Monday, October 3, 2011

Now is it Time to Free the Coins?

The dysfunctional Italian justice system has finally freed Amanda Knox after concluding she was probably not guilty of murder after all.

But what of the dysfunctional Italian cultural bureaucracy?

As its poor stewardship of major cultural sites like Pompeii shows, it has failed miserably at its core mission of preserving Italy's unparallelled cultural patrimony.

Perhaps, then its not all that surprising that the Italian cultural bureaucracy has instead spent so much time and effort diverting attention away from its own failings by pointing the finger at collectors and auction houses and claiming that they are responsible for looting.

But will funding shortfalls force a change in approach? Not likely, at least while the Italian cultural bureaucracy receives noisy support from archaeologists and their friends in the State Department Cultural Heritage Center bureaucracy.

But does that make it right?

Here, for example, is the reaction of one collector to Archaeo-blogger David Gill's continuing campaign against Christie's auction house on behalf of Italian authorities:

The hypocrisy of David Gill's recent posts (see
really is too much. First he plays gotcha with Christie's based on stills from the "Schinoussa Archive" and then he accuses Christie's of failing to cooperate with other international institutions. Objects like those terracottas would never make it to auction if Gill and his colleagues would cooperate and share the Schinoussa images with auction houses and the public. No auction house would put obviously problematic material on the market and no buyer would buy it. Gill, by refusing to cooperate with auction houses and dealers, is doing more to further the sales of illegally obtained objects than the average Italian looter.

Why can't the Italian authorities make this archive publicly available rather than cooperating in Gill's game of gotcha?

And, on another note, how crazy is it that courtesy of the Italian cultural bureaucracy, the AIA and the State Department most ancient Italian coins of Greek and early Roman Republican types are off limits to American collectors-- while Italians themselves as well as other collectors world-wide can import the same coins no questions asked. If it is really necessary to impose import restrictions on coins, how about at least requiring some proof that they are the products recent illicit excavation?

Yes, its time to publish the Schinoussa archive and to free the coins.

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