Thursday, July 31, 2014

SOS SS United States

It's now or never to try to save the fabulous SS United States from the breaker's yard.  The downside is the cost of a refit for commercial use, but the upside is that other sources indicate that the liner has already had dangerous asbestos removed.  If all goes as planned, the liner may end up as an attraction in Brooklyn, New York.  Otherwise, sadly it will likely be scrapped given berthing fees of $60,000 per month.  For more, see the SS United States Conservancy website.

US Government Gives Up on Trying to Repatriate Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask

The New York Times is reporting that the US Government is giving up on its effort to repatriate the Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask to Egypt.  It remains to be seen whether ardent repatriations over at the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation will now take up Egypt's cause.  However, given the turmoil and military dictatorship there, one might think leaving the Mask in St. Louis may be all for the best anyway, whatever ingenious legal arguments such advocates might come up with at this late date. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ACCG Files Reply Brief in Support of its Motion for Reconsideration

The ACCG has filed a reply brief in support for its motion for reconsideration of the Court's order striking its amended answer in the ongoing forfeiture case.   It discusses new Supreme Court case law and old legislative history that should be dispositive in favor of the Guild’s position that the government bears the initial burden of proof on where historical coins subject to forfeiture were “first discovered.”

More information may be accessed here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Balkan Corruption

More evidence, if any is needed, from Greece and Macedonia that the state ownership model does little to promote conservation, but much to promote corruption, sometimes at the highest levels. 

Trumped Up Charges?

The report that Egyptian customs officials have seized historical coins from a Sudanese citizen on his way to Australia should raise some questions.  First, the coins appear to be modern or though old, of little value.  Second, the claim they "were likely stolen from the Islamic museum" seems a bit odd.  Does the museum really hold such insignificant modern items in its stores?  Also, didn't prior reports suggest the museum was bombed not looted?  Finally, there is the fact that the perpetrator is Sudanese, a people who have suffered discrimination in Egypt.  Could this be little more than a story about customs officials finding some old coins on a passenger and jumping to conclusions to help justify the seizure?  One thing is for sure, such a story will provide little justification for efforts to impose US import restrictions on historic Egyptian coins of the sort widely and legally collected world-wide (except these days in Egypt).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Latest ISIS Culture Crime

The Conflict Antiquities archaeo-blog has published pictures proving that ISIS has dynamited a mosque and shrine devoted to Jonah the Prophet.   Another site lost to Islamic fanatics bent destroying not only places venerated by Christians and Jews, but even other, fellow Muslims.  Very sad.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

More Overkill Coming in NJ?

The problem with activists is that they are often absolutists.   That is certainly true amongst the activists in the archaeological community, and perhaps even more true when it comes to animal rights activists who are lobbying against the ivory trade.  For some reason, they also seem opposed to the trade in antique ivory though apparently it is quite possible to tell old from new.  The latest venue for this battle against collecting is in New Jersey.  Of course, ban modern ivory, but a ban that does not contain an exemption for antiques puts many artifacts of significant art historical or even archaeological value at risk.

You Can't Take it With You, and Your Descendants Can't Keep It Either

If tomb robbing is wrong, isn't it all the worse when the State then adds insult to injury by taking the contents that have been recovered from the decedent's family?

Yet, where is the outrage from the archaeological community?  Or, do they actually support State over family ownership of grave goods?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Well Worth the Effort

As civil war grinds on in Syria and Iraq, American heritage professionals are doing what they can to help local museum curators preserve the artifacts in their care.  Of course, this won't stop the iconoclasts of ISIS from smashing historic artifacts and religious items for show, but it will provide some tools to those who care to help preserve what they can. At least the Western-leaning Syrian rebels and the Assad Regime are basically on the same page about the need to preserve Syria's magnificent cultural heritage.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Mummy's Curse

Archaeo- blogger Paul Barford has made what appears to be a heartfelt plea that tombs not be disturbed to satisfy collectors.  But then, shouldn't the Mummy's curse also fall upon archaeologists who excavate tombs and steal grave goods from the deceased or even remove their remains?  CPO seems to recall reading that Barford himself was involved many years ago in the excavation of the grave of a Polish Noblewoman.   If so, how's this really any different in the end as far as the deceased in concerned?    If graves should not be disturbed, that should be the case across the board.

More Transparency Needed

The International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities has yet to respond to requests for the release of the text of its agreement with the Egyptian Military Dictatorship.  While many of the Coalition's projects appear non-controversial, why the secrecy, particularly when Coalition members are public charities that have preached a need for transparency in sales between private parties?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


The Egyptian Military Dictatorship, fresh from demanding the US Government stop the legal trade in undocumented Egyptian artifacts, has now demanded that the Borough of Northampton stop the sale of an Egyptian artifact long in its possession.  Will British local government stand up to these imperialists against such meddling?  Surely so.  Will our US State Department also show some spine and stand up for US small businesses, collectors and Museums?  Sadly, probably not given indications that the MOU with Egypt  has already been pre-judged after some behind the scenes lobbying by politically connected archaeological organizations with a vested interest in the corrupt status quo in that troubled country.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Committee on Cultural Policy Newsletter Focus on Egypt

The Committee on Cultural Policy has published a newsletter focusing on Egypt.   Stories touch on a lack of transparency in the archaeological lobby's dealings with the Egyptian government, exaggerations about an art/terror connection and an analysis of the recent appellate court decision allowing the Saint Louis Art Museum to keep the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mummy mask.  The newsletter also covers other important stories including new legislation in New York that effectively bans the trade in antique ivory objects, some of which have considerable artistic merit or historic value.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

One Set of Facts for CPAC and Another for Academic Conferences?

Now, CPO has seen everything.  Just a month after a junior academic with an ax to grind against collectors claimed that a well-known numismatic author and collector's rights advocate was being "duplicitous" for explaining to the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee that ancient coins typically circulated far from where they were made, the same archaeo-blogger and import restrictions proponent that made the charge is speaking at a conference about the circulation of "currencies between cultures."  All this begs the question whether the proponents of import restrictions are providing honest appraisals of accepted numismatic facts to government decision makers.  Advocacy should only go so far.  Certainly, the facts should not change based on the audience.

Sucking Sound

China, land of the free?  For coin collectors, perhaps.  China has a booming internal market in all sorts of coins, ancient and modern.  And now, Chinese coin experts are coming to America, presumably looking for historical coins to bring back to their homeland.  CPO supports this form of cultural exchange, but wonders why the Archaeological Institute of America and the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center have worked so hard to preclude Americans from importing the exact, same coins Chinese collectors enjoy, and now Chinese dealers are now freely exporting back into China.