Saturday, 18 September 2010

Charles Karukstis and the Opponents of No-Questions-Asked Collecting

Charles Karukstis (Life Fellow and a Director of the American Numismatic
Society) says that collectors of ancient artefacts should not be mistaken, they are "under assault" (he is of course referring to the request by Greece to the US goverment to prevent US dealers and collectors importing ancient artefacts that have been illegally exported from Greece). He says:
Our adversaries may include zealots and eccentrics among them, but they are led by elites with a shrewd and formidable strategy. Those adversaries may distract us with various slogans about cultural heritage, but their clear motivation is control of all artifacts - aiding and abetting the source countries, and encouraging their rank and file to prattle on with political epithets, are simply practicalities of achieving their goal. The fact that millions of coins are caught up in the debate about singular artifacts which might be considered of "cultural" importance is of no concern to them. It is imperative for us to understand that these adversaries will not listen to reason, they will not compromise, they will not "work out a deal", and most important, they will not desist, ever. [...] This is not a battle over looting (which all of us oppose) - this is a struggle for control of all artifacts, by source countries for their propaganda and monetary value, and by academics for publication rights.
Mr Karukstis does not explain how no-questions-asked buyers of ancient dugup artefacts "oppose" looting rather than abet it. Nor does he explain what these opponents are going to DO with all the artefacts once they've controlled them. In denying that what is being opposed is the destruction of archaeological information by collector-induced looting, he does not seem to recognise that the whole point is that there should not be new artefacts "surfacing" all the time, the opponents of the no-questions-asked market want to see them preserved in their archaeological contexts.

Mr Karukstis either does not understand or is deliberately misleading his readers. The aim of this is to protect archaeological sites for being trashed in the hunt for saleable collectable artefacts, it makes not a difference if the digging results in a bucketfull of coins and brooch feet or some 'artifacts which might be considered of especial cultural importance', a hole in an archaeological site is a hole in an archaeological site and millions of holes (for Mr K's "millions of coins") are millions of holes in archaeological sites.

Finally how awful it is that all these opponents of the unregulated market aiding the source countries to look after their archaeological heritage while collectors want it all dug up and sold off to them through the Internet. Actually I thought there was only one archaeological heritage even Mr Karukstis refers to "objects of our common heritage" (though I would broaden that notion to more than just "objects" fresh-out-of-the-ground).

Mr Karukstis seems to think the artefact hunters and collectors achieved something with their fax bombing of the State Department over the imagined threat of the extension of the Italy/US cultural property MOU:
The number of responses caught CPAC off guard, and the current implementation of restricting communication to a web form is a result of our efforts.
Well, I think far from "restricting" communication, the new form of communication (not of course restricted to State Department initiatives, there being a lot of environmental issues discussed on other parts of the site) actually allows everybody to see and judge the arguments being offered and opinions being expressed. Rather than be restricted to hidden faxes, the collectors' and dealers' points of view are laid open for everybody to see.

Of course the whole point of Mr K's long message to coin collectors is wholly predictable:
I urge anyone who cares even the slightest about preserving access to our common heritage to take three minutes to express their views. The direct link to
the comment page is here....
Yes go on you simple-minded dugup coin guzzlers, tell the CPAC to oppose the opponents of no-questions-asked collecting in their attempts to "control all artifacts and gain control of everybody's private property", expose their idealistic attempts to "aid and abet the source countries" which are asking the US to aid them, expose their political epithets with your Shakespearian prose. Tell the CPAC the way to preserve access to our common heritage is to allow the looters to carry on trashing the archaeological sites of Greece so Mr Karukstis and his fellow US ancient dugup coin fondlers can buy them and pretend they are "doing science".

I rather think that it is becoming completely clear that it is the dealers in ancient dugup coins and their collectors who will not listen to reason, will not compromise, will not "work out a deal", and will not willingly desist from their bad practices.

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