Thursday, 20 August 2009

Utah Crackdown Puts Artefact Dealers on Edge

The ongoing federal investigation into the sale of Native American artefacts has:
cloaked the market in a fog of fear and uncertainty. Wealthy collectors are more cautious about buying artifacts for fear of criminal liability, and reputable dealers say they're working double-time to prove their legitimacy after being wrongly lumped together with looters and gravediggers. Amid grumbling about government meddling, the tension was evident Tuesday at one of the nation's largest and longest-running Indian artifact shows
(Susan Montoya Bryan, Fed crackdown puts tribal artifact dealers on edge, Salt Lake Tribune/AP, 19th Aug 2009).

Apparently the dealers participating in the 31st annual Whitehawk Antique Show in Santa Fe:
said they were concerned about their reputations because of a growing public perception that anyone involved in the trade could be involved with the criminal element that's being targeted by federal agents.
Jeff Hammond, a private collector and dealer insisted that there is no reason for a collector to consider a shady deal or illegal activity when there are so many legitimate Indian artifacts on the market. "If you really want to do this and not look over your shoulder and always have to watch your back and worry about things, you just need to stay on the right side," he said.

Walter Knox, a dealer who runs Fort Knox Antiquities in Scottsdale, Ariz. said that "despite the picture federal investigators have painted of the trade, he and his fellow dealers are not camouflage-wearing felons who loot sites under the cover of darkness. "We're the ones who love this stuff, who clean it and care for it," he said. "That's what people are doing, preserving history. And there's a right way and a wrong way to do it"".

Quite. It is pretty obvious that buying unprovenanced objects no-questions-asked as the antiquity collecting advocacy groups are insisting is the "collectors' rights" is not one of the right ways to do it. Any object without a proper legitimate provenance these days can only be considered as suspect by the ethical collector (or at best culpable and irresponsible carelessness on the part of previous owners).


Eftis Paraskevaides said...

As a responsible dealer and collector, I cannot possibly support a "no questions asked" acquisition policy. The problem is however, many times the right questions are asked, the correct answers are obtained, but it is impossible to prove their integrity beyond doubt...

Paul Barford said...

So what you are saying is that the dealers quoted here at the Whitehawk sale might not actually know the origin of the artefacts they deal in?

The same thought crossed my mind reading the accounts of what was happening in Blanding Utah, where illegally excavated items were apparently/allegedly given false provenances as coming from private property. It seems to me that wherever there is a loophole, antiquity dealers exploit it shamelessly.

So what is the answer? Just give up and admit we cannot do anything about the looting of the world's archaeologcal resources because people in the trade will lie and cheat and put themselves above any laws anyway to get round any stystem intended to stop it?

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