Monday, 23 March 2009

Daniela Rizzo Identifies the Real Issue

In remarks made in a Rome court, Marion True, the former curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, defended herself last week against accusations that she knowingly bought antiquities that had been illegally excavated (Elisabetta Povoledo, ‘Getty Ex-Curator Testifies in Rome Antiquities Trial’, New York Times 20th March 2009.
In this stage of the long-running trial, the defence lawyers plan an object-by-object rebuttal of the prosecution’s case for each of the 35 artifacts that Ms. True approved for acquisition by the Getty which the Italians say were looted. This should prove interesting. The defence lawyers have begun their first day of questioning of archaeologist Daniela Rizzo, from the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria Meridionale, a prosecution witness who has been on the stand for about a dozen hearings over the past two years.

Responding to her remarks in the cross-examination, True said on Friday in court that “if ever there was an indication (sic) of proof” of an object coming from an illegal excavation, the Getty would eventually deaccession it and return the object. Ms. Rizzo pointed out in court that the issue here is not one of “repatriation” or “whose past” is being collected by foreign museums patronising the international no-questions-asked antiquities market. She remonstrated that Ms. True could have, and indeed should have, done more to prevent the trade in looted antiquities. “You are an archaeologist, a scholar and a great expert, and you had the knowledge to recognize objects that could have come from Etruria.” Perhaps “a closer, more direct collaboration with Italian archaeologists would have been more useful than to return objects over time,” Ms. Rizzo said. Absolutely true, this is the real issue here.

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