Friday, 2 October 2009

It's not my fault (is it?)

The discussion on the “change in Bulgarian law” the US no-questions-asked coin collectors have imagined themselves as having taken place overnight (see here and here) has led to some desultory discussion on their forums of the looting of Bulgarian archaeological sites. In the course of this was mentioned the David O’Shea documentary “Plundering the Past", which can be watched here (and there is a transcript here). There is also an article about the making of the film here (Ivan Dikov, ‘Bulgaria: an Archaeology and Treasure Hunting Paradise. Or Hell’ Novinite July 31, 2009).

On Moneta-L, collector Ben Bridgwater reacts in a typical manner for the milieu:
Thanks for posting that Ross - very interesting video [...]. I'm sure the Constantinian bronzes I collect are not their primary target, but it's still depressing to think that some may nonetheless have originated from sites like these, regardless of how many hands/countries they have since passed thru (sic).
He is "sure" that treasure hunters do not dig up anything that is saleable? If people like him will buy these coins no-questions-asked, they go in the sack. The sacks are tipped out and sorted through, the coins and other artefacts that look as if they will clean up nicely are taken out and sold separatedly, the rest go off into big bins which are then shipped to foreign markets, like the USA. There the individually saleable items (coins and other artefacts) are separated out and find their market, the remainder are sold in bulk as the "three pound lots of artefacts" seen on ebay and the "x00 uncleaned coins" which many collectors all too willingly buy without asking where they came from. Ben Bridgwater is "sure" that the coins he buys are not produced by this process, he and his money are not part of the looting process, it is therefore "somebody else" who is the problem. Mr Bridgwater perhaps believes in coin pixies and elves.

OF COURSE the people who buy the products of looting are responsible for its continuance. If collectors (really) cared about the proper study of the past, if they (really) cared about the preservation of archaeological sites, then they would refuse to buy dug up material which cannot be shown to derive from a source OTHER THAN this kind of looting. Why is that so difficult for these people to understand?

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