Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Missing Memorandum

I was reading up on Looting Matters on pots of the "Darius Painter" and following the links through came to an old post about the scale of looting of Apulian pots with a story about a 'lost memorandum' that Professor Gill's slightly cryptic oblique reference led me to want to follow up. His original 2007 link to the "report of The Illicit Trade Advisory Panel" brings you to a dead end. Trying to find anything on the British DCMS website ("culture.gov.org) tends to provoke the frequent use of under-the-breath expletives. The Department of Culture seem to employ computer-savvy chipmunks who keep moving stuff around and breaking links. Anyway should you come across the FAQ page called "Where can I find the Report of the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Illicit Trade?", don't be fooled - it's the chipmunks' idea of a joke. You need (at the moment) to go here:

Report of advisory panel on illicit trade (including terms of reference)
 On pages 55-7 thereof this report of 2000 are brief discussions of some case studies, the first concerns Apulian vases apparently ripped from tombs in considerable numbers in the period between 1979 (the date of a published corpus) and 1995. This was based on a 1999 study by Professor Ricardo ("collectors are the real looters") Elia of Boston University. 

In the report (p. 55 fn 23) as Gill puts it: "the conclusions of Prof Elia were 'contested' by a named British archaeologist 'in written comments circulated to the Panel'..". Gill goes on to discuss the use made of this questioning of Elia's conclusions by collector George Ortiz to talk in terms of a "total cleavage" in archaeology between a radical minority (who "mobilise public opinion resulting in the present legislation ") and the rest (sounds familiar, doesn't it? It is a fixed coiney mantra).

So where can one read this refutation of Elia's results? Gill describes the efforts of himself and others to try and locate a copy. None seems to exist. It is not clear whether the polemecist  was questioning the figures, or claiming that contrary to what Elia had shown, the vases all had unknown to him pukka collecting histories, or what issue he had with what Elia had written.

The document originated from a 'named British archaeologist' works as a keeper in the Department of Greek and Roman (portable) Antiquities for the British Museum. An institution ever willing to criticise those who raise issues about antiquity collecting and the trade but it seems the history of the institutions aversion to backing up their naysaying has quite a long history.
R. Elia 2001, 'Analysis of the looting, selling, and collecting of Apulian red-figure vases: a quantitative approach', [In:] Trade in illicit antiquities: the destruction of the world's archaeological heritage, N. Brodie, J. Doole, and C. Renfrew (eds 2001), Cambridge: McDonald Institute, pp. 145-53.

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