The US Fish and Wildlife Service has destroyed its large stockpiles of seized ivory claiming that the move will help save endangered elephants. Does this move have any relevance for antiquities collectors?
Some in the archaeological community see direct parallels between endangered elephants and "endangered" artifacts, but the differences should be obvious. Elephants are live beings; artifacts are not. Harvesting ivory kills elephants; removing artifacts from the ground may deprive them of "context," but it may also save them from deterioration and development. And is anyone seriously maintaining seized artifacts should be destroyed? Let's hope not, though one wonders if repatriating them to underfunded cultural bureaucracies abroad pretty much guarantees they will be lost through neglect or worse as time goes on.
And what of the economics of the government's actions? Some have suggested selling off ivory stocks would be far more effective in depressing prices and ultimately lessening demand. Government spokesmen instead claim that such sales would instead stimulate demand and help others disguise poached ivory.
And is this of any relevance to antiquity collecting? Probably not. First, "post-1970" antiquities remain legal to own so I'm not sure how sales of seized antiquities would help disguise "poached" ones. Second, underfunded cultural bureaucracies abroad could really use the money generated from such sales. Finally, stimulating demand for antiquities may not be such a bad thing, particularly where it leads to further study and appreciation of the ancient cultures that made them. So, despite any effort to link ivory to antiquities, any parallels in the end seem quite limited.