Thursday, 14 October 2010

Bryn Mawr Well Represented at CPAC Sitting

Professor James Wright, who chairs Bryn Mawr’s department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, delivered oral and written testimony at the U.S. Department of State earlier this week before a hearing of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee ('Bryn Mawr Archaeology Professor Testifies at State Department Hearing on Artifact Theft and Trafficking').
“Greece’s rich cultural heritage [is] … in danger of being destroyed by the looting of archaeological sites and by thefts from museums and storerooms,” Wright testified. His testimony detailed the depredations of some of the sites excavated under the auspices of the American School [of Classical Studies in Athens] by remarkably persistent and rapacious thieves. Wright also recounted his own excavation in 2002 of a Late Bronze Age tomb that proved to be empty, having been thoroughly looted by grave robbers. “The destruction of this tomb makes it extremely difficult to understand the history of its use,” he said, “all the more the pity since it certainly belonged with the nearby Mycenaean settlement my team and I excavated.” Given the high price fetched by Greek antiquities in the United States, Wright said, illicit excavations and trafficking in such items are bound to continue unless our government acts to stop it. The damage trafficking causes to human understanding of our common cultural heritage justifies restricting the importation of these items, he argued. Similar agreements have been quite effective in “clamping down on the illegal market in antiquities,” Wright says.
In his opposition to the illicit trade, Wright was on the side opposed by Tompa and Sayles and the other seven members of anti-bilateral cultural property agreement camp present. Conceivably it was the exhibition in support of his testimony of Wright's photos of the looted tomb found by the US team that Tompa found so difficult to accept.
According to Wright, a number of Bryn Mawr-trained archaeologists were present at the hearing. Bryn Mawr Trustee Joan Breton Connelly, Ph.D. ’84, is a member of the committee. Patty Gerstenblith ’71, who was previously a member of the committee, testified at the hearing, as did Brian Rose, a Haverford graduate of the Class of 1979 who majored in archaeology at Bryn Mawr and is currently a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, deputy director of Penn’s Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, and President of the Archaeological Institute of America. “No other institutions were so well represented!” Wright said.

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