Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Per Lucem ad Veritatem, sed nemo surdior est quam is qui non audiet.

In his comments to David Gill’s Looting matters, Wayne Sayles quotes Latin to the blog’s author:

You and others in the archaeological community may take the efforts of the ACCG lightly, but I can assure you that the State Department is not taking them lightly, nor will they take lightly the issues presented in further litigation. The motto of the ACCG, Per Lucem ad Veritatem, will in the end be prophetic as the truth is enlightened in court.
I bet the State Department, Maria Kouroupas, and Nicholas Burns are in actual fact taking the clownish conspiracy theories of the coin-collectors very lightly. I do not think we should. I think we should give them every encouragement. The ACCG with their very public posing, denial and insistence on a no-questions-asked status quo are putting a lot of effort into making a total laughing stock of the US numismatic community.

Let us remember that under the new regulations, there actually is no problem whatsoever in importing Cypriot or pre-Tang Chinese ancient coins into the USA if they have the proper export licence required by the law of the exporting source country.

Let us remember there is absolutely no problem with the buying, selling and collecting of ancient Cypriot and pre-Tang Chinese coins already in the USA before the relevant MOUs came into force (they are in any case only temporary) or those that entered it legitimately, as long as that can be documented if questioned.

What is behind all this is the distaste of US dealers in ancient artifacts (especially those making a living from selling old coins) for keeping proper records of where their goods come from, as importers and dealers in other goods automatically do.

As an archaeologist, what interests me more is that at the core of this issue and upcoming court case is the implicit denial that ancient coins (and by implication any coins I guess) can be regarded as archaeological artifacts. In other words they insist that if Ruritania requests the US to regulate the movement of archaeological artifacts coming from archaeological sites on Ruritanian territory, that this should for some reason automatically exclude coins. What is in question in this whole upcoming court case is the implicit assumption that coins should be included in the category of archaeological artefacts from Cyprus and China.

I must say I am particularly looking forward to the court case which will inevitably hinge on whether in the understanding of the normal non-collecting member of society (such as a civil servant) they are understood as such or are not. I suppose it will also consider whether the ones in question in this case are found in the source countries "in a direct physical relationship with archaeological resources" in the understanding of US law (how can they not be?). It seems to me that there will be no end of potential expert witnesses that can be called from US academic institutions suich as the universities and the AIA which will help the judge resolve this non-question in no uncertain terms. Where, then, will that (and the attendent publicity) leave US collectors of ancient coins?

Vignette: an ACCG representative of the US ancient coin collecting community rushing to court to show the judge that ancient coins are not ancient artefacts. He has a copy of an old book of numismatic fairy tales under his arm which he will use to demonstrate the basis for his belief that ancient coins in fact were not deposited in the soil in the past, but are given to US coin dealers by the jolly old elves under the hill. Will he be so happy after the judge tells him what HE has determined?

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