Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blame Game

Archaeologist Donna Yates has again blamed Western collectors for looting in third world countries.  Yet, in so doing, Yates lets on that workers employed on digs she has worked on have admitted to her that they engage in looting in the long off season.  If archaeologists paid local diggers a fair living wage they would see no need to loot to help make ends meet.  So, perhaps the blame should be on rich American Universities and archaeologists themselves rather than on Western collectors, who after all, collect not for money or fame, but for genuine interest in past societies.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Assad to Be Ultimate Beneficiary of HR 1493?

The Senate has passed HR 1493, a bill which imposes import restrictions on cultural goods removed illegally from Syria. The measure is not yet law because there needs to be conference with the House and new votes before one bill is sent to the President.  

The major differences between the Senate and House versions are that the Senate substitute includes a stronger "safe harbor" measure for Syrian antiquities and deletes a proposed State Department "Cultural Property Czar."     

Probably not coincidentally, the vote came the same day the well-funded and politically connected Antiquities Coalition unveiled its own proposals for more repressive measures and regulation largely aimed at the antiquities trade, museums and collectors.   Proposals for source countries are promised, but not yet revealed.  There appears to be no need for proposals aimed at what archaeologists can do to preserve cultural heritage.   

CPO attended the event.  CPO commends two speakers, Professor Patty Gerstenblith, and Dr. Al-Azm, for their acknowledgement that the Assad regime is part of the problem and not part of the solution.  Indeed, Prof. Gerstenblith stated in no uncertain terms that the Assad regime has probably killed more people, destroyed more cultural heritage, and looted more artifacts than ISIS.   The only difference is that Assad's forces don't use social media to publicize their evil deeds.

So, CPO remains skeptical of Dr. Gerstenblith's efforts to pooh pooh the concern that antiquities seized under HR 1493 will ultimately be repatriated to the Assad regime.   The CPIA -- which HR 1493 does not change-- certainly requires seized artifacts to be offered to the source country.  And given the realities on the ground or in the air in this case-- what with Russian air power bolstering the regime-- it certainly looks like Assad will be the victor to whom these spoils ultimately will be returned.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bad Old Days Return to Bulgaria?

Bulgarian police have arrested a senior civil servant and his friend for possessing unregistered metal detectors and an unregistered collection of antiquities and coins.   While some archaeologists will no doubt applaud, collectors may question whether the real problem is the draconian laws put into place when Bulgaria's ex-Communists (now called Socialists) briefly took back power.   In contrast, fair laws like those in the UK encourage responsible metal detecting and recognize the value of collectors in preserving common artifacts of the sort that state museums already hold in abundance.   That is a much superior approach to one more reminiscent of the bad old days under Bulgarian Communism that treated collectors as criminals.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reality or Just More Russian Propaganda?

Russia's UN Ambassador is pointing his finger at Turkey as the trans-shipment point for $150-$200 million in antiquities stolen by ISIS.  The material is then supposedly sold on Western (not Russian) Internet auction sites.  But the total value of all artifacts of possible Middle Eastern origin listed on those sites must be a very small fraction of this number (which itself appears greatly exaggerated).

Are the Russian UN Ambassador's claims based on reality or are they just more propaganda aimed at Assad's enemy, Turkey, and the West and its Internet-based economy?

Update (4/10/16):  It looks like Russia's UN Ambassador has mistaken the value of the legitimate trade for the value of antiquities looted by ISIS.   CPO will let its readers decide whether this was an honest mistake or not.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Assad No Friend of Palmyra and its People

French archaeologist Annie Sartre-Fauriat explains that Palmyra is just another pawn for Assad and his regime.  According to Sartre-Fauriat, Assad's military first bombarded the site and then looted it, before abandoning it to ISIS in the hopes that what ISIS would do to the site would help encourage Western intervention on Assad's behalf.  That didn't happen, but Assad's and Putin's propaganda machines have made the most out of Palmyra's recapture.   Of course, Palmyra and its modern population are best out of ISIS' hands, but Assad's record is far from ideal.

Friday, April 1, 2016

American Archaeologists Recognize President Putin as Savior of Syria’s Antiquities

CPO republishes this item from "Patriotic Russia Today" and leaves its readers to draw their own conclusions:

American Archaeologists Recognize President Putin as Savior of Syria's Antiquities

Patriotic Russia Today

Washington, D.C.

April 1, 2016

An American archaeological group, Saving Antiquities from Everyone (“SAFrE”), has awarded President Putin its first ever “Savior of Culture and Context” Award in recognition of Russia’s role in liberating the World Heritage Site of Palmyra from the grips of DAESH terrorists.  SAFrE President Gill Barmore explained the award was overdue.  “President Putin has long been a strong supporter of archaeology.   SAFrE members well remember his scientific excavation of Greek urns during a scuba dive in the Black Sea.  Now, Russia’s president has done far more for archaeology and mankind.  Due to the mighty Russian air power he unleashed, Syrian government forces have been able to rout DAESH terrorists from the Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Hopefully, archaeologists will soon return now that Palmyra is once again under the tender loving care of President Assad and the Syrian military.”

The award ceremony is planned for October 8th, the anniversary of Russia’s longstanding Treaty of Friendship with Syria and the Assad family, at Russia’s Embassy in Washington DC.  The event will not only honor Mother Russia and its President, but also will offer a much needed "shot in the arm" to Syrian archaeology.  Patriotic Russia Today has learned that another American archaeological group, The Context Coalition, also plans to use the gathering to announce a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Syria and the Assad family.  The MOU will be patterned on one the group already negotiated with Egypt and its President, General Sissi.  The Context Coalition MOU with Syria will not only pledge its support for the recovery of all artifacts made by Syrian ancestors over the millennia, but will help foster economic development.  Indeed, the MOU is said to include promises of financing courtesy of Context Coalition partner Geldman Sax for a new hotel complex on the grounds of the Temple of Bel which was destroyed by DAESH terrorists.   Loyal Assad friends in the Iranian construction industry have already been selected to build the facility which is meant to house tourists who will be again visiting the site soon.  In return, the Assads are said to promise to ensure continued access for American archaeologists to sites in Syria despite the ongoing hostility in hard-line U.S. Government circles with anti-Russian and anti-Syrian views. 

But the event won’t be all business.   Guests will include several well-known Hollywood entertainers, but all eyes will be on Russian Air Force Captain Balislava, the fighter pilot with supermodel looks who helped carpet bomb DAESH terrorists into submission.  And will President Putin himself make an appearance?   Russian Presidential sources say that will depend on the international situation at the time and whether the cause of world peace and justice will require the President's attention elsewhere.