Friday, October 17, 2014

Viking Hoard

A significant Viking era treasure was recently found in Scotland and reported under its Treasure Trove law.  More evidence-- if any is needed-- that systems that encourage the public to report their finds with the prospect of compensation are much preferable to those which don't.

PAS-Syrian Style?

Archaeo-blogger Paul Barford sees ISIS inspired looting in Syria, apparently organized with the help of local archaeologists (who may very well be acting under extreme duress) as the Syrian equivalent of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.  He then goes out of his way to disparage a real American archaeologist with impeccable credentials-- who has actually done something constructive about the sad situation by helping to train Syrian museum professionals -- in his screed.

Presumably, some of the more responsible individuals at the AIA and in the archaeological lobby may be may be wondering whether having such an unguided missile "on their side" is more of a curse than a blessing.  If not, they should.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Turkey Needs to Act

CPO's takeaway from the New Yorker's piece on ISIS is that Turkey needs to do far more to control its own borders if there is any hope in slowing the pace of looting in Syria. 

The organized looting US archaeologists say is taking place in Syria stems from the unrest there.  According to the piece, even trained archaeologists are joining in-- though whether for personal gain or to literally save their heads-- cannot be determined.

We can't change the facts on the ground.  But, for looting to be lucrative (if it really is as claimed), any looted material needs to get out of the war zone.  This is where Turkey --which shares a long border with Syria-- comes in.  The article states artifacts looted from sites supposedly under the Assad regime's control are openly available for sale in Turkish border towns.  And one would suppose Turkey would also be the major transit point for such material-- though where it is going -- if it is leaving Turkey in quantity-- appears to be a mystery. 

So, why is the archaeological lobby far more interested in promoting "emergency import restrictions" here on anything that looks remotely "Syrian" than on pressuring the Turkish government to address the problem at the source?  After all, the archaeological lobby has offered unqualified support for even the most questionable Turkish repatriation demands-- so shouldn't we also expect that they can and should call out Turkey to do the right thing?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why Send Them Back to Iraq or Syria for that Matter?

Kenneth Bandler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, wonders why anyone would still want to send the Jewish Archive back to Iraq given the sectarian violence in the country.

He might be surprised to learn there are probably more than a few in the archaeological community who still advocate doing so.

And let's not forget Syria.  Archaeological groups are in full court press mode advocating that the US impose "emergency import restrictions."

But these would also help guarantee that any such Jewish artifacts that arrive here to escape destruction are repatriated by US Customs back to a country that is largely controlled either by the murderous Assad regime that is evidently responsible for shelling an important historic synagogue into dust or the even more murderous and destructive iconoclasts of ISIS.

Go figure.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Forfeiture Funnies

Comedian John Oliver has given civil forfeiture laws quite a send-up.  One may rightly ask: Are forfeitures of cultural goods on behalf of foreign governments-- some of which are outright dictatorial or authoritarian regimes-- any less prone to abuse?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Academics vs. Practitioners

The New York Times has done a public service by publishing a series of essays offering prescriptions for what ails Syria's cultural patrimony.   Not surprisingly, experts with real word experience favor addressing the problem at the source.  On the other hand, academics with an axe to grind against collecting propose more "emergency import restrictions" despite real questions about their efficacy.  In so doing, they no doubt fully understand  the collateral damage such restrictions cause on collecting common artifacts of the sort which don't typically carry detailed collecting histories.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Polish Collectors' Rights Advocate?

It was not too long ago that Poland broke free from Communism and its apparatchicks.   So its disheartening that Polish officials have apparently seized a legitimately purchased Egyptian artifact on no more than the say-so of representatives of Egypt's military dictatorship.  Oddly enough, archaeo-blogger Paul Barford is the one who has brought all this to our attention.  So, why is such arbitrary action wrong in Poland, but to be applauded on his blog when it takes place in the United States?