanding our history and the conditions under which our ancestors lived.

It is constantly claimed by vocal members of the ancient coin dealer lobby that classical archaeologists and cultural property advocates are driving a wedge between numismatists and the academic community. The facts do not support this spurious claim; as was related above, the AIA, for example, is an organization that embraces numismatists and numismatic research. In fact, it is the ancient coin dealer lobby painting a picture of discord, perhaps to rouse action from collectors and lawmakers in Washington to protect their ability to import and trade in “fresh” material indiscriminately, regardless of that material’s origin or the conditions regarding its acquisition (see again “Why Coins Matter” on the source of much of the new material presently on the market; also cf. Hall, J.L. 2007. “The Fig and the Spade: Countering the Deceptions of Treasure Hunters.” Archaeology Watch. 15 Aug., on how groups with a financial interest in trading in antiquities attempt to win public approval by portraying themselves as practicing serious scientific and scholarly activities). If ACCG leaders seriously want a “constructive dialogue,” let us stick to the facts and avoid the reactionary emotional responses and unsubstantiated generalizations and assertions that lack veracity.

*Since I am responding to criticisms leveled against the AIA specifically, but also classical archaeology as a whole, I should note that although I am a member of the AIA, the views presented here do not necessarily reflect the individual views of the AIA’s leadership, the general membership, or its institutional stances. Instead, I respond here in my capacity as a classical archaeologist and a numismatist sensitive to issues relating to looting and the widespread destruction of archaeological and historical information, and as an individual concerned about the future our ability to critically examine and understand humanity’s past – the forbearers of modern civilization – through disciplines that incorporate the study of material culture via the application of a scientific methodology.