Wednesday, 13 June 2012

New York Times on Greek Antiquities, and a NYT Reader on US Antiquities

There is an article on the concerns being raised about the effects of austerity measures on the Greek archaeological heritage in the New York Times.  Randy Kennedy, 'Greek Antiquities, Long Fragile, Are Endangered by Austerity', The New York Times June 11, 2012.
“I believe that this ministry could double or triple the number of archaeologists it hires — and the number of guards — and still be understaffed,” said Pavlos Geroulanos, Greece’s culture and tourism minister until the May 6 elections brought in a caretaker government. Mr. Geroulanos has overseen the layoffs and forced retirements as his annual operating budget has dwindled 30 percent over the last three years. “There’s so much out there, and so much work to be done,” he said. 
In general, this text is as typically unsympathetic in the way that only the American "cultural" press can be about the problems of protecting the archaeological heritage over in countries that have one ("Greece’s already hidebound and inefficient archaeological bureaucracy, for years among the largest in Europe (where the state plays a central role in the field in many countries)..." ).* It would appear that New Yorkers are expected to believe that the sites, monuments and museums "Over There" do not matter, but the stuff from them should be "Over here" (ie in the US) where America can "look after it" for the World. The comments below the article are equally unsympathetic and suggest where large numbers of today's Fascists hang out. But one is worth quoting in full as it does redress the balance a little. Unlike the majority of the commentators there, unable to see far beyond the ends of their own self-satisfied noses, "Linda" of Oklahoma takes a broader view:
It is just as bad here in the United States. Public land in the Southwest is covered with ancient buildings and art from the Anasazi, Freemont and other Native Americans. They are being gutted to sell the art on the black market. The theives have no problem crashing a bull dozer through a 1,000 year old building to get to the pots inside. The big pots sell for the most so they don't mind smashing the little pots to get to the big ones. There is no one to protect them. The BLM is so understaffed they really have no hopes of protecting America's heritage. The BLM has one law enforcement officer who covers a quarter of the state of Utah, the part of the state with all the Anasazi ruins. These thieves steal artifacts that you, the public, own, sell them to rich people who hide them in their private homes, and while they are stealing these things they destroy the buildings and area around them, leaving no clue as to what life was like for the people who made these beautiful pots. It's not just a problem in Greece. It is a major problem in the U.S. 
Thank you Linda, though how many of her fellow citizens paid any attention can be seen by the series of continued xenophobic and chauvinistic comments that continue after that.

* By the way a question one might address to the NYT journalist, as I did to Peter Tompa, to whom does the responsibility of protecting archaeological sites in the US fall? To the state, in the cases of those sites that ARE protected. "That's irrelevant" countered Tompa, but I disagree. 

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