Thursday, 2 November 2017

'Cultural Property Observer': Archaeologists Looting Cambodia?

As a reaction to the information supplied by Katie Paul at the recent CPAC sitting concerning the United States being the dominant market for undocumented archaeological objects from Cambodia and the observation that only some of the listings have provenance information, Peter Tompa publishes a comment on his Cultural Property Observer blog:
If the quoted auction site really is selling artefacts for between "... $200-500 Euros to $65,000. Some of the listings do have provenance information...", [this] raises two salient points; where did the provenances come from and who issued them [?]. To me, this points to corruption high up in the archaeological strata. It's quite obvious therefore, that ordinary Cambodians looting artefacts to supplement low incomes do not have a monopoly of the villainy.
The point that is being missed here is that it is the antiquities trade which pretends to a certain degree of legitimacy that needs to be transparent about collecting hiostories and how individual items came onto the market and where they came from. Cultural Property Observer seems to be promoting the view that provenance is only the province of archaeology. The suggestion published on Peter Tompa's Cultural Property Observer that artefacts ap[pearing on the market with provenances is evidence that archaeologists are involved in the looting of Cambodian sites is just another piece of Fake News that the international antiquities market employs to snipe at its critics and pretend guiltlessness. All this means is that this market is alienating itself even further from being a partner for discussion in the heritage debate. It is not worth listening to dealers and their lobbyists.

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