Thursday 11 June 2009

Collectors part of the Network

Collectors of portable antiquities in the United States are indignant when somebody suggests that the fact that they are apparently willing to fork out money no-questions-asked for all manner of items, no matter where they come from, means that they are part of the looting process. The suggestion that "collectors are the real looters" is an anathema to them, though to the rest of us it seems a pretty self-evident truth.

I was therefore interested in a phrase in the published search warrant issued in the Utah "Action Cerberus" bust which might clarify how the FBI see these matters during their investigations. Point 12 of the document talks of the identification of an "illegal network" of "individuals who regularly pillage archaeological sites [...] Besides these excavators or "diggers", other individuals in the illegal network are dealers, who buy, sell and transport this material and collectors who are end users". It seems to me the climate could be turning against no-questions-asked collecting of portable antiquities even in the region of the world which is one of its major bastions, the USA.

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