Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Money Laundering?

Archaeo-blogger Rick St. Hilaire seeks to smear an entire industry by suggesting that a difference in values of art and artifacts exported from the UK to the US as recorded by the authorities may be due to money laundering.  But both the US and UK use the same customs codes and UK and US authorities should have access to the same customs documentation.  Moreover, there is no tax dodge involved; art and artifacts enter duty free.  So, isn't it far more likely that instead of evidence of money laundering, what we have is simply evidence that UK authorities are more efficient at data collection?

Who Are the Real Cultural Racketeers?

Colleagues of former Egyptian Antiquities Pharaoh Zahi Hawass have charged him with amassing $14 million in ill-gotten gains in US Banks. 

Presumably, US Prosecutors, who are said to be investigating National Geographic, a former member of the International Coalition to Support the Protection of Egyptian Antiquities, for bribery in an exclusive TV access for cash scheme will get to the bottom of all this.  But given current realities, one suspects any indictments will be delayed until well after the pre-judged MOU with Egypt is announced.

All this does, however, raise an important question that should be discussed whatever the results of these particular investigations.

Is it possible that some of the biggest "cultural racketeers" the Antiquities Coalition say exist are in fact associated with the Egyptian Government itself?   And, it so, does it follow that a MOU with Egypt may only foster yet more corruption?

Lazy Journalism

More lazy journalism on Egyptian antiquities, this time from Reuters and the Chicago Tribune.   Egyptian antiquities have been widely and legally collected since at least the 19th c. and were also widely and legally collected in Egypt itself, until the Mubarak regime declared them state property in 1983.   Many artifacts, particularly those of limited value, have no documentary history, let alone absolute proof that they left Egypt legally before that date.  Yet, no one seems to question this assertion from one of the bureaucrats serving Egypt's military dictatorship: 

[A]nyone seeking to sell an artifact of Egyptian origin should be required to produce a document showing it was lawfully exported from Egypt, whose laws permitted the trade in antiquities until 1983, when all such trade was banned.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Demolish Historic St. Catherine's Monastery?

A retired Egyptian army general who founded Egypt's special operations unit has enlisted Egyptian courts in an effort to demolish the historic St.Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai as a security threat.  While hopefully this effort will be a non-starter, it should give pause to our State Department and thinking members of the archaeological community that such a high ranking officer is taking such a stand.

Of course, any MOU with Egypt will effectively give the "State Department Seal of Approval" to the Egyptian military's control over artifacts from Egypt's past and unleash US Customs to repatriate undocumented artifacts back to Egypt's military rulers.

So again, one must ask is any MOU really about conservation or control and will it really protect Egyptian artifacts or award them to those whose interests lay elsewhere?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Reality Check

Something that should give pause to the thinking members of the archaeological community who are not unalterably opposed to private collecting:

Does "Saying Yes to the Egyptian MOU" really mean "Saying Yes to Egypt's Military Dictatorship?" 

CPO submits as Egypt's phony election for President draws near, the answer will only become increasingly clear.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Clampdown on US Collectors Won't Stop Egyptian Military Dictatorship's Tilt to Russia

If the State Department thinks sacrificing the interests of American collectors and small businesses with a pre-judged MOU will arrest the Egyptian military dictatorships's tilt to Russia, it's probably kidding itself.  CPO suspects that Egypt's generals want Russian weapons that come with no strings attached far more than any "legitimacy" the US Government's grant of a MOU would provide.  Control over antiquities has some nationalist appeal, but there is nothing like a Russian helicopter gunship if you are a military man.

Petition to Save Metal Detecting on Massachusetts Beaches

Here is a petition to sign if you think metal detectorists should be allowed to continue to explore Massachusetts beaches.   CPO is unsure why the nanny state thinks that it needs to control such a pastime in this way.  If anything, along with small change and jewelry, metal detectorists pick up a lot of unwanted metal trash, some of which could hurt other beach goers or wildlife.