Saturday 15 May 2010

"Bringing Transparency to the Market in Illicit Antiquities: A Proposal"

Adam Levine, "Bringing Transparency to the Market in Illicit Antiquities: A Proposal" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASC Annual Meeting, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Nov 04, 2009

Abstract: The market in antiquities, which is valued at billions of dollars per year, is fueled by illicit archaeological looting. The illegal excavation of archaeological sites has implications for local tourism in and the national heritage of the source countries. Moreover, the funds generated by the black market in antiquities frequently find their way into the hands of groups of organized criminals. This paper proposes a step towards bringing transparency to the antiquities trade: creating a database of every antiquity on the market or in a museum. Responses to this idea have been met with the critique that the creation of such a database is impractical. This paper, by contrast, demonstrates the feasibility of creating such a database almost exclusively using already digitized data. The paper also discusses the legal apparatus that will need to accompany such the database to have any impact, which will include updated UNESCO legislation to replace the 1970 convention. The paper also discusses several different business models that the database could employ to best serve its constituents. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is less to highlight a problem than it is to collaboratively work towards ending the illicit trade in antiquities.

I wonder how many dealers and collectors in the US will be willing to collaboratively work with such a database?

Sadly the abstract of the paper is apparently all you can get online. I'll see if I can get access to this elsewhere. If the data already available in digital form are internet sales offers, then I can see several problems in establishing a transparent chain of ownership, but let's wait and see what he wrote.

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