There has been some discussion surrounding Sam Hardy's recent text 'archaeologists accepted Greek Cypriot looting of Alaas, Cyprus?' based on the evidence of the archaeological documentation of material in private hands. I mentioned it here ('Cyprus like PAS'), drawing attention to the parallels between the object-centred approach exhibited by the Cypriot authorities here and that of the PAS in the UK. Peter Tompa disagrees with this ('Cypriot Corruption Not Like PAS ') and rather oddly says the differences lie in the "corruption" which he suggests these foreign collections embody. I questioned what Tompa had said, in one post ('UK Treasure Act "Predicated on the Rule of Law" - Eh?') pointing out the discrepancy between what the Washington lawyer had said about the legal position in my own country and the real legal context; in a second ('Cyprus Collections Against the Law?') citing the Cypriot legislation on the basis of which - despite what Tompa thinks - the private possession of antiquities is not forbidden, Sam Hardy has now clarified the reasons behind the Cypriot policy (which I for one was not questioning, though I think they are wrong-headed). Barford on Cypriot antiquities looting policy logic: clarification.
Once again, we see that the xenophobic obfuscations of the collectors' lobbyists act to deflect discussion. We do seem to be getting far from the original topic which is that of archaeological ethics and the handling of looted and potentially looted material. I am glad to see that Hardy has brought the discussion back to that point.
I was taken by the concluding comments in Karen Olsen Bruhns' online essay "International Trade in Looted Antiquities, www.plunderedpast". Though concerning a totally different part of the looted past, they seem to fit perfectly the situation here:
We need to present forcefully [...] the idea that the past is not disparate things, things which are owned by individuals, that it is those things in their cultural context which permits an understanding of the past. We need to present graphically the destruction that looting causes, the racist attitudes involved in dealing and collecting, and the corruption of virtually everyone this activity leads to. [...] In the long run it is only an informed public that will make the antiquities market unprofitable and hence nonviable.
The opinions expressed by those US collectors like Mr Tompa and his sidekicks that self-declare themselves to be "cultural property internationalists" are in fact deeply embedded in a corrupt colonialist and imperialist ideology, and in fact if one examines its philosophy in any detail is the purest expression of cultural nationalism.
Sam Hardy, the author of the original post about archaeologists recording privately owned artefacts in Cyprus has asked Tompa to clarify his position (Tompa's incorrect claim on looted Cypriot antiquities collecting). He says Tompa's words indicate that he and his fellow American collectors want to have the same access to looted antiquities as Cypriot collectors.
If you object to the fact that 'the connected few are allowed to collect as much looted material as they want', do you object to anyone collecting looted material, in which case you would surely support American import restrictions, as well as [additional] Cypriot acquisition restrictions? Otherwise, does your objection have nothing whatsoever to do with Cypriot collecters' purchases underwriting looting? Instead, do you object to the fact that you were not able to buy looted Cypriot antiquities?This cuts to the core of the matter. Despite all the talk of "fairness" and "discrimination", so-called enlightened "cosmopolitanism"/ "internationalism", when you strip away the facade what the US antiquity dealers are campaigning for is the "right" to legally import illegally exported artefacts, no matter where they come from. This is nothing more than colonialism. And these dealers and their supporters accuse others of being corrupt!