Friday, 2 October 2009

"It is all Bulgaria's fault they are getting looted"

What is the answer of no-questions-asked coin collectors caught with egg on their face? They've tried denying that the coins they buy can possibly be the same ones as coming from looting in places like Bulgaria ("Petrarch collected coins - these are all unlabelled old collection coins"). They've tried suggesting that these coins do not come from archaeological sites but are from "hoards found without any archaeological context". They have tried denying that the money paid by the dealers they patronise to middlemen does not go to the mafia engaged in the looting. They have tried a myriad and one of false arguments to excuse what they are doing. When all else fails, blame the foreign government.

Peter Tompa [do the coins he buys come from this region?] says of the situation in Archar/Rataria:
it is a scandal that Bulgarian authorities have [...] failed to protect the site from looters. After all, Bulgaria is certainly wealthy enough to be part of the EU. Under the circumstances, why hasn't the site been protected?
So the looting is the fault of the Bulgarians who (though "wealthy) have failed to erect barbed wire fences around all their vulnerable archaeological sites with watchtowers manned with guards with machine guns and dogs?

Coin collector Voz Earl on Moneta-L is of a similar mind:
The most important step in stopping the looting would be for the Bulgarian government to get serious about protecting important sites and to BUDGET the appropriate resources to that end.
Again the looting is ascribed by a potential consumer of its products as due to the lack of protection of the sites by the "Bulgarian government". So "getting serious" would imply what, precisely? How many sites would that be, how many hectares of land, how many thousands of kilometres of fencing, how many policemen in this "wealthy enough" country are Mr Tompa and mr Earl proposing to keep the hunters for artefacts for the no-questions-asked market off this land? Would he compensate the landowners for the inconvenience caused by the fencing erected on their land by the Bulgarian government, and what about the problem much-vaunted in collecting circles of "property rights"? Just what kind of getting serious do people making these proposals actually suggest in the light of the sort of difficulties indicated in the Ivan Dikov article and David O'Shea video? Let us have from the no-questions-asked marketeers some concrete proposals for Bulgaria but based on what actually is happening in that country.

It would be rather superficial to propose this model exclusively for Bulgaria. Not only Bulgaria has a problem with the looting of archaeological sites. Britain has its nighthawks (so many it can't count them) and a means of dealing with them proposed has been closer controls on the market in Britain to exclude the sale of illicit antiquities. Not so say Tompa and Earl. What must be done is “protect these sites from looters”. So presumably they envisage the British government erect razor wire fences around the million or so sites involved and set guardsmen watching over each and every one of them 2 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter that many are on private land, the farmer will have to be allowed inside the compound of course to plough and harvest, but public rights of way will have to be blocked.

The United States where Tompa and Earl live has its own problems with looting of ancient sites on public land. Well, obviously for Tompa and Earl, the answer is to protect them too with razor wire fences and a permanent presence of armed watchmen. By the Tompa and Earl methodology, every known archaeological site in the Four Corners area for example must be fenced in and protected to prevent looting. Every site from Anchorage to Key West, from San Diego to Augusta.

Surely the most important step in stopping the looting would be to come down hard on all those buying the products. Make the stuff unsaleable by cutting off the producers from the consumers. That would include more aggressively pursuing those abroad who knowingly handle material coming from this disreputable process.

An even more direct means to achieve this would be for concerned consumers (if there are any in reality) to play their role, by boycotting antiquity sellers who offer dugup material without any proof that it does NOT come from this looting.

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