Friday, August 22, 2008

Cyprus, CAARI and BOCCF- "There Is, As Always, a Lot of Hypocrisy Around."

David Gill’s post of a story about looting in Cyprus brought an interesting response by an academic based in the North of the country, Marc Fehlmann. The link to what Fehlmann said is here: (along with a lot of extraneous material reflecting Gill's apparent fixation on the ACCG and its officers). Perhaps Fehlmann, who is evidently based in the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," feels more free to opine about these issues than his colleagues in the jingoistic Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus in the South.

In any event, Fehlmann believes that little archaeological material seems to be currently leaving Cyprus. Instead, he suggests that wealthy Greek Cypriot collectors are likely buying what becomes available for their own collections. Like Gill, Fehlmann considers a lack of provenance information to suggest that the material in these collections was looted recently. Focusing on this Cypriot dimension of the looting problem, Fehlmann concludes, "It would be helpful, if those who deplore the looting in Cyprus would also indicate its consequences to the privileged few who can afford to have their collections published... There is, as always, a lot of hypocrisy around."

I am not aware of anyone performing a similar study of coins in the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation (BOCCF) collection, but it would not surprise me if most of the coins in that collection did not have any solid provenance history either. (This is typical of coins in circulation in the marketplace. Unlike Gill and Fehlmann I reject the assumption that lack of provenance is indicative of recent looting, at least for this category of artifacts.) In any event, a quick perusal of the copyrighted BOCCF website does not reveal any provenance information recorded for coins in the collection other than the accession dates.

As you may suspect, I am not against collecting unprovenanced coins. In fact, I applaud the BOCCF's efforts to create a comprehensive collection of coins of Cypriot type for display. However, given the apparent lack of provenance information for the BOCCF collection, I find it odd that Eleni Zapiti, the Curator of the BOCCF coin collection, wrote to CPAC in support of a crack down on imports into the United States of unprovenanced "coins of Cypriot type."

I also find it hypocritical for the Government of the Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus to press for such restrictions on American collectors when I can find no indication that Cyprus requires a showing of provenance information for imports of ancient coins of any type into the country. (For example, as far as I know, BOCCF can buy coins "of Cypriot type" freely in the U.S. for "repatriation" back to Cyprus. In contrast, American citizens must now make an impractical, if not impossible, "provenance showing" before such coins are lawfully imported into the U.S.)

And what about CAARI? In my opinion, CAARI is the most hypocritical of all. According to CAARI's own President, CAARI was "instrumental" in the decision to extend import restrictions and their provenance requirements to coins of Cypriot type. See Cyprus News Agency, “CAARI-30 Years Interview with Gustave Feissel” available online at: (“CAARI, according to Feissel, has been instrumental in the renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding between Cyprus and the US to restrict the import of Cypriot antiquities into the US, including for the first time ancient coins.”). Yet, at the very same time CAARI was arguing for a clamp down on American collectors, CAARI was also only all too happy to accept at least in-kind support from BOCCF-- and all without questioning BOCCF's own collecting practices. See generally

As Fehlmann has stated, "There is, as always, a lot of hypocrisy around."

1 comment:

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