Monday, October 16, 2017

Little Public Support for Renewed MOU with Cambodia

Low numbers of comments to CPAC suggest low public support for a renewed MOU with Cambodia.  Indeed, though most of the twenty-one (21) comments were supportive of the renewed MOU, virtually all these came from archaeologists who depend on Cambodian excavation permits or their associated archaeological advocacy groups.  Meanwhile, it is finally dawning on some in Congress that MOUs have devolved into special interest programs for archaeologists.  Significantly, Congressional appropriators have required CPAC to report on the expenditures MOU partner countries make in securing their own cultural patrimony.  Hopefully, this will help change a culture that has vilified collectors to help divert attention away from poor stewardship of archaeological resources by source countries. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Archaeologists for Assad?

UNESCO's Bulgarian Ex-Communist Director-General has praised Syria's Director-General for Antiquities and Museums in glowing terms.

“'When history books teach children about those who contributed to conserving Syrian heritage during the devastating conflict in Syria, Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim will be at the top of the list, along with all others who have been so dedicated and deserving of the world’s respect for their relentless, humanist commitment', said UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova."

What appears lost on UNESCO and members of the archaeological lobby who have also sung Abdukarim's praises is the fact that the Assad regime, which Abdulkarim serves, itself has been responsible not only for mass murder, but for the looting and the intentional destruction of Syrian cultural patrimony.  Indeed, Assad, like other Arab Strongmen, appears all too willing to use and abuse archaeology for his regime's own political purposes.  So, why should Abdulkarim be praised at all?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ancient Coin Collectors Guild Files a Reply Brief

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has filed a reply brief in the long running forfeiture action related to the coins the Guild imported for purposes of a test case.  Due process requires the government to make out each element of its case before private property may be forfeited.  Simple, no?  For more, see here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Eurocrats Find Little Evidence Terrorist Artifacts Entering Market, But that Does Not Stop Calls for Draconian Legislation

Ivan Maquisten writes that EU bureaucrats believe the absence of evidence that ISIS looted material is entering the market is reason for more draconian controls, not fewer.  The bureaucratic thinking is that vast amounts of looted material must be entering the market unnoticed under current customs regimes.  Of course, those who seek to justify draconian regulation will not consider the distinct possibility the extent of ISIS looting has been greatly overstated by Russian and Syrian propagandists and archaeological advocacy groups for their own purposes.  Moreover, it does not help that the EU cultural bureaucracy-- like its US counterpart-- only considers archaeologists and foreign governments legitimate stakeholders in the issue.  No wonder the cultural bureaucracy is so distrusted by collectors and the small businesses of the antiquities and numismatic trade. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Just What One would Expect from a Military Dictatorship That Respects Neither Private Property Rights Nor Human Rights

Egyptian government officials have attacked an edict of a religious scholar approving of landowners keeping treasure found on their own land as long as part is given to charity.  Meanwhile, a member of the country's parliament seeks the death penalty for anyone caught with illicit antiquities.  Just what one would expect in a military dictatorship with a rump parliament that respects neither private property rights nor human rights.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Repatriation Only the Most Ardent Repatriationist Could Love

One can only hope one of the few Trump political appointees at the State Department takes a close look at the Obama Administration deal to repatriate the Iraqi Jewish Archive.  Such a repatriation would seem to be against everything America stands for.  Some of the materials were originally confiscated from Iraqi Jews who were forced to leave their country under Saddam Hussein.  Others appear to be taken from schools and synagogues after they left. All the material was stored in the basement of Iraqi secret police headquarters, and became waterlogged after the building was bombed during the liberation of Iraq.  The US Government spent considerable time and money restoring and digitizing them.  This is yet another situation where UNESCO's repatriationist dogma has been allowed to take precedence over not only the facts, but what is right.  The archive should not be returned to sectarian Iraq.  Or, at a minimum, the entire contents of the archive should be publicized so that individual Iraqi Jews can make claims on what is rightly the property of their own families.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Preservationists Seek to Remove or Even Destroy Confederate Monuments

So-called "preservationists" have advocated for the removal or even destruction of Confederate war memorials as products of an inherently racist culture.  In contrast, CPO believes we should not erase history, but learn from it.

In a blog post on the subject, Obama Cultural Property Advisory Committee Appointee Prof. Rosemary Joyce justifies her views based on the assumption that

When you remove these statues to men who fought for slavery, you’re not destroying history – you’re making it.

Surprisingly, this 180 degree departure from archeology's mantra of preservation of objects in context appears to be based on little more than reductionist reasoning, i.e., the statues must be symbols of  "white supremacy" because they were produced in a racist South.  Indeed, efforts to draw attention to the fact that their iconography is virtually identical to monuments erected in the North at around the same time when the politically powerful Civil War generation was passing from the scene elicited little more than condenscending responses. It seems furthering "white supremacy" not commemoration of sacrifices on the battlefield must be the prime motivator in the South, but not the North (despite similar racist sentiments there at the time).

In any event, justifying the removal or even destruction of historical monuments by designating them as "racist" should be even more troubling given recent events in Iraq and Syria.   Indeed, there are distinct parallels between ISIS destroying "idolatrous" statues and monuments and efforts here to topple "racist" ones, not the least the motivation to deprive certain groups of artifacts deemed important to their culture (there Shia, Assyrian Christians and Yazhdis and here poor White people (who must be racist!)).  At least here, we have processes in place to allow localities and States to make the decision what to do with our Confederate monuments.  What must be avoided at all costs is another Durham, N.C., where a mob was allowed to take matters into its own hands.