Monday, March 5, 2012

A Useful Diversion?

The archaeo-blogger world is on fire over news of a bust of an alleged antiquities smuggling ring in Greece. See

Yet, it should not be lost on anyone that the alleged ringleader of the smuggling operation is a retired customs official and that municipal workers count amongst his alleged accomplices.

The Greek cultural establishment has been harshly criticised in the wake of thefts from the museum at Olympia. That establishment will no doubt promote these arrests as a diversion from its ongoing funding woes, but this news should not be used as an excuse not to consider a real liberalization of Greece's draconian laws on the subject.

There was never enough money to properly preserve Greece's cultural patrimony even when times were good. Now, there is even less. Yet, the Greek state still insists on claiming title to everything and anything old, even artifacts found on private property.

Greece is certainly entitled to enforce its own laws, but I'm afraid this news will be just another excuse for more of the same rather than a major rethink as to whether Greece's draconian laws really help save the past or only encourage smuggling and public corruption.

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