Tuesday, March 10, 2015

More Should Care About Iraq's Cultural Heritage

But the problem is that the archaeological lobby has defined "caring" as cracking down on collecting here rather than addressing the problem at the source.  Not surprisingly, that turns off collectors who should be natural allies in efforts to raise consciousness about ISIS' danger to Iraq's cultural heritage.  As one collector quipped, "I might be more interested if I wasn't blamed for it."


Dave Welsh said...

The archaeological lobby seems to be concerned first, last, only and always about the narrow special interests of archaeologists.

They are of course justly concerned about their interests being damaged by the overt destruction of archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria, perhaps also in Libya and elsewhere.

They also apparently perceive that their interests are threatened by a proliferation of smuggled artifacts taken out of these areas by ISIL terrorists and other extremists, and local smugglers cooperating with them, entering the international antiquities markets.

All these things are crimes against humanity and certainly, archaeologists are quite right in condemning them and making their voices heard. But they should be doing this because these are crimes against humanity, not because they are crimes against archaeology.

Archaeologists, artifact collectors and those involved in the antiquities trade all have very important interests at stake and significant special knowledge of the issues involved.

Antiquities collectors and those in the antiquities trade are not blaming these outrages on archaeologists, nor are they attempting to find ways to restrict and prevent the practice of archaeology.

It would give the archaeology lobby much more credibility if their expressions of concern were clearly directed at the barbarians actually committing these outrages, on behalf of all humanity, rather than being directed at "collection-driven exploitation of archaeological sites."

There are two fanatical jihads involved in these disasters: that of ISIS/ISIL iconoclasts against "idolatry," and that of archaeology against antiquities collecting.

Perhaps collectors and their advocates can be forgiven (or sympathetically understood) if in this evil situation they believe that "the enemy of your enemy is -- your enemy."

John H said...

Mr Tompa, in reply to your comments about the dismal turnout by supporters for Iraqi archaeology, Barford reckons that coin collectors are equally culpable in under-representation:-

"Their staying away (and Mr Tompa staying behind the other spectators) rather suggests that they support such a damaging market."

Using Barford's Rule-of-Thumb, then as examples, anglers, game-hunters, cyclists, snow-boarders, Democrats, Republicans, and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, also showed a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

Our man in Warsaw is worth every zloty in entertainment value.

Best regards

John Howland

Cultural Property Observer said...

Dave, there are probably some items coming out of ISIS areas, but they don't appear to be coming here in quantity. Also, significant Assad regime sanctioned looting seems to be taking or have taken place in Apamea and Palmyra. Yet, the archaeological lobby is virtually silent about it. That in itself should be troubling.

I'm personally very sad about what has happened to the Mosul Museum, Nimrud and Hatra and what conceivably might happen to Palymra and other sites in Syria and Libya. I think most collectors are. The problem here is that efforts to use these tragedies to vilify collectors seriously undercuts efforts like this White House demonstration. Why not concentrate on ISIS and addressing the problem first and foremost at the source or for looting in adjoining countries like Turkey?

Dave Welsh said...

John H said:

"Our man in Warsaw is worth every zloty in entertainment value."

He is perhaps in an important sense "our man in Warsaw" in that his rhetoric is so outrageously overstated that many people naturally come to us to see what we might have said to provoke it -- and then find themselves reading plain, old fashioned common sense.

Paul Barford said...

>> many people naturally come to us to see what we might have said to provoke it -- and then find themselves reading plain, old fashioned common sense<<
And may they long continue to compare what I say about collectors, smugglers, dealers and artefact hunters and what collectors dealers and artefact hunters say themselves and make up their minds which side they are on. Maybe Mr Tompa can tell us how many of his 227000 hits came from people following links from my blog or Professor Gill's "Looting matters". Comparatively few of my ONE MILLION two hundred and ninety-four thousand hits come from either his or Mr Welsh's. I do not see the no-questions-asked form of the antiquities market a "common sense" approach to the problem of dealing with illicit antiquities. It seems in fact quite the opposite. "More [in the collecting community] Should Care About Iraq's Cultural Heritage" and enquire more carefully into where items "surfacing" on the market come from and make that information available to subsequent buyers. If an object is on sale where that information has been lost/obscured, then the responsible buyer should pass it by. That seems to me to be the only common sense approach.

Full name: Paul Barford - Warsaw, Poland - basis for interest: person mentioned above.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Not sure where my readers came from exactly. I might have more if I had Mr. Barford's time to post 5-6 times a day, but frankly I have other things to do. As for "illicit antiquities," perhaps there would be fewer of them if archaeologists were more interested in site security and paying diggers a fair wage and national governments adopted programs akin to the Treasure Act and PAS. The Iraq and Syrian situations are a tragedy, but the blame should be largely on the Assad dicatorship and sectarian Iraqi government for creating the condtions that caused the problem. It's rich to blame collectors for ISIS.

I'm closing comments to this post.