Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Sunday, December 29, 2013
If Cambodia has such unclean hands, why is the U.S. Government spending considerable tax payer dollars on its behalf to force American institutions and collectors to repatriate artifacts long in this country? Shouldn't we at least demand better site security and the prompt prosecution of war criminals before our State and Justice Departments sacrifice American interests at the behest of Cambodian nationalists and American archaeologists?
Friday, December 20, 2013
As the New York Times has observed:
Anonymity is often prized in such transactions as a matter of personal privacy. It also and allows institutions quietly to sell items from their collections that they no longer need. In some cases it can also cloak the embarrassment of debt or help sellers avoid setting off family conflicts over the disposition of inherited assets.
In contrast, commentators in the archaeological blogosphere had hoped the lower court's ruling, requiring the identities of consignors to be disclosed, would stand. But why would they want this information other than to harass the sellers of "cultural property" they believe should be repatriated. So, its probably a good thing the Court of Appeals has ruled as it did.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
"The Hopi have not identified their plans for these artifacts on their return, but they are not viewed as art objects or housed in museums. Typically, Katsinam are still used in spiritual ceremonies or are retired and left to disintegrate naturally."
Under the circumstances, perhaps one should question the wisdom of the effort, particularly given information in one of the comments that such items were openly sold by some Hopi at least as recently as the 1970's. Tribes seldom speak with one voice and one wonders whether at least some tribal members would have rather have had such money put to other use on the Reservation. And there is a larger question: Is repatriation ever warranted when it leads to destruction?
Monday, December 16, 2013
The current Chinese MOU must be renewed in January or it will lapse. At a public session awhile back, CPAC received plenty of evidence that the current MOU does nothing but promote the interests of politically connected Chinese business interests at the expense of American collectors, museums and auction houses. But will CPAC and the State Department decision-maker listen? Or will the U.S. Cultural bureaucracy's knee-jerk repatriationist stance carry the day once more?
1. To prevail, the government still must be able to link the artifact in question to a specific site within the confines of modern Cambodia. That was done here, but it's unclear to CPO whether that could be done with respect to all the other Khmer artifacts the Cambodians and their supporters in the US Cultural bureaucracy and archaeological communities may have their sights on.
2. If that is done, the government must then either be able to point to an illegal import or prove that the artifact was stolen under a foreign cultural patrimony law that vested clear title to Cambodia. This issue was raised, but again not conclusively decided in the Sotheby's case.
3. There is also the issue whether Cambodia consistently applies such law at home. For example, during discussions about a renewal of a MOU with Cambodia, it was disclosed that at least one high Cambodian government official has a collection of similar antiquities. If so, how can the U.S. Government claim all such antiquities are Cambodian state property?
4. It now appears that the Khmer Rouge may have sold the Koh Ker statue. If so, doesn't that also undercut any Cambodian Government claim to the statue? As abominable a regime as the Khmer Rouge was, it was also considered the lawful Government of Cambodia for a time. So, if an artifact was sold by the Khmer Rouge, the "lawful rulers" of Cambodia, how could it be considered "stolen" now?
5. What part did the US State Department and its Cultural Heritage Center play in convincing the Department of Justice to take the Sotheby's case and in funding groups like Heritage Watch which have pressed for repatriation of Khmer artifacts? To the extent such claims are "ginned up" by the State Department rather than the Cambodians themselves, that would presumably have some impact on a jury's views of the matter.
There will, of course, be a concerted effort to pressure other museums and perhaps collectors to give up similar art works without a fight. That may very well happen given the cost and difficulties private parties face when going up against the U.S. Government. There is also the issue of whether the current owner of the artifact is willing to take heat in the press, let alone the archaeological blogosphere. So to put up a fight, one needs not only to be well funded, but to have considerable intestinal fortitude as well. Still, for those bold enough to fight, the relevant issues have not been conclusively decided.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
During CPAC's consideration of the proposed Bulgarian MOU, it was revealed that Bulgaria's corrupt police all too often hype such seizures in order to make it appear that their efforts are far more effective than they truly are in reality. The picture accompanying this story raises the question if the Bulgarian police are still more interested in looking good rather than doing good in their jobs. Hopefully, there will be some clarification of whether the image is that of the actual seizure and, if so, whether the coins are of ancient or modern origin.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The documents should go to their true owners or their representatives, not the country that hounded them to leave. It's as simple as that.