Monday, February 12, 2018

ICOM Red Lists-- Far More Transparency Needed


The Art Newspaper has reported on the unveiling of  the latest ICOM/US State Department Bureau of Cultural Affairs "Red List," this time for war torn Yemen.

If recent history is any guide, the US State Department funded list will now be used to help justify and frame US State Department promulgated "emergency import restrictions" on anything and everything of a type identified as "Yemeni" with the aim to suppress collecting any such artifacts in the near future.

As an ICOM official stated, "We are now strongly advising collectors to avoid the objects on the list altogether, or at least to be extra cautious and thoroughly check the legality of provenance,” says France Desmarais, the director of programmes and partnerships at Icom.  Only the Yemeni government is authorised to issue documents for the export and import of cultural goods, so how likely is it that collectors will be able to obtain such licences? “It’s difficult, but not impossible,” Desmarais says. “It is important to respect the sovereignty of nations, so if it is required by law, we must abide.”

Given the stated intent of such lists, their proliferation and their US Government funding, there needs to be far more transparency about how these lists are created, who creates them, their funding, and how they relate to US law which reserves US "independent judgment" in such matters.

Moreover,  publication of the Yemeni Red List raises particular questions whether such objects that may be seized by Customs authorities should be returned to a country in the midst of a civil war or offered "safe harbor"and whether artifacts of Yemen's displaced Jewish community should be returned at all.

Efforts to seek more specifics about these lists were met with a dismissive reference to an accompanying press kit.  The International Council of Museums is a NGO with ties to UNESCO. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Archaeological Lobby Silent as Turkey Bombs Hittite Cultural Site

Turkish warplanes have bombed and evidently badly damaged the Iron Age temple of Ain Dara in Northern Syria as part of their campaign against Kurdish separatists.

Far from expressing outrage, the major archaeological lobbying groups including the AIA, ASOR and the Antiquities Coalition have remained silent. 

But why?  A cynic might think these groups are more concerned about angering the Turkish government than in maintaining a consistent message. 

After all, the Turkish Government  offers archaeologists associated with these groups valuable excavation permits for archaeological sites within the country. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Blood and Treasure"

According to Variety, CBS has given a straight-to-series order to a new action-adventure series titled “Blood & Treasure.” The report continues, "The series centers on a brilliant antiquities expert and a cunning art thief who team up to catch a ruthless terrorist who funds his attacks through stolen treasure. As they crisscross the globe hunting their target, they unexpectedly find themselves in the center of a 2,000-year-old battle for the cradle of civilization.   The network has ordered a 13-episode first season of the one-hour series, which is set to be broadcast in summer 2019."  Executive Producer Marc Vlasic, an Antiquities Coalition Associate, evidently views the series as "social impact TV."  In contrast, CPO considers the series as yet another effort to confuse  "entertainment" with "news" to promote an anti-collecting crusade.  CPO has criticized CBS for promoting "fake news" about values of ISIS loot. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Metal Detecting Blog

John Howland has initiated his own blog.  It may be accessed here.   John is a frequent commentator on this blog and has long contributed to Dick Stout's own metal detecting blog.  John has lots to say.  And quite a sense of humor.  So enjoy!