Monday, December 19, 2011

AIA Lobby Shop Springs into Action

The AIA styles itself as not for profit educational organization, but is acting more and more like a lobby shop in support of foreign cultural bureaucracies all the time. Indeed, the AIA's website now has an "advocacy page" (See that links to an effort to gin up comments for the upcoming CPAC meetings on Cyprus and Peru. See

And here is the AIA's party line:

"The looting of sites damages archaeological contexts, hampering archaeologists' study of ancient remains and distorting our reconstruction of the past. Because our understanding of the past is dependent on our ability to recover, study, and interpret ancient sites and artifacts in their original context, the preservation of sites is critical to the creation of archaeological knowledge, as well as to the maintenance of cultural heritage. A commitment to stopping the import of looted cultural material will help to prevent the destruction of the archaeological record."

While its hard to disagree with most of this statement, the last sentence is misleading in the extreme. If the advocates at the AIA were being honest, they would acknowledge that import restrictions as formulated and applied are grossly overbroad. Instead of focusing on artifacts reasonably suspected to be looted, they in fact embargo the import of all undocumented material on a "designated list"-- including many artifacts openly and legally available abroad-- on the assumption it "must be stolen." Of course, the "undocumented" equals "looted" equation only makes some sense for narrow ranges of "culturally significant" material that has not regularly appeared on international markets for generations. Yet, the ideologues at the AIA and the obdurate bureaucrats at State and US Customs have stretched the reach of import restrictions to even the most common artifacts, like ancient coins, that have been widely collected without provenance information for hundreds of years.

No comments: