Sunday, 16 March 2014

Howland on "Cultural Property Observer": Antiquity Cartels and their Involvement on US Foreign Policy

UK metal detecting's spokesman on the Peter Tompa blog, John Howland this morning has a number of "cultural property observations" of his own which the blog owner has published for discussion. In reply to a post by lobbyist for the antiquity trade on Egypt'as request for help with fighting antiquities smuggling, Mr Howland offers a head-in-the-sand UK artefact hunter's view [it is not clear why there is a question mark at the end of the first sentence]:  
Egypt's ineffectual curbs on criminal looting is NOT Washington' problem, and there's no reason why should it be? It's all rather like Colombia saying 'Don't buy cocaine because we can't control or curb its illicit production and sale.'
But once again we see the confusion between two processes, it is not the production and sale of the product of illegal excavation that is being targeted at the other end of the smuggling route, but the smuggling and smugglers.  If the latter are put out of business, the links with foreign markets collapse, and the source nation has the task of only combating any internal market that may survive such disruption (so basically what Mr Howland postulates). Interestingly, Mr Howland depicts the international antiquities market as an oligopoly with its hands on Washington politics:
Unlike the drugs barons, the antiquity cartels ARE lobbying Washington with success. As a long-time cynic, I reckon these curbs have more to do with protecting prices and values of well-placed Egyptian 'collectors' who see their hedges against inflation slowly eroding.
It is not clear of what the artefact hunter is accusing these "antiquity cartels", and who actually he is accusing. It seems he is suggesting that emergency restrictions (preventing movement into the US of items without properly documented licit export) are mooted by politically-connected collectors outside the US who in some way "want to ensure the value of their collections". How they do that by restricting the market for them and reducing the demand is unexplained, but hey, he's a metal detectorist. The notion is illogical, as is the suggestion that the Antiquities Coalition and Capitol Archaeological Institute are working with (or on behalf of) any antiquity cartels. Perhaps though he is accusing the blog's host of working to aid these "cartels" of maintaining the value of collectors' property by working to keep the US market open?

 Then again, do such cartels exist anyway? 

UPDATE 16th March 2014:
Going along the same lines as Mr Howland's suggestion, Peter Tompa, lobbyist for the antiquities trade has suggested that the "ties" of the Archaeological Coalition and a major Washington university which hosts it need "investigating". What a good job he now has on board some grub-hunting and archaeologist hating metal detectorists to help think up conspiracy theories for him. 

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