Sunday, 2 April 2017

Collectors' Forum Yahoos: Cline and 'the Source Country Nig-Nogs' (1)

Over on Tim Haines' Yahoo Ancient Artefacts forum, the Yahoo pirate collectors are discussing the excerpt from the book 'Three Stones Make a Wall'  (Princeton University Press 2017) by  Eric Cline (Professor of Classics and Anthropology at the George Washington University) from which has been created a standalone text on looting and smuggling: Do You Get to Keep What You Find? . Cline concludes:
 As far as I am concerned, and I believe that I speak for many of my fellow archaeologists as well, ancient artifacts are part of our collective heritage, and so we can only hope that the new legislation and agreements will help to curtail the looting going on around the world. [...] Those outside the profession can help by not succumbing to the temptation of purchasing an ancient artifact offered in a Middle Eastern market or seen on eBay.
What do you reckon, did the pirate collectors over there on the so-called 'responsible collectors forum respond with understanding of the need for restraint? Nah. They simply claim the problem is not theirs to solve, since (as always) its not 'Us' that is the problem but a stereotypical 'Them', the foreign source country nig-nogs who are to blame and whose heritage they therefore feel zero guilt about taking from under their foreign alien noses.

Interestingly, thy seem not to have actually read the text with any understanding, though they did look at the pictures. The text was first criticized because Cline's publisher placed a few pictures of destruction of heritage by Islamist militants to illustrate the general level of threat the heritage is currently under (Islamist destruction is not mentioned by the author himself in this extract)  but then in a series of texts about the nig-nogs the collectors reveal their self-centred, self-satisfied 'Two-Wrongs argument'  worldview, full of straw men and paper tigers as well as utter contempt for the citizens of the source countries that are dug over to fill the dealers' pockets and collectors' homes.... I'll present a couple below.

Vignette: Collectors' attitudes to the citizens of the source countries of the antiquities they buy is like than in 'Tintin in the Congo'.


kyri said...

hi Paul .to be fair Dvid knell did post a link directing readers to a post where he blows all these "straw man arguments" out of the water.we have been over these same topics again and again ,some people will never be convinced that collectors drive looting. for me its a case of the basic economic rule of demand and supply.

Paul Barford said...

It is not in any way "unfair" to point out that while ONE person "posted a link" the rest of the list members exhibit a total disregard of the issues which David writes about which I'll bet no more than a handful of the blinkered list members even read. THIS is the issue, they expect to have their views "respected" when in fact they have no actual views, they just repeat like mentally-deficient parrots the memes spouted by the likes of Kokotailo. In that thread only ONE other person (you) challenged the dealer - and I hope you will come back on his pathetically evasive response. The point is unless collectors start acting responsibly (which requires them to have a clear idea why, and what that means) others will have to do it for them. I maintain that all the evidence shows that most collectors have fog for brains, and it's not worth waiting any longer for them to 'come round', the destruction has reached a peak now, and we need to do something about it, with or without fog-brain collectors.

kyri said...

"I hope you will come back on his pathetically evasive response"
how many flame wars have you [and i] been involved in.i just have not got the time or the i said in my post, it is well documented that in my collecting area [greek vases] collectors demand was %100 driving the looting.the documents seized the statements by the chain of culprits proves this without a doubt as convictions followed.what i find shocking is in the case i quoted ,giuseppe Evangelista,a guy who admitted to looting hundreds of tombs only got a 3500 euro fine and a slap on the wrist,he knew he was let off lightly and said as much in an interview with Fabio isman.
these days i say my piece on the forum and try to avoid flame wars,sometimes less is more.unlike dealers i have no vested interest other than collecting being a hobby of mine.

Paul Barford said...

>how many flame wars have you [and i] been involved in<
I think if one expresses an opinion, and backs it up with facts, it's not a "flame war". It becomes one if the person you are discussing with HAS NO REAL IDEAS and my opinion is that this applies 110% to the likes of Kokotailo. What you are saying is the guy is a mouthy asshole and I am inclined to agree. NONE of the dealers, lobbyists, spokesmen will EVER engage anyone in a discussion who can back up their opinions.

But the point is, if collectors do not discuss this and sort out these issues, then somebody else should. I think all responsible collectors DO have a vested interest in cleaning up the market.

kyri said...

"What you are saying is the guy is a mouthy asshole"
certainly not Paul,i never make disagreements personal.i certainly dont see eye to eye with Robert on this issue but in the communications i have had with him i have always found him to be civil and in my opinion a good for your second point,collectors having a vested interest,your right but being self employed with 4 kids and 3 mortgages, time is precious. ill leave it to people like David who are in fact much more eloquent than me,i will always voice an opinion though.

Paul Barford said...

Well, as far as I see it, the whole problem with the heritage debate is a failure to call a spade a spade. Erosive Collection Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record gets represented as anorakish 'metal detecting' and conflated with other kinds of theft as 'looting' which then allows the false arguments of the Kokotailos.

But this is about 'time', the time that the people who supply the dodgy dealers and the people who sell on artefacts with no-questions-about-the-paperwork-asked are ERASING, and the time that is RUNNING OUT for the archaeological record as it is taken away t fill dealers' pockets. If one is as a collector involved in this process - no matter in how small a way they want to think - time spent debating te issues as widely as possible surely is not wasted any more than the time you spend poring over auction catalogues or commenting here.

David Knell said...

"Islamist destruction is not mentioned by the author himself in this extract"

Actually, the author does mention it ("But now wholesale looting operations seem to have swung into action, including in Syria, where ISIS reportedly sponsored and actively participated in the antiquities trade, looting entire sites and destroying parts of others, such as Nimrud and the Mosul Museum."). Although the choice of illustrations for the excerpt may have been outside the author's control, the text itself calls for them and the mention of site and museum destruction bang in the middle of a long section otherwise entirely devoted to looting does imply an association.

In hindsight, I feel my own criticism of Cline's text was a trifle harsh. Perhaps I was irked not so much by his somewhat careless writing (e.g. the quotation above awkwardly seems to place Nimrud and Mosul in Syria) as by his position on matters such as private collecting and the moral "problem" of items that have been in museums for many generations (e.g. the Rosetta Stone). I would be interested to find out if he expands on his thoughts more fully in the book. In the meantime, I'll retract a little of the harshness of my criticism.

Regarding the discussion of looting on the Yahoo list, I agree with Kyri: "we have been over these same topics again and again". The purpose of the list is to act as a venue for discussion and occasionally debate but it is not a pulpit. Some members such as Kyri and I tend to counter a few of the more absurd arguments when we come across them but the fact that I can simply link to a blog post I already wrote years ago emphasises just how repetitive many of the arguments are and the people who post them are demonstrably so entrenched in their beliefs that nothing will shake them. I leave the readers of posts, whether by myself or others, to make up their own adult minds. I will sometimes comment further but I will not preach. The latter approach I reserve for my blog.

Paul Barford said...

>the mention of site and museum destruction bang in the middle of a long section otherwise entirely devoted to looting does imply an association.<
I think one would have to see the book from which this is an excerpt. there is of course a connection (and ISIL have said so) that their destruction is directed against the fact that collectors and others value these things so highly.

I think the purpose (or potential) of something called a 'discussion list' is to facilitate open and public discussion. The three thousand members all claim to exercise "responsibility" in their collecting, I'd like to see them exhibit some understanding of what that means and why those are not just empty words. The superficial kneejerk dismissal of the text (on the basis of the pictures that accompany it rather than the thoughts behind it) really gives no indication that these people have any concept of the issues involved.

This is why I say that we need not bother about their views. It is their lack of understanding (and refusal to gain it) which is the source of the antiquities problem. If they want to be treated in any way as 'partners' in the study of the past, let them show that they can actually play that role. So far they have failed totally to do that and therefore can only be expected to be dismissed, ignored and demonised.

>"we have been over these same topics again and again". <
Only in the most SUPERFICIAL manner possible. Any presentation longer than eight sentences is beyond their capabilities to 'go over', let alone be in a position to 'come over'. Collectors and dealers continually dismissing the issues concerning collecting histories and their verification before only handling material, are missing the only opportunity that will be offered to create that partnership. They are not going to be able to continue going their own way forever.

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