Friday, 14 November 2014

Friday Retrospect: Before 'the ISIS-Crunch', Back in June

I found this today, I'd forgotten about it. It's a reply to some whining by coin dealer Sayles on Derek Fincham's blog that there was a lack of agreement about the scale of the contribution of the illicit trade in financing the bad guys and that "the media and institutional rhetoric these days seems not to encourage levels of agreement and cooperation" in dealing with the trade in illicit antiquities.
The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has extended a standing offer to engage in serious discussions with archaeological community decision makers with an aim toward establishing manageable parameters in the legitimate trade. The hoped for response has not been forthcoming. In fact, it seems that the anti-collector rhetoric mounts daily.
As usual, he attributes this to "the hope of some in academia that private collecting can be suppressed by vilification".

My reply June 21, 2014 at 8:39 pm
Surely the very reason for the uncertainty about who, apart from no-questions asked dealers and collectors, benefits from clandestine parts of this trade is due to the lack of transparency within it.

As for the previous comment, I am at a loss to understand why Mr Sayles thinks (a) that the problem of the circulation of unprovenanced antiquities concerns coins, and coin collectors, alone and (b) why he is so eager to conduct his ”discussions” just with “archaeologists”.
In reality, whether dealers like it or not, the foundations for the definition for “parameters for the legitimate trade” were laid down 44 years ago in the 1970 UNESCO Convention, the intent of which was to form common ground for discussion. For nearly half a decade, the commercial sector and collecting community have been continuing to act as though these principles are wholly irrelevant to them and the circulation of illicit artefacts has continued under the umbrella of the self-righteousness of those handling increasing amounts of material of wholly unknown collecting history.

Their lobbying led to the USA’s current disappointing, anachronistic, selective “implementation” of these principles. Mr Sayles and his organization are today shamefully busy trying to reduce even further the effectiveness of these measures as far as the US antiquities market is concerned.

What basis for a dialogue and “levels of agreement and cooperation in reducing this problem” he imagines that creates is beyond my ability to understand. What kind of “response” does he expect such activities to elicit?

The archaeological heritage is not Mr Sayles’ alone to do as he wants with, nor is it yours or mine. As such, we all have a duty to inform public opinion about what we see going wrong, what we feel is damaging, and what needs improving. The ACCG and its officers have since its formation been engaged in a public information programme outlining every single fault they can see (or imagine) in heritage legislation and in archaeology and archaeologists in particular. I imagine he would justify that as ‘free speech’ and deny that he was responsible in any way for ‘inflaming the situation’. He should then accord the same privileges to those he attacks. Let us see whose arguments are the more persuasive: those who argue for continuing a messy status quo which only adds uncertainty about where artefacts are coming onto the market from and where the funds are going (as in the present case), or those who want to see the market making more of an effort to document the licit provenance of the items it handles.
The dealers that actually achieve that are not those being criticised by either archaeologists or the media.

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