Monday, 13 July 2009

What is Münzhandlung Hirsch Nachfolger going to do with the Ur-Troy Goldgefäß?

A while ago I reported here on the spin being put by advocates of the no-questions-asked trade in portable antiquities on the story of the dilemma of archaeologist Michael Müller-Karpe over a gold vessel. He was asked to provide an expert opinion on the origin of a vessel being sold by the Munich-based Münzhandlung Hirsch Nachfolger as from Troy, when it is of a type which indcates it is Sumerian and probably looted from the Royal Cemetery at Ur. He has apparently been asked by the Iraqis not to return it to the dealer, as every indication is that it would be sold to a collector who is not really interested where it comes from and how it arrived in Munich. There is even a hint that if the dealer does this, Muller-Karpe will be treated by the Iraqis as a accessory to a crime.

So far this story has not gained much attention outside Germany, but I think it raises some questions which need answering. Why is Münzhandlung Hirsch Nachfolger [instead of sticking to selling coins "from old European collections"] branching out to other unprovenanced objects and now selling a previously unknown gold vessel apparently from Ur? Why, when questions were raised about where it came from, was (it would seem) no statement issued by the firm to explain the discrepancy, and stating what the firm now intends to do with this object to remove the stain on the "good name" of the firm which selling it would now undoubtedly bring. Why are the German authorities not stepping in and ensuring that the matter is properly investigated, and guarantee that the object returns to Iraq if that is where it came from? How many looted Iraqi objects on the German market have the German returned to that country since 2003?
(Photo from Deutsche Welle)

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