Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Case in Antiquities for Finders Keepers

John Tierney, writing in the New York Times Science section, applies Jim Cuno's critiques of the nationalistic cast of the repatriation game to the latest offensives of Zahi Hawass against Western Museums. See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/science/17tier.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

In so doing, he observes,

Restricting the export of artifacts hasn’t ended their theft and looting any more than the war on drugs has ended narcotics smuggling. Instead, the restrictions promote the black market and discourage the kind of open research that would benefit everyone except criminals.


Some of the most culturally protectionist nations today, like Egypt, Italy and Turkey, are trying to hoard treasures that couldn’t have been created without the inspiration provided by imported works of art. (Imagine the Renaissance without the influence of “looted” Greek antiquities.) And the current political rulers of those countries often have little in common culturally with the creators of the artifacts they claim to own.

I can't agree more, but would again suggest systems like the U.K.'s Treasure Act and PAS can help make the public allies of archaeologists and the State when it comes to reporting antiquities.

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