Wednesday 29 April 2009

"Barford in particular is way off base"

Peter Tompa discusses the attention which bloggers of the archaeological resource preservation lobby have given the ACCG attempt to question the doings of the Bush administration over the Cyprus and China MOU about import controls of certain categories of portable antiquities into the USA. He writes (though without giving a link to this blog where he found the comments he is discussing, so is relying on hearsay to make his point - not for the first time):
Certainly, Barford in particular is way off base when he claims that the only relevant criteria under the CPIA is whether or not coins are "archaeological objects." Additionally, he also shows little, if any, understanding about the practical effect of import restrictions on those trying to legally import large numbers of ancient coins.

Now, frankly I'm personally not terribly concerned about the "practical effect" of import restrictions [by the way all that is required is that the items have a valid export licence from the source country] on those importing "large numbers of ancient coins". I am more interested in the practical effect for those now and in the future trying to interpret assemblages, sites and historic landscapes when all the diagnostic artefacts (which include coins) have been dug up, dug out displaced and removed totally at random and unrecorded by artefact hunters making money from destroying bits of the archaeological record to supply the commercial market - the other end of which is the dealer Mr Tompa speaks of making his money by "importing large numbers of ancient coins". Those "coins" imply "large numbers of holes" in various bits of the archaeological record. Let us not lose sight of that.

I assume that decent reputable coin dealers will be carrying out their trade legally and ethically not just because there is an MOU, so they will already in setting up and expanding their businesses have worked their way through the "practical difficulties" in doing so. If they are unable to do so, then perhaps it would be as well if they went out of business, there presumably is no place for the unethical and illegal in (for example) the IAPN and PNG.

I do not claim that the "only relevant criteria under the CPIA is (sic) whether or not coins are "archaeological objects". What is at issue in the ACCG/IAPN?PNG case against the US government (as Peter Tompa himself tells us) is whether coins were "added" to the list when the original request "only" specified archaeological artefacts (China) and the CPAC might have suggested they not be treated as archaeological artefacts (Cyprus). But then if most normal people accept as a matter of course that ancient coins are indeed as much an archaeological artefact as an ancient buckle, brooch, lead seal, inscribed gravestone, currency bar, hacksilver, coin weight et cetera, then nothing has been "added" by naming coins among other such items.

The ACCG/IAPN/PNG "case" is indeed entirely about "whether coins are archaeological artefacts", which is why several ACCG officers are currently bending over backwards but in total disregard of the actual evidence to "demonstrate" that coins do not come from archaeological sites - in other words are not found "in a direct physical relationship with archaeological resources". Mr Tompa as a US lawyer will know why that is.


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