Important News! CoinLink has merged..... Visit our NEW Site www.CoinWeek.com

BREAKING NEWS:....... Vist Our NEW Site at CoinWeek.com

All Posts Tagged With: "cultural Nationalism"

The “illicit” antiquities trade

By Wayne Sayles – Ancient Coin Collecting Blog

clutural_nationalismFor the past five years I have read a nauseating stream of blog posts, news articles, discussion list comments and convention presentation reports that condemn the “illicit” trade in antiquities. The fact that anyone might condemn illicit activity is not in itself nauseating, but the ringing of the same bell 24/7 until the brain fogs over in biological rejection is not only nauseating but obnoxious. It reminds me of the parent in a grocery story who repeatedly harps (in the most irritating shrill cacaphony) “Johnny, don’t touch that!” over and over and over until you wish they would take little Johnny and paddle his behind (even though that is certainly not PC these days.) Really, it’s not little Johnny that needs paddling, it is the parent for not approaching the problem with a reasonable and effective solution.

When do the harpies of cultural property nationalism ever talk about the “licit” antiquities trade? From the ratio of ink spilled, one would presume that there is not even a legitimate trade in existence. Never mind that there are laws in Britain and the United States that protect private collectors and the legitimate trade in antiquities. Never mind that countries like Greece, Italy and Israel (among others) have state licensed and regulated antiquities dealers. Never mind that EC rules prohibit restrictions on the legitimate exchange of antiquities between private citizens and businesses within the European Union. Is there a legitimate trade? Of course there is, only an idiot would suggest that there isn’t. But is there any attempt among cultural property nationalists to work with the legitimate trade and private collectors to reduce incidents of archaeological looting? Very little if any, and none that I am personally aware of. In fact, as Executive Director of the ACCG, it has been my observation that the door is not and has not been open to any such collaboration for well more than a decade—and, in fact, the ACCG has tried.

The obsession among cultural property nationalists (especially those archaeologists who blog about the subject) has been to label everything without a documented provenance as illicit. Because much of the trade in antiquities does not require documented provenance, and because provenance is not especially valued by collectors of minor objects, it often does not exist. Consequently, the entire trade is painted with a broad brush as illicit. Excuse me, but that’s an asinine position and one that is a non-starter for any serious discussion. No legal system, short of autocratic government, recognizes a premise where something is illegal unto proven legal. In fact, attempts to create this sort of legal environment have led to several major upheavals in global society. A common coin or a clay pot, that is literally one of millions of surviving specimens, is treated by hardline nationalists in the same light as the Rosetta Stone. They can rave on about context and priceless information, but really, one doesn’t have to think very hard to see through that. (more…)