Wednesday 10 March 2010

Numismatic journalist gets it WRONG again !

Wannabe numismatic journalist Richard Giedrojć tries to do good, but puts his foot in it again. He says that
"the “Around the World” column of World Coin News, has been reporting some of the efforts to discourage the United States from entering into agreements with such countries as China, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Turkey regarding the repatriation of antiquities including coins that are determined to be the cultural patrimony of any of those nations".
Ummm, we thought the US had already entered into agreements with three of those countries and was committed to honouring its international committments with regard to the others. Not so much for "repatriation" Mr G., but checking that antiquities imported into the US had been exported in due accord with the law. Once again we have the confusion between "repatriation" and measures intended to curb illicit exploitation of the archaeological record and cuultural resource which is so beloved of the rhetoricists of free-for-all-no-questions-asked-indiscriminate-collecting of dugup artefacts.

Anyway Mr Giedrojć writes about "The 1970 UNESCO agreement, to which the United States is not yet a signatory, that would obligate the U.S. to seize and returning (sic) such objects from museums and private collections has also been the subject of this column". Hmmm? There really is no other word for this, "stupidity" is the only word that comes to mind.
One: the United States has signed the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property (see here). You would think any collector and dealer would actually know that.
Two: If you read the title further than the word "convention" it can easily be seem that it does NOT "obligate" (sic) its signatories to "repatriate" just any old "antiquities including coins that are determined to be the cultural patrimony of any of those nations". What it concerns is the treatment of items that have been illicitly removed from other countries. We are told that the antiquities market contains "many" artefacts which are there entirely legitimately. The convention does not cover them at all. To suggest otherwise is simply ignorance, and in the case of a journalist irresponsible.

Giedrojc then gets cutesy:
What we as coin collectors don’t see is the proverbial “other side of the coin” – why these countries are so adamant about protecting their cultural patrimony. Is it greed on the part of these governments, or in some situations is it that they want to safeguard their culture from irresponsible plunder? Cyprus has been in the news recently for this reason.
There then follows a recounting of the story of the February arrest of antiquity dealers on Cyprus reported here. He adds that:
It is smuggling activities such as these in which coins and other objects have been looted from archaeological sites that fuel the arguments for the United States and other nations to sign the UNESCO 1970 and other agreements regarding repatriation of cultural patrimony.
Well, the US already has signed this convention. For this very reason, looting and plundering is going on, and the no-questions-asked market is still buying artefacts totally without any discrimination of what comes from where and how. Of course he could not fail to add the obligatory ACCG byline:
On the other hand, it can be argued that if the antiquities laws weren’t so strict, the antiquities trade wouldn’t be driven underground, encouraging such illegal activities
No, we could make all sorts of things legal and then save ourselves the problem of investigating and punishing people for doing them, I am sure we can find interest groups requiring similar treatment. I wonder whether in fact it can be "argued" that lifting laws intended to protect the archaeological record from exploitation as a source of collectables and allowing people to do it entirely in the open would have the effect of stopping it. That seems to be an entirely illogical argument in my opinion. In England and Wales, the exploitation of archaeological sites in this legally-approved manner has certainly not been reduced, let alone stopped the digging up of collectables and their constant flow out of the ground and onto eBay is (or jolly well should be) a source of concern.

While it is heartening to see that the problem of the relationship of collecting with looting is being discussed in the numismatic press, it would be nice to see the people writing such stories not encumbering such stories with the usual old ACCG-based mishmash of mistruths and misleading mantras.

Two other interesting features about the article, Giedrojć believes in the "gold coffin" (ha ha) and the link in his article leads to something unintended, but perhaps indicating who is behind Mr G's apparently written-to-order articles. It turns out he is a coin dealer from Ohio, I'd not noticed that before, not that I am all that interested.

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