Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dugup Collectors, Too Late for Debate

Ursula Kampmann sends her greetings to "Coin Enthusiasts all over the World" in the CoinsWeekly Newsletter of November 6, 2014. She writes facetiously of an upcoming conference of the German Archaeological Institute in a venue supplied by the German Federal Foreign Office. The conference is called “Kulturgut in Gefahr: Raubgrabungen und illegaler Handel” [Cultural Property in Danger: Illicit Excavation and Illicit Trade]. She drawas attention to the fact that the conference materials include phrasing like: “The current legal regulations both at national and international level are not sufficient to prevent illicit trade with ancient cultural property permanently and systematically.” I get the impression that she thinks it is not true...She seems incensed by the idea that such phrasing "anticipates the result of the conference" and that the discussion will not be "absolutely open and unbiased". She assumes that the German Archaeological Institute would "use its privileged position as a federal annex" to:
finally organize a conference during which all aspects of the Protection of Cultural Property will be addressed and all parties involved will have their say. You see, in Germany we all are equal, aren’t we.
We are not informed which aspects of the illicit excavation and trade in illicitly-obtained artefacts Ms Kampmann wants to discuss in terms of the protection of the cultural heritage (not just artefacts), or why we would want to know what she thinks. .

Forty four years ago, the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property should have started this debate. For the last forty years there have been next to zero traces of activities betraying any awareness of collectors and dealers of dugup antiquities that any changes could be made to the antiquities trade and their methods to help deal with the issues raised. Instead, the past few years have actually seen strident denials and lobbying (take the ACCG and the IAPN/PNG sponsored lobbying of Cultural Property Obfuscator as very good examples of what is going on) to avoid taking any responsibility for the shape of the industry. Then they have the gall to turn around 44 years later and feign surprise that they are not being treated as a serious partner for discussion? Were these people born yesterday? These people alienated themselves from such a discussion long ago and have consistently continued to do so by the tone and content of their lobbying and opposition right up to the present day, and nothing presages any imminent change in attitudes among collectors, still less dealers.

Forty four years of missed opportunity cannot be ignored.

Vignette: Coin collectors as a dissident mob against the world and common decency. 

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