Friday, 20 January 2017

The Antiquities Trade in Egypt 1880-1930

Fredrik Hagen and Kim Ryholt: The Antiquities Trade in Egypt 1880-1930. The H.O. Lange Papers. The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Scientia Danica. Series H. Humanistica. 4 vol. 8. 2016. 335 pp. Lavishly illustrated. Price DKK 300  (preview here)
The book presents the first in-depth analysis of this market during its “golden age” in Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th Century. It is primarily based on the archival material of the Danish Egyptologist H. O. Lange (1863-1943) who, during two prolonged stays in Egypt (1899/1900 and 1929/1930), bought objects on behalf of Danish museums. The travel diaries, and the accompanying photographs, are complemented by a wide range of other sources, including contemporary travel guides and various travel memoirs, which together paint an extraordinarily detailed picture of the extensive antiquities trade.
The book looks at the laws governing trade and export, both in theory and practice, and the changes over time. The practicalities of the trade are described: its seasons, the networks of supply, the various methods available for acquiring antiquities, and the subsequent routes of transmission of objects, as well as the different types of dealers operating in Egypt. The geographical distribution of dealers is mapped, and the role of the Egyptian state as a dealer is investigated, both through official sale rooms, and as a seller and exporter of more or less complete tomb-chapels.
The final part of the book contains a list, with short biographies, of over 250 dealers active in Egypt from the 1880s until the abolishment of the trade in 1983. Most of them are described here in detail for the first time.
It also provides not just an excuse for all those collectors with private collections (the usual old crap about "how many objects were sold in teh past") but a challenge, if they want to claim one of those 250 dealers "might have been" the origin of the items in their collections, how many of them can give us proof that an object they now own came from one one of those dealers? How many objects in personal collections today can be assigned a legitimate collecting history back to any one of those dealers?

Vignette: Lecture flyer


RobertoDevereux said...

Dear Paul,

as I wrote before, I don't understand the logic of your argument. If there were 250 dealers in egypt and there was a trade for more than hundred years + salerooms in the Cairo museum and in Alexandria, why should the burden of proof to be on collectors? This is logical not convincing. The egypt goverment sold antiquities in an industrial extent for a very long time. Ergo: If Egypt claims nowadays that a certain piece is illegally exported, they have (because of their previous behaviour) to show that this piece was illegally exported. Otherwise there could be the obscure case, that Egypt perhaps demands a piece back, what Egypt sold only 40 years ago.

The burden of proof could only be on the "collectors-side", if Egypt didn't have done this.

I'm very interested what in your arguments!

Best wishes,


Paul Barford said...

>>as I wrote before, I don't understand the logic of your argument<<
Apparently not.

Surely though it should not be up to any foreign government to show that this or that piece is illegally owned. Surely it is up to the people who make a living selling these things to collectors to ENSURE that the objects they are handling are legally-acquired before adding them to their stock. No? And it is up to collectors who decide to enter such an ethical minefield as antiquities collecting to ENSURE that they are not buying illegally acquired items for their collection. Is that so difficult for you to understand?

If a question arises about an object, then the dealer or collector should obviously be in a position to show that any accusations are false, by providing the documentation on the basis of which he or she ENSURED its legality before they acquired it.

It's like in a traffic stop, when the policeman asks you to show your driving licence, vehicle's registration, insurance and roadworthiness documentation. We want the drivers who've lost their licence off the road, we want the stolen vehicles off the road, we want drivers with no insurance off the road and we want people driving unroadworthy vehicles off the road. We do not want drivers in our midst who cannot provide these documents when asked. We also want artefacts with no documentation of licit origins off the market. Where is the problem in that? You get stopped without a driving licence, and it is not up up to the State to "prove they never gave you one" or "prove you lost it through being caught DUI" (!). You get out of the car, you leave it to be towed away to a police pound and if you cannot provide it, then pay a fine for driving without a licence. It is not up to the state to prove your guilt, but up to you to demonstrate you have the paperwork. Any problems with that?

RobertoDevereux said...

Most Egyptian artefacts held abroad were exported legally, says former Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty.

Egyptologist professor argues that it is in his country’s interests to leave them where they are
March 3, 2017: Egypt’s former Antiquities Minister has said that retrieving Egyptian artefacts from abroad is not in Egypt’s interests, news sources from within the country report.
Prof. Mamdouh al-Damaty, an Egyptologist who was Minister from 2014-16 and believes that displaying his country’s heritage in other nations promotes Egypt across the world, also pointed out that the majority of Egyptian artefacts abroad were legally exported before laws were introduced to ban exports.
Vincent Geerling, chairman of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA), has welcomed Damaty’s speech, and is calling on the authorities in Egypt to take note.
Geerling has also suggested that re-introducing licensed sales of minor artefacts might be a way of helping Egypt to finance the urgently needed protection of archaeological sites.
“At IADAA, we have been campaigning for years on the issue of what has and hasn’t been legally exported, while watching with dismay as international bodies introduce inappropriate policy to deal with perceived wrongs that, for the most part, do not exist,” said Geerling.
“So much of what Prof. Damaty is saying is exactly what we have been arguing for a long time now, but our views have been ignored or dismissed. Hopefully, now someone as distinguished and knowledgeable as Egypt’s former Antiquities Minister has put forward the same arguments, we will all be listened to.”
Those arguments acknowledge the fact that Egypt traded its artefacts legally over long periods, including in the 20th century, when the Cairo Museum had its own saleroom.
“In many other cases,” one news report quoted Damaty, “artefacts were presented by Egypt's kings as gifts to foreign dignitaries, rulers and officials, before the development of the current laws to protect antiquities and ban this habit.”
Foreign archaeological missions were also allowed to take a percentage of the artefacts they discovered in Egypt, making it impossible for Egypt to recover these artefacts now, because they were legally exported, he said.
In fact, Damaty went as far as stating that the majority of Egyptian artefacts abroad had been legally exported.

His speech came as Egypt’s ongoing financial problems led to the suspension of 14 restoration projects and cutbacks in measures to protect archaeological sites, reports said.
Significantly, before the coup the Antiquities Ministry paid for all the projects itself and was a net contributor to government coffers, but now depends on central funding.
Until recently, Geerling said, “Egyptian embassies have challenged the sale of many artefacts, that had been in collections for decades and more, at fairs or auction, without providing any evidence at all to show that they were stolen.
“The current Egyptian authorities’ view is that unless collectors, dealers and auction houses can demonstrate an unbroken provenance from when an object was excavated, it should be deemed illicit – guilty until proved innocent, if you like. That is legally flawed.”
He argues that following the spirit of the former Antiquities Minister’s speech, such a policy needs to be replaced by something more positive.
“Egypt had a legal trade in antiquities up until around 40 years ago. Why not revive a properly licensed, self-sustaining legal trade in minor objects that are of no great importance to Egypt’s national heritage, so that the trade can help Egypt create a revenue stream to finance the necessary protection of archaeological sites, as it is obliged to do under Article 5 of the UNESCO 1970 convention,” he said.

RobertoDevereux said...

Paul Barford said...

But these are known facts which nobody is disputing. What is equally beyond dispi=uite is that objects continued to be illegally excavated, appropriated and smuggled after the passing of the 1983 laws and after the 2011 'revolution'. The latter have to be kept off the market, and therefore there is a need to actually identify those artefacts which arrived legally from those that did not (or cannot be identified as having arrived legally), the latter should be excluded from the legitimate market completely.

That seems pretty obvious.

RobertoDevereux said...

Dear Paul,

this is exactly the problem!

There are pieces (many, if not most!) which cannot be identified as having arrived legally. But you can not conclude therefore, that such pieces 'should be excluded from the legitimate market completely'. As al-Damaty wrote: 'Most (!) [egyptian, my addition] pieces [if not nearly all, my addition] are legally eported'. From the fact that you in many cases cannot 'prove innocence' you cannot deduce illegality!

Do you know, what the 'In dubio pro reo' means?

Its means that a defendant may not be convicted by the court when DOUBTS (!) about his or her guilt remain. This priciple is THE maxim of all our ethics and law!

As you perhaps know, some terrorists were among the many innocent refugees, which came to Europe the last years from the near east. What should we do? Arrest ALL, because most of them CANNOT SHOW, that they are NOT terrorists?!

I think it seems pretty obvious that you suggestion isn't logically, ethically or legally possible.

Why is this so difficult for you to understand?

Paul Barford said...

>>There are pieces (many, if not most!) which cannot be identified as having arrived legally. But you can not conclude therefore, that such pieces 'should be excluded from the legitimate market completely'. <<
Well, that is exactly what should happen. The only drivers on the road those who can show a valid licence, the only doctors and teachers, the ones who can show their qualifications on paper, the only meat in the shops which has papers showing its passed the health tests. It s perfectly logically, ethically and legally possible to restrict trade in a commodity only to those examples that can be demonstrated to be of licit origins. THAT IS THE ONLY DEFINITION OF A RESPONSIBLE TRADE IN ANYTHING. Period. What other is there?

RobertoDevereux said...

Dear Paul,

I think the 'period' (you allways write this), if you doesn't like to argue further, is your intellectual problem. You allways doesn't discuss, but just REPEAT your standpoint (so it its allways an 'argumentation directed by the desired result'). And this standpoint seems to have some ideological aspects.

Your comparision, that a driver has to show his driving licence doesn't speaks against the maxim 'In dubio pro reo'! The duty to show your driving license is a way to simplify the DUTY OF THE GOVERMENT to SHOW, that you are perhaps NEVER MADE a driving license! If you forgot your driving license while driving (and you doesn't want to show it also later by going to the police station for whatever reason) the goverment can only sentence you for the tort 'Driving without never making a driving license', if THE GOVERMENT CAN PROVE that you really never made one! Driving without driving license (but made one, but lost it perhaps) is therefore only a 'public nuisance' but not a crime.

For YOU the most important thing is to 'clear the antiquity market from illegal pieces', but in a democratic country you must accept that there are people with other oppinions. YOU probably doesn't have no trouble to restrict civil rights for the sake of 'cleaning' the antiquity market. But this never could work ethically or legally. To do something unlawful or even only unfairly for the sake of prevent unlawful or even only unfairly actions is a ethical principle which cannot defended by any argument. I by myself for example are a person, who lives vegan. I think how we treat animals is really a unjustifiable crime and there are very good arguments by very famous philosophers, not to use animals for human purposes. But should I dictate my neighbour to eat no meat or should I even try to prohibit his desire to do, what he wants (even it is at least 'problematic', if not a crime)? I hope you are a vegan by the way :-)

Take the following example: A person found a egyptian relief from the middle kingdom while he is cleaning the attic of his dead grandmother. She was in egypt several times between 1930 and 1975 and bought this piece 1950 from one of the 250 antiquity dealers in egypt. 67 years ago there was no need to have a prove of provenance or something like this. The grandmother bought the piece and throwed the little paper snippet from the egyptian dealer ('license of export', which anyhow never contained a picture or any exact informations about the piece) in the garbage. She didn't really liked the piece during the years and put in at the attic. Let us say that the piece is a very good one and worth 200.000$ today. The grandmother also paid a lot of money (for that period) buying it from the egyptian goverment in 1950 (let us say converted 900$).

Do you really think it is fair for the sake of 'cleaning the antiquity market' to confiscate this piece by the local goverment, to 'steal' (I have no other word for this action) the 200.000$ from the grandson and giving back the relief to the Egypt Goverment (which put the piece in a warehouse, because they have thousands of similiar pieces), from which the grandmother BOUGHT the piece 67 years ago?!

As al-Damaty said, NEARLY ALL pieces, which were on the market today and which were sold by egypt without reliable paperwork (like'beautifull relief with a pharao' or something like this. I have a lot of such licenses and there never is a good description or a sketch, picture etc.) Do you really want to suspect, that all this pieces (with lost paper snippet) are 'looted after 1983'? And do you really want the restrict civil rights of the legitimate owner just because of a mere suspicion? I would be very happy to hear some ARGUMENTS against my argumentation, not just (again) 'period' or something like this......

Paul Barford said...

It seems to me that the arguments are perfectly sound and that you are the one thrashing around to avoid accepting them. I think the key one is that we are no longer inhabiting the first half of the twentieth century and however much dealers would like those times to come back, they will not, and they have to get over that and live and function in their own times, not a dream. And if they cannot cope with that, let them think about a career change.

>As al-Damaty said, NEARLY ALL pieces, which were on the market today and which were sold by egypt <
He cannot prove that, and neither can you, there are a lot of antiquities on the market - far more than can be explained by a small travelling elite of past generations prior to 1970. Certainly such a baseless assumption cannot be used to argue that any artefact without proof of origin 'must' be one of those legally sold earlier - because some clearly are not. Which brings us back to the fundamental need to identify which can be shown to be kosher and which cannot.

You seem fixated, like most collectors and dealers, with 'governments' and 'repatriation'. As such, you are missing what I am writing about.

The 'granny in the loft' story falls flat because it is the same story told by the dealer trying to insert a freshly looted and smuggled item onto the market. The inheriting grandson is in a similar position if the 200 000 dollar legacy was an old wild bird egg collection without documentation, or a piece of 'holocaust art'. Anyway the ADCAEA have suggested a way round the 'granny in the loft' situation, check it out.

>For YOU the most important thing is to 'clear the antiquity market from illegal pieces'<
Those collectors and dealers who claim that responsible antiquities collecting is benign and beneficial will declare that it is important for them too.... I am not inclined to accept your arguments that we should listen to those with other 'opinions' on illicit antiquities - collectors of illicit artefacts are not a legitimate partner for discussion here. I wonder where they would be.

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