Here are some highlights:
- Looting started early. The Romans practiced it extensively. Even then, some thought it wrong. Cicero prosecuted Verres, in part for looting Sicilian religious sanctuaries.
- In the 18th and 19th centuries the colonial powers competed for spoils. Paris was to be the "New Rome;" London, the "New Athens."
- When Napoleon lost, the French were forced to return much (but not all) of their loot, mainly from Italy.
- Serious archaeology began in the 19th c. Petrie did wonderful stratigraphic views of sites in the Middle East [He was also a prolific collector-- which PG did not mention.]
- With the advent of serious archaeology, "connoisseurship" became less important as a means of understanding artifacts. Nevertheless, it still retains some importance, even today. [In this regard, PG departs from some of her more extreme colleagues in the archaeological community who hold an artifact loses all meaning if its archaeological context has been lost.]
Demand and Supply and its Consequences
- In the aftermath of WW II, new found wealth prompted collectors to compete for artifacts. This increase in demand led to looting of archaeological sites.
- PG denies that "subsistence digging" is a big issue. She maintains most looting is the result of an organized criminal enterprise.
- As evidence, PG showed slides of bulldozed tells in Turkey and looters' pits in Iraq.
Loss of Knowledge From Looting
- PG admits that we know a lot about the Euphronios krater from the object itself, but maintains we would know much more if we knew its context. We would know the station of the person it was buried with. We would learn something about its relationship to other grave goods, etc.
- Cycladic figures are far more mysterious than they should be because most of their find spots have been looted. There is also a problem with possible forgeries in the series.
- The "Getty Kouros" and the "James Ossuary" are likely forgeries. If their context had been preserved, they could have been authenticated.
- Collectors often say if artifacts were made unsalable they would be destroyed. But, looters often destroy less valuable artifacts in their search for artifacts with value.
- Byzantine mosaics removed from a Church in Cyprus were flattened out to make them more salable, but they no longer look as they did.
- The U.S. enters into bilateral agreements with other countries that impose import restrictions on cultural artifacts. [Interestingly, PG acknowledges that these are the most controversial types of restrictions. I agree. They preclude import of artifacts openly traded in foreign markets merely because there is no paper trail back to the date the restrictions were imposed.]
- The U.S. and the U.K. also recognise foreign laws declaring artifacts found in the ground to be state property.
- U.S. Customs also repatriates artifacts that have been smuggled or which have been imported with improper valuations or countries of origin.
- PG believes that collectors should not get tax deductions for donating unprovenanced artifacts.
- She also believes Museum Trustees should be potentially investigated by state authorities if they waste museum assets purchasing unprovenanced artifacts which later must be repatriated.
Long Term Loans
- PG notes the current MOU with Italy provides for long term loans, but believes there should be more such loans. [At the interim hearing on the Italian MOU, several speakers from the AAMD suggested only museums that repatriated artifacts received such loans.]
New Acquisition Guidelines
- PG applauded the AAM's and AAMD's new acquisition guidelines generally requiring a 1970 provenance before artifacts are newly accessioned.
- She notes, however, that AAMD guidelines allow for accession of artifacts that lack provenance information, as long they are posted on-line in an artifacts registry. She worries this exception over time may swallow the 1970 rule.
Questions and Answers
PG took some questions:
- I asked PG if provenance requirements should be "one size fits all," i.e., should a holder be required to show the same level of provenance information for the Euphronios krater as for a coin. PG indicated, yes. Interestingly, she also indicated that she was not wedded to the 1970 rule as it is a mere "construct." [I agree.] She emphasized, however, that there should be a date certain. She did not like the AAMD's former "rolling" 10 year rule.
- Well known cultural property lawyer Jim Fitzpatrick asked PG about what the theft of part of the repatriated Lydian hoard said about repatriating artifacts to countries without the money or will to protect them. PG countered that museum theft is a problem everywhere and this should not count against repatriation.
- CAARI VP Ellen Herscher asked why there were not more bilateral agreements. PG maintained it is time consuming and costly for source countries to make a request to the State Department. She also indicated once an MOU was entered, it should go on in perpetuity. [I have heard from reliable sources US archaeologists do most of the "leg work" in preparing such requests. The 5 year renewal requirement was meant to ensure that import restrictions-- which disadvantage American collectors, dealers and institutions-- DO NOT go on forever, but only for a limited period to allow the requesting country time to get its looting problem under control.]
Question I Wish Was Asked
- In PG's view, what to do with all those orphan artifacts?