Saturday, 3 February 2018

Slimeball 'Solution' to the Commodification and Theft of Archaeological Material Examined

The ugliness of US racism
On the evidence of the mess they left behind, the recent looting of the archaeological stores in Canterbury, England was probably done by local metal thieves   In the attack, the archaeological store was ransacked and some 1500 artefacts were stolen, possibly destined to enter the no-questions-asked antiquities market .(Matthew Weaver, 'Canterbury artefacts 'may have been stolen by metal thieves', Guardian Fri 2 Feb 2018).

While many of us see the latter as the motor for artefact thefts like this and incentive for its better regulation, those involved in and benefiting from it place the blame elsewhere, and see an alternative remedy for the problem. 

This has been most forcefully argued by the International Association of Professional (sic) Numismatists, the Professional (sic) Numistmatists Guild,  and the US-based Global (sic) Heritage Alliance. These three international  bodies, in part represented by lobbyist Peter Tompa, all have an approach to looting and looters that is at once patronising, Orientalist, racist and xenophobic. The IAPN, PNG and GHA decry placing the blame for looting anywhere on 'white collectors', but picture another culprit. They say the problem is caused by archaeological missions themselves that allegedly fail to 'pay their workers a fair living wage' (for example in relation to brown/olive-skinned locals in a variety of countries: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) . 

This hardly applies to Canterbury in the UK, where the population is as white skinned (if not more so) than  Washington DC. Racists, Britexiters and Republicans should be reminded that there is as yet no evidence concerning the skin colour of the perpetrators of the Canterbury crime. Neither is there any evidence that the people involved in this looting were in the employ of the Canturbury Archaeological Trust and that better pay of Trust permanent and casual employees would solve the problem in a city with an overall population of 44000

The proposal of 
the International Association of Professional Numismatists, the Professional Numismatists Guild, and the Global Heritage Alliance are quite obviously rubbish rhetoric, not intended as any part of any dialogue, but yet another attempt by antiquities marketeers to derail sensible discussion by introducing red herring arguments. Paying workers more, whatever skin colour they have, will not sort out the problem of the commodification of the archaeological record. cutting dealers profits however will. The nature of the slimeball arguments used by this milieu's representatives also shows that they deserve it.

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