Saturday, March 15, 2014

Emergency Import Restrictions on Egyptian Cultural Goods: A Way-Station to an Ivory-Style Ban?

Tom Mashberg's report about proposed emergency import restrictions along with news about the Obama Administration's ivory ban raises the question whether the import ban's proponents view it as the first step to a complete ban on the sale of  Egyptian antiquities.

Other countries for which import restrictions have been granted allow for at least a limited trade in cultural artifacts, and some like China and Italy even have widespread trade in such cultural artifacts.  But not Egypt, what with its top-heavy public sector and its absolutely Pharaonic attitude that all antiquities belong to the State.

In support of Egypt's broad claims,  the Capitol Archaeological Institute has already successfully lobbied eBay to ban the sale of Egyptian artifacts.  And other archaeological fanatics want to treat antiquities just like ivory.  So if "emergency import restrictions" on Egyptian cultural artifacts are approved, how long before there is also a call not only to embargo their entry but to ban their sale by executive order too?

And even without such an executive order, is it far fetched for "true believers" at US Customs to think that "emergency import restrictions" provides them license to seize undocumented Egyptian artifacts here on the theory that they "must be stolen?"  Unfortunately, probably not.

But what will the trade and the many collectors of ancient Egyptian artifacts do about it?  Hopefully not just sit back with the false hope that "it will all just blow over."


John H said...

Egypt's ineffectual curbs on criminal looting is NOT Washington' problem, and there's no reason why should it be?

It's all rather like Colombia saying 'Don't buy cocaine because we can't control or curb its illicit production and sale.'

Unlike the drugs barons, the antiquity cartels ARE lobbying Washington with success. As a long-time cynic, I reckon these curbs have more to do with protecting prices and values of well-placed Egyptian 'collectors' who see their hedges against inflation slowly eroding.

Best regards

John Howland

kyri said...

did john h even read your post???
"the antiquity cartels are lobbying washigton with success"
whats that all about?antiquity cartels ??this is the last thing dealers/collectors of egyption antiquities want.people like jerome eisenberg and james ede were in the trenches over 40 yrs ago with no help or even a whimper from coin collectors[or metal detectors] and to say these high end collectors/dealers are behind the mou because they are "protecting prices and values" " and see their hedges against inflation slowly eroding"is complete nonsense and a slur on the many decent ethical us collectors/dealers.
i think john h should stick to md on sandy beach and leave heritage issues to people who know what they are talking about.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Hi Kyri, coin collectors have been involved in lobbying against an over broad application of the CPIA and import restrictions since the beginning as have Jerry Eisenberg and James Ede.

I took John Howland as suggesting that the MOU is motivated by connected collectors in Egypt not in the US or UK who want to ensure the value of their collections. I don't see any evidence of that myself, however.

I think this is motivated for genuine concern for protecting the archaeological record unfortunately combined with some nationalism on the Egyptian government's part and some archaeological fanaticism of those who see restrictions as a means to an end.


Peter Tompa

John H said...

Dr Neil Brodie in his submission to the UK's Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport:
"There is also increasing evidence that drugs barons and other criminals are able to take advantage of the darkness in which the international illicit trade in antiquities carries on for laundering the proceeds of their crimes. There have been several seizures in Miami in recent years of stolen or smuggled antiquities, and Miami seems to have become a centre of the illicit trade on account of the large quantities of "dirty money" in circulation there."

Cyprus and Turkey are conduits for illegally excavated antiquities destined for no-questions-asked middlemen who then obtain forged provenances to dupe well-meaning collectors.

David Knell said...

A brief observation:

I think John Howland's total nonsense is best ignored. ;)

Cultural Property Observer said...

David, there is no legal requirement for items to be documented abroad which is what governs whether they can be imported here or not. Honestly, you taking on Mr. Barford's persona for your own posts does little credit to you or your blog.

David Knell said...

Peter, where in my blog post did I imply that ONLY the US trade and ONLY US collectors should document their artefacts? Please point it out.

Regarding the confrontational nature of some of my posts, perhaps you should consider taking your own advice? And perhaps you should bear in mind that a blog such as yours - with a long record of promoting philistine attitudes to archaeology - does tend to provoke more than a lukewarm response to some of your more outrageously simplistic spins.

Cultural Property Observer said...

There's a difference between confronting the issues and mocking references to others with whom you don't agree. You'll note that tactic is only used on this blog (if ever) in response in kind to posts like those of Mr. Barford and others who also take the low road. There are plenty of other archaeological blogs that take a more professional approach and are treated accordingly. Unfortunately, it appears that you are well on your way to being just another clone of Barford.

The other option is to no longer allow you or Barford to post on this blog. I'm certainly considering it.

David Knell said...

I mock your simplistic spin, not you personally. It would be impossible to address some of your statements with a totally straight face. As to "a more professional approach", you are clearly unfamiliar with the nuances of British debate. It's not all dry-as-dust you know.

I am strongly in favour of collecting and the threat that the arrogantly intransigent tenor of your blog poses to its future may occasionally elicit a strong response.

Speaking of "confronting the issues", I note you still haven't adequately answered the point I made on my blog.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I say what I think on my blog and I hope most would disagree with your claim that my views are little more than simplistic spin.

I do believe collectors should act according to the law, which is why I've advocated so strenuously against changes to the law which I do not believe address the problems and only harm legitimate collecting.

I doubt your views which seem to be closely alligned to those of Mr. Barford are close to those of many collectors.

Also, being clever it a bit different than being rude-- forgive me if I thinik your Homer Simpson blog is more the latter than the former.