Saturday, April 24, 2010

Met Shorted on Loan from Italy?

During the interim review of the Italian MOU in November 2009, several AAMD member museum directors complained that the Italian Government had only provided long term loans to museums which had agreed to repatriate antiquities voluntarily, though the current MOU with Italy contained no such condition. See

Now, "Culture Grrl" blogs about how the Met, one of the museums that has made voluntary returns, has been shorted-changed in the loan it received for the repatriation of the magnificent Morgantina treasure.

"Culture Grrl" has been supportive of Italy's efforts to seek the repatriation of artifacts in the past so the concerns she raises cannot be easily dismissed by those in the archaeological community for whom source countries "can do no wrong."


John Muccigrosso said...


Once again you set up a straw man of archaeologists (or those in the "archaeological community," which I suppose allows you to include the journalist CultureGrrl) who think that "source countries" can do no wrong.

Nevertheless, I think many would disagree with CG, myself included. She includes a (very bad) photo of a couple of objects which are not the most striking in the Moregine collection, and claims that the Met got shortchanged.

Reader might look here: for a better photo and can decide for themselves.

Of course some of us consider that the fact that these objects were excavated in a controlled excavation to add to their importance.

Cultural Property Observer said...

John- From your comments to my posts, can I assume you are a member of the archaeological community or is that an erroneous assumption? Please provide some background as one can't tell from your blogger information. Also, if you are an archaeologist or archaeological student, have you excavated in Italy?

I had assumed Culture Grrl had visited the Met based on the pictures, and if so her blog was based on an inspection not just the poor quality pictures you cite.

In any event, I have seen the Morgantina treasure at the Met myself, and I have to agree with her even if you don't. I've also attended a lecture where Malcolm Bell explained in detail his views about the importance of the treasure. I have to agree with him about that, which does also suggest that the Met was shortchanged.

John Muccigrosso said...


All my info is available via links from my google ID. (In fact, I'm the #2 google hit for my name. Used to be #1!) And I'm disappointed that from our previous exchanges that you don't remember me. :-('s the Moregine "Treasure" not the Morgantina, so Bell has nothing to do with this.

Second, you are welcome to disagree with me, but you are not welcome to claim that the opinions of CG must carry weight for everyone in the "archaeological community" (whatever that term means).

She too is entitled to her opinion of the deal the Met made, of course, but she doesn't - nor does she claim to - represent everyone on any side of any debate.

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

John- Thank you. I did Google you and you are a rather prominent archaeologist who excavates in Italy. I guess it says something about American society that you are only surpassed on Google by a real estate agent!

I do remember our prior exchanges, I just did not know your background.

I think you are taking my posts the wrong way. I didn't write CG speaks for the archaeological community. I indicated her views should be hard to dismiss given her prior support for repatriations. Also, I understand that Morgantina treasure (which was repatriated) is distinct from the Morgine treasure. My point was that Bell spoke at length about the importance of the Morgantina treasure and that suggests something equally important should have been provided-- which did not happen as far as CG and I am concerned.

Given your connections, it would be interesting for you to clear something up. I heard a rumor that Italian authorities were encouraging American archaeologists to speak up for the renewal of the Italian MOU. Did this happen?


Peter Tompa

John Muccigrosso said...


I've not had any communication from anyone in Italy, much less the authorities, encouraging me to comment in any way on this MOU.

Of course I'm in contact with the superintendency under which I work, so they could easily contact me if they wanted.

In all seriousness, I think the information available for the findspot of Moregine Treasure gives it very great importance archaeologically, an importance that is hard to match with similar objects that have no such information associated with them.

CG may or may not be right about the artistic quality of the silver objects in question. Personally I think she tilts the scales in her choice of objects to show (but I don't see a way to comment on her blog), but she's entitled to her opinion.

The bigger problem is that you seem to too easily lump large numbers of people together. In this particular case, CG is not an archaeologist, nor, I suspect, do her views represent those of a majority of archaeologists.

Easy enough to find out before posting: ask us. :-)

Cultural Property Observer said...

John- Thanks for your comments. Italy's agreement with the Met calls for loans of artifacts of equal beauty and importance. See

You suggest that knowing the archaeological context of the piece gives makes up for what it lacks in beauty, but I suspect not for an art museum like the Met.

Also, Bell reconstructed the context of the Morgantina treasure so I don't think context is that much of a relevant consideration in any event in this case.

I guess we will need to agree to disagree on this one.

Peter Tompa

John Muccigrosso said...


You keep bringing up Morgantina as if it's relevant. It isn't. It has nothing to do with this case.

(But being able to hypothetically reconstruct the context of a looted find is no substitute for actually knowing it for sure. In addition we don't know what else was found that we don't know about.)

The Met claims to care about archaeological context. Indeed they've sponsored digs in the past.