Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Beware of Greeks Buying Cultural Property

This article from piqued my interest:

In it, Macedonians complain about Greeks coming in and buying "their looted cultural property," particularly from the period of Alexander the Great (the article confuses 4th c. AD with 4th c. BC). As such, this is a welcome change from the usual tired stories where Greeks complain about other foreigners coming in and buying "their looted cultural property."

I again quote the article in full as I am not sure how long the link will remain active:

Greeks Are Buying up Macedonia’s Archaeological Treasures

9 June 2008 Buyers from Greece are purchasing archaeological artefacts from Macedonia through illegal channels, Macedonian media reported today.“Treasure-seekers and gullible citizens,” according to the Utrinski vestnik newspaper, are selling antiques they have discovered at exceptionally low prices. In this way they are selling history, archaeologists from the town of Bitola say.Historical treasures, ceramics, coins, glass, metal and decorative objects found by citizens of Bitola in their yards or fields often end up at the antiques black market in Greece.Greek buyers are especially interested in objects from the fourth century AD, the time of Alexander the Great, who is also known as Alexander III of Macedon. Claims over his nationality play an important part in the dispute between Greece and Macedonia about the latter’s name, which have marked the tense relationship between the two countries for more than 50 years, reaching a high point in recent months.Experts, quoted by Utrinski Vestik, appeal to the Macedonian state to establish a fund for the trade of Macedonian antique artefacts in order to create a legal market and set adequate prices for them. This, they claim, would be the only way to counteract the trend which could harm Macedonia’s national identity.

In truth, I suspect the article might really be largely motivated by the testy diplomatic relations between the two neighbors briefly alluded to in the piece. The Nationalistic Greek Government can't even really accept the fact that Macedonia exists as a sovereign nation. Ever since it gained independence, Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have traded barbs over most everything, including the new country's name and its flag. See:

In any event, it should also be noted that the article suggests that creation of licit markets will at least keep the locals from being cheated by Greeks in search of a bargain. Perhaps, Roger Bland can visit Macedonia sometime. It might be a good place to see if the UK's success with the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme could be replicated.

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