While archaeological bloggers seem unwilling or unable to consider the possibility that politics impacts how nations deal with cultural property issues far more than their polestar of "preservation of context," three recent news stories suggest otherwise.
- France has just announced that it will repatriate some reliefs that Zahi Hawass says were stolen. See http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091007/sc_nm/us_france_egypt_louvre Hawass had threatened to break off contacts with the Louvre on account of it. "Culture Grrl" has noted that the Louvre (which is building a museum in Abu Dhabi) values its ties to the Arabs and the Middle East. See http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2009/10/news_flash_hawass_cuts_off_egy.html Apparently so. Unlike the Saint Louis Art Museum (which continues to contest Egypt's claims to the Ka Nefer Nefer Mask), the Louvre has quickly acceded to the Egyptian demands.
- In the meantime, Iran has threatened to cut off ties with the British Museum because the Museum has delayed a loan of the "Cyrus Cylinder." http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aZmy0YWB2aKo The British Government (along with most of the Western world) has raised serious concerns about the recent Iranian election. In return, Iranian authorities have branded Britain the "Little Satan" to associate it with its ally, "the Great Satan," i.e., the United States. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1907066,00.html I suspect the "Cyrus Cylinder" is not leaving the British Museum soon, despite Iranian threats.
- Finally, one museum in Taiwan has declined a donation of the bronze rabbit and rat fountain heads from the Qing Dynasty's Yuanmingyuan (Summer Palace) that were subject of a disputed auction earlier this year. See http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jpBbcQZ9T56kgQFFBVeOcuw1kPzQ Taiwan recently elected a government more friendly to the mainland. Could that have something to do with the decision? Despite the comments of the legislator associated with the ruling party, quite probably.