Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Petrie Rolling Over in his Grave?

Flinders Petrie was one of those great archaeologist-collectors of the 19th-20th centuries. His massive collection was sold to help form the basis of the Petrie Museum at the University College London.

So, CPO wonders how the great one would feel about his namesake museum not only taking the AIA's St. Louis chapter to task for deaccessioning some Egyptian artifacts, but actually suggesting that the sale of well-provenance material in their possession encourages criminal activity.

Friday, September 26, 2014

And the Millionth PAS ....

"find is a Roman coin in a  hoard of 22,000 others dating to around AD341 found in Seaton, Devon. The copper alloy coin, called a nummus, was struck in AD 332 at the mint of Lyon (Gaul). It shows the personification of Constantinopolis on the obverse and a Victory on prow on the reverse. This very common type was struck by Constantine the Great across the Empire to celebrate the inauguration of the new city of Constantinople which was to become the capital of the Eastern Empire."

Congratulations again to Roger Bland and the Portable Antiquities Scheme for this achievement.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

1 Million Recorded

The Portable Antiquities Scheme has now recorded 1 million objects.

It should be no surprise there are no similar achievements in countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Italy.  Confiscatory laws and fiats against collecting, the stuff of dictators, don't work.  Fair play-- which ensures the State pays fair market value for what finds it wants to keep-- does.  The PAS recognizes metal detectorists, collectors, and other interested members of the public as legitimate stake holders, and they have responded enthusiastically.  The proof is not only in the numbers, but in what all those finds reported by the public have told us about English and Welsh history.

CPO congratulates the PAS and Roger Bland for this important milestone. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ADCAEA Issues Due Diligence Guidelines

The Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art have issued due diligence guidelines for its members, primarily dealers and collectors of high-end material. 

The guidelines set forth some things to consider, taking into account value of the object, how common it is, and its potential origin.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Italy's Culture Cops Cash in on Looted Art

Remember those high minded claims that Italy would voluntarily share its cultural wealth with American museum-goers in return for a MOU that would drastically limit the ability of American citizens to legally import art sourced to that country?

That was 2001.  Fast forward to 2014.  Now, educational "long term museum loans" have instead devolved into an ostentatious self-promotional for-profit display entitled, "Treasures and Tales of Italy's Guardia di Finanzia Art Recovery Team." 

According to a promo,

Priceless antiquities. Ruthless grave robbers. High-tech counterfeits. International smuggling routes that run from the necropolises of Tarquinia, Italy to the posh auction houses of London, England, from the seedy underbelly of the black market to world-renown museums.
Ripped from the case files of the Guardia di Finanza, stories like these will be told during “Treasures and Tales of Italy’s Guardia di Finanza Art Recovery Team,” a groundbreaking exhibition of priceless works of Etruscan and Greco-Roman art and craftsmanship, on display at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware from Oct. 3-Dec. 21.

Each ancient ceramic, mosaic and statue tells a story, not just of the time of its creation, but also of its theft and recovery by the indefatigable agents of the Gruppo Tutela Patrimonio Archeologico, the art recovery team inside the Guardia di Finanza.
These artifacts may be "priceless," but they may nonetheless be seen for $15, the cost of admission. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

As the Archaeological Blogosphere Celebrates the Latest Repatriation, Serious Questions Are Being Raised About Government Tactics

As the archaeological blogosphere is celebrating the latest repatriation to Italy, the Los Angeles Times has raised serious questions about the government's hardball tactics used to crack down on collecting Native American artifacts from federal land.

Moreover, John Yoder and Brad Cates, two former chiefs of the Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture office, have concluded the whole civil asset forfeiture program is so prone to abuse that it should be scrapped.

They conclude:

Civil asset forfeiture and money-laundering laws are gross perversions of the status of government amid a free citizenry. The individual is the font of sovereignty in our constitutional republic, and it is unacceptable that a citizen should have to “prove” anything to the government. If the government has probable cause of a violation of law, then let a warrant be issued. And if the government has proof beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt, let that guilt be proclaimed by 12 peers.

While Yoder and Cates do not address civil and criminal forfeitures relating to so-called "cultural property," CPO submits the opportunities for abuse arising from the application of confiscatory foreign patrimony laws as the basis for a National Stolen Property Act violation, may, if anything, be considerably worse.

It's long past time for far greater public scrutiny of government action in this area.  But, who in the media will dig beyond the easy "morality tale" derived from a government press release for the real story?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Commerce Not Such a Bad Thing?

CPO remembers that not so long ago AIA members regularly denounced "commercial interests" at every CPAC meeting.  So, its refreshing to see that the AIA now accepts advertising on its website and that the Saint Louis Chapter is even auctioning off some Egyptian artifacts long in its possession.

Perhaps commercial interests are not so bad after all.