Sunday, September 27, 2009

ACCG Auction Nets $32,000 plus

ACCG has announced that its auction to fund litigation against the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has netted over $32,000. See The lots of coins and books attracted almost 2,000 bids.

It is unfortunate that it has been necessary to take legal action that then must be funded. But, concerns raised with State Department officials about problems with the system of imposing import restrictions on cultural goods have fallen on deaf ears, and while certain legislators have tried to help, the State Department has to date successfully "stonewalled" them as well.

These concerns have remained largely unchanged through the Clinton, Bush and now Obama Administrations. For example, the State Department has refused to reevaluate its decision to withhold documents in a pending FOIA case brought on behalf of ACCG and other numismatic groups despite an Obama Department of Justice mandate.

For more about these concerns (which are shared by a number of former CPAC members), see

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Massive Anglo-Saxon Hoard Reported

U.K. authorities have announced that a member of the public has discovered a massive Anglo-Saxon hoard with a metal detector. An excellent website about the find has also been developed. See:

Here is an excerpt from the Press Statement:

The exact spot where the Hoard lay hidden for a millennium and a half cannot yet be revealed. However we can say that it lay at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. There is approximately 5 kg of gold and 1.3 kg of silver (Sutton Hoo had 1.66kg of gold).

The hoard was reported to Duncan Slarke, Finds Liaison Officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. With the assistance of the finder, the find-spot has been excavated by archaeologists from Staffordshire County Council, lead by Ian Wykes and Steven Dean, and a team from Birmingham Archaeology, project managed by Bob Burrows and funded by English Heritage. The hoard has been examined at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery by Dr Kevin Leahy, National Finds Adviser with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.The exact spot where the Hoard lay hidden for a millennium and a half cannot yet be revealed. However we can say that it lay at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. There is approximately 5 kg of gold and 1.3 kg of silver (Sutton Hoo had 1.66kg of gold).

The hoard was reported to Duncan Slarke, Finds Liaison Officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. With the assistance of the finder, the find-spot has been excavated by archaeologists from Staffordshire County Council, lead by Ian Wykes and Steven Dean, and a team from Birmingham Archaeology, project managed by Bob Burrows and funded by English Heritage. The hoard has been examined at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery by Dr Kevin Leahy, National Finds Adviser with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.


The finder and the land owner stand to receive a substantial monetary award (funded by the National Lottery) based on the find's "fair market value." See

Some archaeologists feel that the U.K.'s system of rewards "pays people to loot," but the system does ensure that many finds are recorded. And, while this find is quite significant, many-- including most coin finds-- are not. In such circumstances, the artifacts are returned to the finder (and/or the land owner) who can do with them what they wish. In practice, this means that while much is recorded, the state only keeps what it can reasonably be expected to study, display and care for. The rest generally is sold to collectors who preserve, study and display artifacts that otherwise would most likely rot in storage.

There is a saying that people get the government they deserve. Surely, governments get the cultural heritage policy they deserve as well. In England and Wales, the government presides over a cultural heritage system that encourages the public to work cooperatively with it and the archaeological community to preserve the past. The results are manifest.

In contrast, in "hard line" source countries like Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, the public reports few finds, looting is a problem, and the archaeological community can be rather insular. I would argue such systems only encourage corruption and public distrust of the narrow group of "connected" archaeologists and collectors that benefit from the status quo. In extreme cases, cutting off the public from archaeology can lead to what happened to the Iraq Museum or the Buddhas of Bamiyan. But, more likely, such governments get a moribund brand of archaeology of cultural bureaucrats, sparsely attended museums and a slow deterioration of their cultural heritage in storage facilities that lack adequate climate control.

"Joseph" on Ancient Egyptian Coins?

Numismatists have long known that the the early Egyptian Pharaohs did not strike coins. Indeed, coins were not struck in Egypt until much later for purposes of trade or to pay foreign mercenaries. In addition to copies of Athenian coinage, Egypt's last native Pharaoh, Nectanebo II, struck one rare gold issue and another rare bronze issue is also sometimes attributed to him.

Under the circumstances, I read with interest reports derived from a major Egyptian newspaper about ancient Egyptian coins depicting Joseph, a major religious figure for Jews, Muslims and Christians. See

This certainly would be a major discovery, if true. But I suspect the objects, which were "excavated" from the basement of the Egyptian Museum, are either outright fakes or are in fact charms that are being reclassified as "money."

We have been told by a number of bloggers associated with Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) that archaeologists care about coins, that they are knowledgeable about them, and that they take the utmost care in keeping records about the provenance of finds. However, I suspect this particular story will not ultimately be used to support those particular claims.

In the meantime, for an example of Nectanebo's rare gold type and some scholarship on the issue, see:

Is it possible that coin dealers could be more educated about ancient Egyptian coins than some archaeologists?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

UNESCO's Next Leader

No, UNESCO's next leader is not a controversial Egyptian. See:

Nor is UNESCO's next leader the "Russian Beauty" pictured (for the moment at least) in an advertisement embedded next to the story captioned, "A Glance at UNESCO's Next Leader". See

Rather, UNESCO's next leader is Orina Bokova of Bulgaria, a long-time diplomat.

The article describes Ms. Bokova as follows:

Bokova is a career diplomat who has served as Bulgaria’s ambassador to France and its permanent delegate to UNESCO since 2005. She lost a bid to become vice-president in 1996, and served as Bulgaria’s foreign minister for a few months in 1996-1997. From 1982-1984 she worked on political and judicial affairs at Bulgaria’s U.N. mission in New York.

Hopefully, Ms. Bokova's elevation to head UNESCO will encourage the Bulgarian government to spend more money on preserving its archaeological sites. See:

Looting is a more complex issue, and one hopes Bulgarian authorities will consider whether a PAS and Treasure Trove law will assist in helping to record portable antiquities. Back in 2006, prominent Bulgarian archaeologist Nickolay Ovcharov apparently endorsed a licit market that required reporting of finds and the introduction of a state operated auction system for the sale of artifacts to collectors. Perhaps, the merits of such a system also can be reviewed further.

Addendum: The "Russian Beauty" has now been replaced by another advertisement. This is probably for the best. Ms. Bokova, who also is described as an expert in women's issues, might not have seen the humor in it anyway. I did find it funny, though. It reminded me of another such combination I recall seeing years ago. A newspaper headline proclaiming "Pope Appeals for Calm" was juxtaposed with an advertisement for a remake of "King Kong" showing the "Great Ape" atop the World Trade Center. Of course, it was the age of print media so the image was not so ephemeral.

Addendum II: For details about some unsavory behind the scenes politicing for the post, see

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Court Orders Government to Prove Rare Coins Stolen

The New York Times reports on an interesting case involving a dispute over the ownership of rare 1933 "Double Eagle" gold coins. See

The Government had refused to return the coins that had been sent for authentication, arguing that they "must be stolen." According to the Government, Mint records say the issue was never formally released, given President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era orders aimed at taking the U.S. off the gold standard.

In contrast, the claimants maintained that the coins were likely acquired as part of a gold exchange with the Mint.

So far, the claimants have prevailed over the government. According to the New York Times,

A United States District Court judge has given the government until the end of the month either to give back the coins or go back to court to prove that they were in fact stolen by Mr. Switt, a daunting task after three-quarters of a century.

In any event, I understand that in the "old days" it was not uncommon for friendly mint officials to honor personal requests for rare dates from collectors and dealers. One suspects that these officials received some quid pro quo for the favor, but the process was not necessarily considered a corrupt one at the time. (Now, of course, things are different).

Whatever the outcome of this case, I'm glad these coins were rescued from the melting pot-- a fate that most certainly awaited them otherwise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Portable Antiquities Conference Report

Rick Witschonke, a well-known collector of Roman Republican coinage, has reported on a British Museum program about how different European countries deal with portable antiquities. The conference was publicized on this blog previously here:

Here is Rick's report in its entirety:

On Monday, 7 September, I attended a one-day Conference at the British Museum entitled: "Recording the Past: How Different European Countries Deal With Portable Antiquities". The Conference consisted of lectures by representatives of ten (largely Northern) European countries on their government's legal and administrative approach to recently discovered portable antiquities. France, Spain and Italy were invited to speak, but did not. There was time for some Q&A after the talks, and an opportunity for mingling during breaks and lunch. No proceedings will be published, but the presentors' PPTs are to be made available on In addition to archeologists and interested members of the public, the UK metal-detecting establishment was well represented and quite supportive. The anti-detecting/collecting lobby did not seem to be present. Overall, the Conference was very informative, and the contrasts in approach and effectiveness quite telling.

After a welcome by Andrew Burnett (BM Deputy Director), Roger Bland, head of PAS, led off with an excellent summary of the progress of PAS in England and Wales since the 1996 Treasure Act. Bland estimates that there are 9-10,000 detectorists, and that they account for 92% of Treasure finds, and 81% of the non-Treasure objects recorded on the PAS database (which recently recorded its 400,000th object, and has become an important scholarly resource). And of the detectorist finds, 90% are from cultivated land, meaning that their stratigraphy has already been disturbed, and that they are vulnerable to further deterioration or loss if not recovered. Reported Treasure finds have increased from c. 25/year during the 1989-1997 period to over 800/year in 2008. In contrast, Scotland, which has a different scheme, has seen no increase over the same period. Bland conceded that there were still problems. Although the recent Nighthawking Survey showed a reduction in illegal metal-detecting, suspicious items still show up on eBay, and eBay UK has refused to require revelation of findspot, unlike eBay Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Another problem is the long delay between the reporting of possible Treasure and the payment of a reward (sometimes as long as a year). This is to be addressed by legislation before Parliament which would allow objects to go directly to the FLOs, and appoint a single national coroner for Treasure. Clearly, the keys to the success of the TA/PAS system are the credible market-value reward system, and the outreach program by the 37 regional FLOs.

Alan Saville (Nat. Museum of Scotland) described the Scottish Treasure Trove system. Reported finds are either "claimed" by a museum, or returned to the finder/landowner. If claimed, a panel decides on the amount of the reward and its allocation, but how this is done is unclear. And the entire program has a staff of only two, so there is little outreach, and the number of reported finds is declining.

Cormac Bourke (Ulster Museum) explained the Northern Ireland approach. There is no state ownership of finds, but, by law, all excavators must be licensed, all finds reported, and metal detecting is illegal. Not surprisingly, illegal metal-detecting is prevalent, and only c. 2 finds per year are reported.

Eamonn Kelly (Nat. Museum, Dublin) reported on the situation in the Republic of Ireland. In Ireland, archeological finds are state-owned, excavators must be licensed, finds must be reported, and it is illegal to metal-detect, or own or trade in unreported antiquities. Rewards are paid, but are discretionary (the largest ever paid was e300,000). Kelly claims that illegal detecting is not a real problem (both because the Irish are law-abiding, and because there are few Roman coins to be found), but the presence of Irish material on eBay calls this into question.

Johan Nicolay (Univ. of Groningen) reported on the situation in the Netherlands. Finds are not claimed by the Government, but must be reported. There are 5,000 metal-detectorists and 100,000 finds/year. These are currently reported on three separate data bases, but these are to be combined. Unreported finds are still a significant problem, and an outreach program is contemplated.

Martin Segschneider (Archaeologisches Landesamt) covered the approach in Schleswig-Holstein (in Germany, each of the 16 States has its own antiquities laws). Here, objects must be reported, and may be claimed as Treasure Trove, in which case a reward is given, but this occurred in only 2 cases last year. Metal-detecting is legal with a permit, which requires a five-day certification course, and is limited to a specific search area. These finders do not receive rewards, but are acknowledged upon publication. It is estimated that there are 1,000 illegal searchers.

Mogens Bo Henriksen (Odense Museum, Denmark) explained that metal detecting is legal, but finds must be reported. There is a detectorist outreach program under the auspices of the Association of Danish Amateur Archeologists. "Danefae" (Treasure) can be claimed by the government.

Andrej Gaspari (Slovenian Military Museum) explained that objects are claimed by the state, but a new law provides a one-year amnesty for the reporting of existing collections, and rewards for retained objects. It is not clear what the impact on looting has been.

Gabor Lassanyi (Aquincum Museum, Budapest) stated that, in Hungary, there are 50,000 archeological sites, all finds must be reported and are the property of the state, and metal-detecting is illegal. There has been a substantial increase in detecting starting in the late 1990s.

Aleksander Bursche and Marcin Rudniki (Arch. Institute, Univ. of Warsaw) covered the situation in Poland. Finds are state property, metal-detecting is illegal, and rewards are not guaranteed. There is a large illicit trade, and only one successful prosecution last year. However, some archeologists and detectorists are cooperating, and there is a private website where some finds are recorded.

Clearly, if the proper recording of finds is the objective, those systems which most closely follow the TA/PAS approach of credible market-value rewards and outreach are the most successful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Collectors Challenge U.S. State Department Bureaucrats After Baltimore Seizure

The Wall Street Journal's "Market Watch" has picked up the ACCG's latest press release about a prospective "test case" concerning the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' controversial decisions to impose import restrictions on coins of Cypriot and Chinese type. See:

Now that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seized the Cypriot and Chinese coins that the ACCG imported for that purpose, the matter should go before a U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland.

Information gleaned from companion Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation suggests that the decisions of the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs were arbitrary and capricious. As the press release explains,

Information from another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit suggests that the DOS failed to follow the recommendations of its own experts on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in extending restrictions to Cypriot coins, and then misled Congress about this decision. Other information implicates DOS bureaucrats adding coins to the Chinese MOU even though Chinese officials never asked for their inclusion.

The press release also notes that former CPAC members share some of the concerns that prompted ACCG to pursue its "test case." For more, see:

Monday, September 14, 2009

ICE and CBP Return Fossils to China

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have repatriated a group of fossils valued at some $30,000 to China. See: See also:

The basis for the return is unclear. CNN quotes John Morton, an ICE official, as stating,

The attempt to remove them from China ran up against a network of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property.

Nevertheless, I suspect that Customs may have detained the artifacts for failure to declare them properly and that the importers then abandoned them rather than fight the seizure.

This would be typical. I understand most artifacts that are repatriated are abandoned without a decision from a neutral fact finder. Contesting a customs forfeiture takes substantial time and money. Even an importer with a strong case may not consider it worth pursuing. For instance, while the fossils' estimated value of $30,000 may sound significant, that amount must be balanced against the costs of retaining a lawyer (which could easily exceed that amount), the time and effort involved, and the fear that civil customs liability may possibly lead to criminal charges. Indeed, when faced with such realities, most will consider abandonment to be the only rational option.

This all seems quite unfair to me. From my perspective, it all seems tilted too heavily in favor of the government and against the rights of an individual. Though the system offers due process, such process carries little practical meaning if the costs of exercising it are too great.

Certainly, government press releases tell only one side of the story. The importers that know the other side remain silent for fear of liability. Meanwhile, is it possible that fossils like those repatriated here are as openly available in China itself as is ancient art? See,8599,1656527,00.html If so, what interests do their repatriation actually serve?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Concerns Expressed About Iraq Museum Preparedness

History will show that angry mobs looted the Iraq Museum because the local Shia community viewed the cultural landmark as just another outpost of the hated Baathist regime.

Whoever was actually responsible, the archaeological community certainly took advantage of the tragedy. For example, Western governments were shamed into providing millions of dollars to support the museum and Iraqi archaeology.

But could have the tragedy been averted? Has all that money been wisely spent? Could it happen again?

An individual well-qualified to speak on the situation has raised some serious issues on these subjects on the Iraq Crisis List.

Here is that individual's post in its entirety:

Dear All,

Before you read my thoughts below regarding the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) and the National Museum of Iraq, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Zainab Abdul Jabar Mohammed Alzubaidi, and I worked for thirteen years in the SBAH. Most of my work was conducted within the Excavations and Investigations Department. The last position I occupied after the 2003 invasion was Office Manager to the General Manager Office of the Excavations and Investigations Department. I was fortunate enough to work with two of the best Iraqi Archaeologists, Zuhiar Rajab and Burhan Shakir. In addition, I was able to participate in a re-exhibition of the Iraq Museum in 1999 and was a member of committees responsible for securing the artifacts at the Iraq Museum, before the American invasion in 2003. I hold master’s Degree in Anthropology, and I recently earned my second master’s Degree in Museum Studies from New York University (NYU). I am currently a consultant at Columbia University (New York) and a visitor guide at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (New York).

As Lamia Al-gailani Werr mentioned, the Iraq Museum until now–had no emergency preparedness plan. Although the National Museum of Iraq was threatened several times before it was badly looted in 2003, none of the SBAH managers thought to create a simple emergency plan. In fact, they were unaware of how to protect the museum’s collections. I was a witness to the fruitless and inadequate emergency plan of 2003. Unfortunately, until now, the Iraq Museum staff had no knowledge of serious threats to the collections. They required help to establish an emergency plan, according to the collections’ needs and conditions.

In my thesis for the Museum Studies Program, I analyzed and researched the 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum, and I highlighted the museum staff’s complicity, in addition to the invaders’ and international organizations’ responsibilities. Then, I proposed guidelines for the Iraq Museum staff to help them to develop an emergency preparedness plan, in addition to some suggestions regarding the protection of the collections in the case of unexpected events, as mentioned by Lamia Al-gailani. I can say confidently that the Iraq Museum and the SBAH managers during 2003 were responsible for the damage that was incurred. In fact, the 2003 invasion revealed the poor management of the SBAH and the Iraq Museum. We cannot place all the responsibility on coalition forces because the SBAH managers were responsible for much of the tremendous loss and damage of the museum’s collections. I believe that the 2003 looting disaster could occur again, since the Iraq Museum and the SBAH have not yet developed an emergency plan.

Though there are many projects conducted to help the SBAH and the Iraq Museum, there is no clear understanding of the urgent need to protect the SBAH and museum collections. All these programs and projects deal with other issues that are of less importance right now. As a result, millions of dollars have been spent with little to no impact on the SBAH’s or the Iraq Museum’s operations, except the Italian projects and the projects of the University of Chicago. I admit that the SBAH’s staff needs to be further developed, but we also need immediate assistance to develop an emergency plan that builds on strong research and determines the collections’ conditions and potential exterior threats.

Furthermore, a large part of the Iraq Museum’s collection is currently at risk for damage because of poor storage conditions. This also requires an emergency plan. In fact, what we have no already lost due to looting or vandalism will be destroyed by inappropriate and poor storage conditions.

Furthermore, for those who are unaware of these facts, the SBAH staff lacks the necessary techniques for dealing with artifacts, employing proper storage methods, documentation and registration, computerizing databases, as well as access to modern computer programs that would improve the SBAH’s and Iraq Museum’s operations. Since the end of the 1970s, the SBAH has not kept abreast of modern archaeology and museum techniques. This is partially due to the political situation in Iraq at that time; the country was essentially under lockdown, as nobody was authorized to enter or travel outside, except for managers in government departments. However, unqualified managers are also to blame for these issues.

The SBAH and the Iraq Museum depend heavily upon extremely obsolete methods and documentation practices; SBAH’s documentation should be used for a museum display, rather than daily functional purposes. These documents were the achievements of Taha Baker and his generation of Iraqi archaeologists. The SBAH and the Iraq Museum stopped improving upon this documentation system since the end of the 1970s. In other words, all of the SBAH managers since then have been unqualified to maintain the organization. Today, a new generation of Iraqi archaeologists leads the SBAH and the Iraq Museum, but they need help to raise the standard of the Iraqi archaeology field and museum industry. They require immediate help to establish an emergency plan, not just for the museum collections, but for the collections of other departments with the SBAH.

In response to those who believe that the ex-managers of the SBAH and the Iraq Museum were qualified, I would like to raise the following questions:

· Why did neither the SBAH nor the Iraq Museum implement an emergency plan, although they were under the same threats during the 1980s and 1990s?
· Why is there no electronic inventory for the museum collections, although a computer lab was established at the SBAH in 1995 with new computers?
· Why are there no computer databases for the documents belonging to the Archive Department, Microfilm Department, Photograph Department, Excavation Department, and other departments of the SBAH, despite the fact that these documents contain the most valuable information about the SBAH excavations and other works, and are at the risk of damage and loss?
· Why has the SBAH system not been updated since the 1970s until now?
· What are the achievements of the Department of Antiquities and Heritage managers during the 1980s and 1990s?
· What are the achievements of the seven general managers after 1999, when the Department of Antiquities and Heritage became the State Board?
· Why has the entire SBAH system (excavations, Sumer Magazine, research projects, studies, investigation of new and unregistered archaeological sites, and other important SBAH works) been slow and inadequate since the end of the 1970s, although Saddam Hussein gave the archaeology field a unique opportunity?

If somebody argues that the facts above were caused by wars and embargo, I would respond that this assumption is incorrect. Wars and embargo were used to conceal the weak and poor management of the SBAH departments. The real answer to the previous questions is bad management; managers were unqualified and irresponsible. However, some of them studied outside Iraq and traveled several times during the year. Thus, these managers maintained very strong relationships with outside scholars, and they are familiar with archaeological institutions in other countries. Though they could have requested help in order to improve the SBAH work, they did not work effectively to improve and update the SBAH operations. The managers who boast now about their accomplishments are exaggerating. I became more fully aware of the poor management of the SBAH and the Iraq Museum after my involvement in the Museum Studies Program at NYU. I had taken several courses about museum management, in addition to work in several museums in New York City. The SBAH, the Iraq Museum, and their staff were victims of irresponsible managers.

I ask anyone who got my massage to think about what I have mentioned and to research the SBAH and its management. It is very easy for anyone to present himself as a hero, but is this presentation factual? I ask you to compare what some ex-managers claim against their actual accomplishments.

Now, the SBAH and the Iraq Museum are in urgent need of an EMERGINCY PREPERDNESS PLAN in order to cope with the current unstable situation in Iraq. This emergency plan needs intensive research and study of the collections and their needs. It will be shameful to repeat the mistakes of 1991 and 2003. Both plans from 1991 and 2003 were extemporaneous and developed without any prior research or study. As a result, a large part of the hidden collections in 1991 were damaged to inappropriate securing methods, and later, a large portion of the collections was lost in 2003 because the plan was deeply flawed. Today, the Iraq Museum’s collections and the valuable documents of the SBAH Departments are at risk of loss and damage.

As an Iraqi who worked in this institution, I urge specialists, international organizations, and other relevant parties to assist the SBAH and the Iraq Museum in creating an emergency preparedness plan. It is illogical to plan to establish labs and supply the SBAH library with modern publications, while the SBAH’s collections are at risk due to the lack of an emergency preparedness plan.

Please see the attached file:

- Plan for the SBAH and Iraq Museum. I recently created this plan to help in developing the SBAH and the Iraq Museum operations and staff. I have already submitted the plan to the Iraqi Embassy and the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC, from whom I have received positive feedback.

[the plan itself was posted on the Iraq Crisis List. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is presumably the involved entitity within the State Department]


Zainab Mohammed
A Consultant at Columbia University, New York
A Visitor Guide at BMA, New York

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Egyptian UNESCO Candidate Provokes Controversy

Farouk Hosny, a 71-year-old painter who has served as President Hosni Mubarak’s cultural guru for more than two decades, will likely become the next head of UNESCO. See

The prospective appointment has provoked some controversy. According to the New York Times,

[T]here are shadows over Hosny. Questioned in [the Egyptian] Parliament last year about the presence of Israeli books in the Alexandria Library, the minister replied: “Let’s burn these books. If there are any, I will burn them myself before you.”

A comment summoning Germany, 1933, is not what you want on your résumé when applying to become cultural conciliator-in-chief. That’s not all. Reflecting stock thinking in Egyptian and Arab intellectual circles, Hosny has characterized Israeli culture as “aggressive” and “racist,” stalled cultural ties with Israel that might change attitudes, and peddled the old canard about “the infiltration of Jews into the international media.”

In this, Hosny's views seem consistent with those of Zahi Hawass, another pillar of the Egyptian cultural establishment. See

While raising questions about Hosny, the New York Times editorial nevertheless suggests he should get the post :

Let’s get him inside the tent rather than stoke the old anti-Western, anti-imperialist flames — reminiscent of what led the United States to abandon Unesco between 1984 and 2002 — by rejecting him.

It strikes me that similar sentiments probably helped motivate many Western governments to agree to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, a document that seeks to empower "source countries" when it comes to the control of "cultural property."

Friday, September 4, 2009

ACCG Benefit Auction

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG ) has commenced a benefit auction to help fund litigation designed to promote transparency and accountability in the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' (ECA's) process for handling import restrictions on cultural artifacts. The auction will run through September 24th.

Archaeological pressure groups opposed to the continued ability of the public to preserve, collect and study "unprovenanced" artifacts have benefited from subsidies not only from Universities and foreign sources, but even from the ECA itself. See and

In contrast, ACCG operates solely based on dues or donations from its members see and monies generated from this auction.

ACCG has retained a FOIA expert to litigate its FOIA case against the State Department. That case is awaiting decision. ACCG has also retained my firm and the customs law experts at Serko Simon Gluck & Kane LLP to assist in prospective litigation to test import restrictions on coins of Cypriot and Chinese type. Even at much reduced rates, litigation is an expensive proposition making the ACCG auction an important funding tool.