Thursday, 1 September 2011

Muddying the Waters

I am not often lost for words, but the latest contribution - by Peter Tompa - to the ongoing ANS series of texts "Ancient Coins and the Cultural Property Debate" really has me floored. The ACCG has paid his legal firm thousands of dollars of collectors' money to do something or other and yet when sits down to write on what the USA's pathetically inadequate Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act says and means for collectors, he can't do it. I found it hard to find a paragraph in this lowbrow sleaze that does not contain an untruth or sleight-of-hand misdirection. And that's not even in a tricky "Jose Baez tricky-lawyer" way, but a dozy, intellectually lazy, unfocussed, coiney conspiracy theorist way. This text is really no better that Alan Wilson's junk-burble about Iolo Morganwg, the Bruts and king Arthur. Is there no academic editing of this publication? Seems not. Let it also be noted "the archaeologists" (Sebastian Heath) were allotted considerably less space than Tompa. The former tried to clarify Tompa here sets out to obfuscate the issue.

I'm not even going to bother to try discussing this nonsense here, it's a waste of everybody 's time. If this was a student essay, it'd get an F (for 'fail') and would be annotated that the student has not utilised the sources in an appropriate manner. Tompa has got lost somewhere, he is confusing export licences with "collecting histories", sees villains hiding in shadows, confuses the arrival of fresh coins on the market with internal circulation of coins on the market. This text is pure propaganda and agitation, not any kind of contribution to a proper academic debate. Instead of Roger Bland (the next one up to the plate), it is a shame that this text is not followed by somebody from the State Department (or CPAC) telling Peter Tompa what the CCPIA actually says, because he certainly gives the impression that he is unable to give ANS members a factually-accurate summary himself. Being coineys, however, I doubt whether any ANS members will actually know, care or look it up for themselves.

Tompa's title is: "It should be about Conservation, not control". He has not demonstrated any archaeological attempt to "control" except through his usual snide "über alles" insinuations, neither has he explained why in his view the coineys (dealers) are not themselves currently attempting to control what happens to archaeological artefacts both within the US as well as outside it. Nor has Tompa actually demonstrated how the coineys themselves (or their lawyers) are willing or able to help with conservation except making facile suggestions what other countries "should do" to accommodate the needs of the US no-questions-asked coin market (and hang-the-rest).

In this context, David Gill has correctly drawn attention to Tompa's inability (like many in the collecting lobby) to get his head around how the Portable Antiquities Scheme operates and in particular to what degree it is protecting the archaeological record of England and Wales. (UPDATE Tompa dismisses this as a "nit" which "relates more to terminology than anything else" which shows the collector, lawyer and self-appointed "observer" is still completely in the dark about the issue being discussed).

Finally I will ask again. If the US coineys are so sure that the Portable Antiquities Scheme is the "way forward" for archaeological preservation, why, oh why are they not actively promoting its introduction in the US (whose antiquity legislation is at least closer to the British than Cyprus, Greece, Italy, China or Egypt)? Why is this not going on now? If this is what collectors want, let America lead by example.

Vignette: muddied waters

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