Friday, September 17, 2010

Greek Embassy Urges U.S. Archaeologists to Join AIA in Writing CPAC in Support of MOU

I have been forwarded an email from Zoe Kosmidou, Minister Counselor, Embassy of Greece, urging U.S. Archaeologists to join the AIA in supporting the proposed MOU with Greece. This email seems to confirm suspicions that foreign powers and the AIA do indeed coordinate behind the scenes to press forward what many consider an anti-collecting agenda. And it appears to be working-- at least to a certain extent. As of Thursday, there were some 290 comments on the website about the Greek MOU. Perhaps 40 or so were from archaeologists who supported it. The rest were largely from coin collectors concerned about the impact of any MOU on their ability to continue to collect, study, and preserve ancient Greek coins. The day after Kosmidou's email, that number had jumped to some 440 comments. Many of the new comments seem to have been posted by U.S. archaeologists who excavate in Greece.

Some might find this troubling. Leaving aside the issue of whether a foreign power ginning up grassroots support for its position is meddling in our administrative processes for securing public comments, there also is the real issue of possible intimidation. It's no secret that U.S. archaeologists depend on the Greek government to issue excavation permits for their work. It's also true that the Greek government can easily monitor the website to determine who has written to support the MOU and who has not done so.

This is not necessarily to say that there has been or will be any concerted effort to intimidate American archaeologists who do not "toe the line." However, the possibility is there and if one's career depends on it, one might reasonably view any request from the Greek Embassy to support the MOU as a suggestion not to be ignored.

Greek cultural officials should be questioned closely about their lobbying efforts before CPAC takes up consideration of any MOU.

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