Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Undocumented Artifacts to be Awarded to Assad?

When H.R. 1493 was first proposed, there was hope that the Assad regime would be replaced with a  government more representative of the wishes of the Syrian people.  Now, however, as H.R. 1493 has advanced in the legislative arena, so have the prospects of the Assad regime, courtesy of strong military support from its ally, Putin's Russia.

Of course, Russia was also the sponsor of the UN Security Council resolution that is the major justification for HR 1493's proposed Syrian import restrictions and Turkey has already come under criticism from the archaeological lobby for its failure to repatriate artifacts to Assad. 

So, how long before U.S. Customs and our State Department send undocumented "Syrian" artifacts back to the Assad regime, despite its involvement in looting in places like Apamea and bombing of places like the old City of Aleppo?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

More Cultural Racketeering In Egypt

Egyptian authorities are belatedly investigating the disappearence of 157 objects from Saqquara.  The Antiquities Coalition has yet to comment on such cultural racketeering  and the distinct possibility that high level insiders are involved.  Hopefully, this will not be yet another case where investigations of high level officials go nowhere. As CPO has previously observed, grandstanding is easy, but taking real care of one's cultural heritage is hard.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Addressing Looting at the Source by Remote Viewing

Archaeologist Sarah Parcak has decided to use her Ted Prize to fund crowdsourcing and remote satellite viewing to protect archaeological sites from looters.

CPO commends any effort to address looting at the source.   However, for the situations in places like Egypt to improve, issues of poverty and encroachment by development must also be addressed not by more dictatorial measures, but by engaging local people and encouraging an appreciation of past cultures.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Numismaster on Italian MOU

Richard Giedroyc has written on the extension not expansion of the Italian MOU for Numismaster and World Coin News.  Meanwhile, the usual suspects in the archaeological blogosphere are once again disengenously claiming that opposition to the MOU means support for the trade in "looted and stolen coins."  Not at all.  As set forth in Mr. Giedroyc's article, the concern is that as applied by US Customs, restrictions ban import of coins lawfully on markets abroad, including within Italy itself.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Rethinking Antiquities: Restitution and Collecting in the Time of ISIS

The Committee for Cultural Policy and the Cardozo School of Law are sponsoring a panel discussion entitled "Rethinking Antiquities:  Restitution and Collecting in the Time of ISIS" on March 1, 2016 @ 5-6:30 PM in New York City.  It should be nice to hear from the trade, collectors and museums on the subject.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jordanian Authorities Disclose Coin Thefts 15 Years After the Fact

Jordan's Prime Minister has disclosed that fakes were switched for genuine ancient coins at museums around the country back in 2001-2002.  This revelation follows another embarrassing discovery that more fakes were switched for real coins at the Citadel Museum in Amman.  Any relationship between the thefts is unclear as is the failure to take additional security precautions at other museums after the 2001-2002 thefts were discovered and referred to judicial authorities.

Grandstanding is easy, but taking real care of one's cultural heritage is hard.  Hopefully, although it's very late in the day, Jordanian authorities will investigate what must be an inside job, publish pictures of  what was stolen so that the legitimate trade can possibly help recover the coins, and, of course, put security measures into place to help keep the same thing from happening again.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Progress on HR 1493

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed a much modified version of HR 1493, a bill designed to protect cultural property in times of war and civil strife.  The Senate's version of the bill is not yet available on-line, but CPO has had an opportunity to review its provisions.  Most importantly, the Senate substitute legislation replaces a controversial State Department "Cultural Property Czar" found in the House version with a sense of Congress that the President should establish an inter-agency task force to coordinate a US Government response to protecting international cultural property in times of war or civil strife.  The bill authorizes import restrictions on Syrian cultural artifacts-- consistent with the provisions of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, but also strengthens provisions for "safe harbor" for Syrian artifacts compared to the House version of the bill.

HR 1493's sponsor, Ranking Minority House Foreign Relations Committee Member Congressman Elliot Engel,  has welcomed the Senate's actions.  So, CPO suspects the Senate's changes were likely worked out in advance with Engel and his staff. If true, that should help expedite passage of the measure and any House-Senate conference.

The major remaining concern deals with how such restrictions will be implemented.  Will the State Department and US Customs revert to standard operating procedure and restrict items solely based on them being of a type manufactured in Syria hundreds or thousands of years ago? Or will the governing UN Resolution and statutory intent be honored so that restrictions only apply to artifacts illegally removed from Syria after the start of its civil war?

2/10/16 Update:  The text of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee version of the bill is now available here.