Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Breaking News: Time for Malefactor Source Countries to Take Some Heat

Arthur Houghton, former State Department diplomat, White House official, museum curator and CPAC member, is again in the news.   Last week, Houghton exposed Government surveillance of the CPO blog.  This week there are far bigger fish to fry, in particular malefactor source countries.  Arthur states,

"Peter, I have completed my discussions in Washington with political figures associated with the Congress and can report that there is considerable interest in ensuring that Americans are not disadvantaged by the practices of other countries with regard to cultural property matters, but also that countries that willfully destroy their own past, either by allowing their domestic markets to flourish -- or -- far worse in everyone's view -- by permitting and even encouraging public and private development that destroys their past history and their archaeological sites. China is, of course, the prime example, but the destruction of the Mayan temple in Belize, and the long distant but comparable case of the Bamiyan Buddhas was also mentioned several times. One asked what would be more effective -- modifying the Convention on Cultural Property to exact sanctions against states that violated the precepts of the Convention, or enacting legislation that would have the same effect and that, even if unilateral, could motivate other countries (the EU say) to do the same thing.

The idea would be to have a world in which our archaeological friends would get exactly what they want, enough punishment for malefactor source countries to ensure that they began taking care of their own history.  Any existing MOU with a malefactor country would be made null and void and would remain so unless and until the country involved could demonstrate compliance with the Convention.  Other acquiring countries would be encourage to do the same.

The essence of the idea is, of course the concept of "willful misbehavior". We all recognize that many source countries have adequate laws but inadequate enforcement and oversight, and do what they can to ensure that development policies do not do damage to their antiquity sites. Every effort should be made to help these countries protect their patrimony, consistent with their own laws.  But there are the others, the malefactors, and as my contacts believe, they should suffer the consequences of their actions.

"Can you see any reason why anyone would disagree?" one asked. I thought for a minute and then replied. "not one." He then went on to suggest that a study group be formed that would look at the matter and propose recommendations for action. He asked if I knew of people who might join such a study group. "Yes," I said, "I believe I can find one or two." 

Please feel free to publish this information and comment on it as you wish.

With warm best wishes,


Comment:  I myself think its high time to focus some attention on malefactor source countries.   All the archaeological community's selective outrage against collectors has had the effect of diverting attention from poor stewardship of cultural resources in countries like Greece, Italy, and China.   Under the circumstances, Houghton's initiative should be welcomed by everyone who truly cares about cultural heritage. 

Addendum:  AH asked me to add this definition of "Malefactor Source Countries":

"Malefactor Source Countries are those that a) have unregulated markets in antiquities that motivate the looting of archaeological sites or material; b) engage in public development (roads, buildings) that destroy archaeological sites or material; or c) have laws that allow or encourage private development that has the effect of destroying archaeological sites or material."

A list of these should be posted.  I nominate China as exhibit A.


Paul Barford said...

Great Britain.

a) has unregulated markets in antiquities that motivate the looting of archaeological sites or material;

b) engages in public development (roads, buildings) that destroy archaeological sites or material;
AND (not "or")

c) has laws that allow or encourage private development that has the effect of destroying archaeological sites or material.

On three counts. That should put it right at the top of the list - oh, with The United States of America and a few other countries.

You forgot to mention that your pal is Director of the "Cultural Property Research Institute"

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thank you, but I would dispute your statement as follows.

1. The UK does have regulations on the books related to export controls (EU Regs), illicitly removed artifacts (the Cultural Offenses Act) and finds (Treasure Act and PAS) that appear to be both reasonable in scope and enforced;

2. Appears to have laws encouraging rescue digs;

3. Has a government concerned about protecting cultural heritage and which makes an effort to engage its populace to care for cultural heritage.

Also, the UK has not sought a MOU from the US so it has not suggested that the US should support its export controls. Any such request assumes the source country is undertaking self help measures to protect its own cultural property.

The US protects cultural property on federal and state land and also does so within and also has some zoning protections on private land.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this:

Peter, why respond? Pablito puts himself in the position of being a self-hating Englishman. We all know the type. Whatever his country does, whatever its values, whatever care it takes about its citizens or history or culture, it is wrong, wrong. There is no need to respond until he comes to grip with archaeology's dirty secret: 'Shhh. Let them destroy what they want. And we won't say a word. They are all victims and suffer because of us.'

And that, Peter is the insufferable. The dogs may bark but let's get the caravan on the road. I have had further contacts with knowledgeable political figures and will report later as I can. The concept of malefactor states has begun to gain traction.

Best wishes,


Cultural Property Observer said...

I do agree that too many archaeologists are selective in their outrage. It makes little sense to gripe about the looting of a few coins or minor works of art if the source country in question is promoting a dam project that will inundate an entire city. It's not that archaeologists don't care, its that they are afraid to offend their hosts. What is needed is more proportionality and an effort to encourage preservation through positive not draconian means.

Paul Barford said...

The British market in antiquities is, as collectors frequently point out, unregulated. That's why they say its a "model to be followed". The EU export laws do not regulate the market, only (as the name implies) export. The Act you misquote defines offences, but does not per se regulate the market. The Treasure Act has nothing to do with regulating the market, as I keep pointing out and you keep ignoring (following Arthur Houghton's advice no doubt).

As for the UK "Appears to have laws encouraging rescue digs" I'd be grateful if you would indicate which LAWS you have in mind in the case of Britain. The problem is the UK has no such laws. Many public developments plough right through ancient sites and ancient landscapes without excavations on any scale. Read the Heritage Action website for some good-bad examples of sites which are not "saved" by Britain's laws. That is just the tip of the iceberg

As for the UK having "a government concerned about protecting cultural heritage", that's a laugh. It is concerned to make a show of it. When you look at the effects on the ground - especially when ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES (which is what you are talking about) and not tourist venues are concerned, the picture is far less rosy.

"Also, the UK has not sought a MOU from the US so it has not suggested that the US should support its export controls".

Why should it? We are both states parties of a Convention that affirms that we WILL support each others export controls of cultural property. That is what the Convention says. So what you are saying is if somebody should export the Renaissance "Middleton Jewel" without an export licence from Convention state party Britain to Convention state party USA, even if you knew about it, you would do nothing to secure its return to the country from which it had been illegally removed? That is why I say the USA should withdraw from an international Convention it has no intention of honouring.

I will leave your patriotic assertions about "how well" the US protects all archaeological sites across the continent, regardless of where they are, to your American readers to judge.

Paul Barford said...

And, in an effort to prevent discussion on your blog descending into mere unbecoming name-calling, perhaps you would like to extract from your American Exceptionalist friend a civil comment which you can post on his behalf. ...

I think we'd all like to know why when a British observer criticises the cultural heritage policies and actions of his country's government, he is regarded by Mr Houghton (quote) "a self-hating Englishman". When on the other hand, a US coin-collector-citizen criticises the US administrations policies and actions, they are doing what the democratic system and their state's Constitution entitle them to do.

What does he perceive as the difference between the USA and other countries such as Great Britain in this regard?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Export control does regulate the market as part of regulating export so I don't get your point. It's my understanding that rescue archaeology in the UK is mainly a local concern and govererned by local law. Its suffering due to budget contraints currently, but it does exist. Finally, we love our country and our freedoms (including the freedom to collect) and appreciate our rights to criticize unelected bureaucrats and others that threaten these freedoms. From reading your blog, I'm not sure you like British culture and you don't seem to like the US Government or American culture that much.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I erroneously deleted this post, which I am inserting here:

Paul Barford has made another mistake. The Middleton Jewel to which he refers does not exist. I suspect that he means the Middleham Jewel, a 15C relic found by a metal detectorist. An easy mistake for him to make since his mind was probably at fever pitch at the drubbing he's recieving at your hands.

Please be gentle with him! Oh, yes, leave something for the rest of us."

John Howland
Malamute Saloon/Stout Standards

Cultural Property Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cultural Property Observer said...

I also forgot to provide a link to Mr. Howland's part of the Stout Standards blog:

The link is http://stoutstandards.wordpress.com/malamute-saloon/

Both are well worth a read.

Paul Barford said...

UK Metal detectorist John Howland claims to be able to read my mind, though has shown himself to be sadly inadequate to the task.

I wrote "Middleton" when I meant Middleton (the Middleham jewel is in a museum and would not be being exported).

Mr Tompa, you have not answered the perfectly pertinent question about its hypothetical illicit export to the USA.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post the following:

"Peter, certain of your readers, no doubt stung by the stubborn truth as to their nature, have begun to whine about "unbecoming name-calling." Given their use of terms such as "colonialist hyena," clowns and bigots - to mention a few -- the suggestion has caused great mirth around the circuit and raised questions as to whether the reader is no longer able to recognize himself for what he is. Frankly, who cares? It is to be noted that there is no serious interest in discussing the substance of the malefactor country question. Those countries with unregulated markets in antiquities, and that allow themselves and private enterprise to destroy their own culture -- then ask others to protect if for them. I should mention that I have had a number of helpful comments on the idea, and I understand that it has attracted a very large number of readers to your site.

Best regards,


Paul Barford said...

Further to the question of defining "market" (as in "regulating the market") and its equivalence to regulating export, I note the following passage in a later post:

" Given China's own huge internal market in Chinese artifacts of the sort restricted under the current agreement, its net effect has only been to give Chinese commercial interests a leg up on their foreign, particularly American competition. "


Quite clearly here, the term is used to refer (only) to China's internal market from which the eventual export of items to the US is separate.