Monday 9 February 2009

Explosive mixture in Cyprus

Artefactum (Jennifer Unruh) has a post on the "Trade in Cultural History" which draws attention to the complex nature of the no-questions-asked antiquities trade. She mentions the case reported recently when a group of men in Cyprus were charged with illegal excavations, smuggling antiquities and the possession of explosives. Among the items seized was an "Ancient" (?) Syriac bible. They were not only involved in moving archaeological finds from Cyprus to foreign markets, but other types of cultural property were also being illicitly traded. She concludes:
In this case it appears that the transaction was prevented, but an unknown number of such operations likely succeed every year, in all corners of the world– including the United States – taking an untold number of culturally significant objects away from both the public and the possibility of scientific and cultural study.
This shows that not everybody finds believable the rather odd notion being propagated by collectors' (dealers') lobby groups that items are ripped out of their archaeological contexts so that they can be circulated to a wider public than if they were part of public collections such as museums and the sole purpose of collecting is to study the artefacts out of context.

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