Wednesday 22 December 2010

Cyprus like PAS

Sam Hardy has a post 'archaeologists accepted Greek Cypriot looting of Alaas, Cyprus?' . In Cyprus, it has - illogically - been regarded as OK, apparently, to buy Cypriot antiquities if they were looted from the island's archaeological record by Turks, but not OK if they were looted by Greek Cypriots. The object-focussed approach once again trumps the site-orientated one. Hardy's text concludes:
Analysing the evidence from rescue excavations of Alaas, Cyprus, it appears that private collectors violated their secret agreement with archaeologists, and bought Greek Cypriot-looted antiquities (rather than reporting the looters to the Greek Cypriot police). Worse, it seems that archaeologists accepted the looting and collecting (rather than reporting the collectors to the Greek Cypriot police).
So basically doing little more than the PAS is doing over in the UK, except rifling archaeological sites for collectables is legal over there, so its not called 'looting".


samarkeolog said...

During the intercommunal conflict, when about half of the Turkish Cypriot community was trapped in Turkish Cypriot paramilitary-controlled enclaves, it was considered acceptable to buy enclaved Turkish Cypriot-looted antiquities to prevent their export and disappearance into the international art market.

Since the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, it has been considered acceptable to buy occupied Turkish Cypriot-looted antiquities to "rescue" them for the Republic (the internationally-recognised, Greek Cypriot south).

So, there was and is a logic to it, which maps onto the ethnic communities because of the ethnic conflict; however, whether that logic was consistent and effective (and whether it ever could have been) is an entirely separate matter.

The looting was and is illegal (no matter who the looter), though - they only (turned a blind eye to collecting, then eventually) legalised the possession of the collections.

Paul Barford said...

Well, this is artefact-fetishisation, the "objects" do not somehow vanish if in Moslem hands, do they? Putting money into the hands of looters and traders for them is certainly doing nothing to stop them digging for more. So its one ideology, one logic, against another I guess.

I do not believe that knowingly buying looted artefacts, whatever "justifications" are offered (and whether or not they are in some way "recorded" or one phrases the law to accommodate it) is the way to combat the destruction of sites. I really cannot myself see why anyone would think it would be (and why from an archaeological point of view, at least, one might think it unimportant to do all we can to do so).

samarkeolog said...

Well, the objects do vanish into the international art market (as they do from Christian hands, too).

However, I do agree with you. Cypriot archaeological policy has not just underwritten, but to some extent become, the market.

Moreover, the Cypriot trade shows very well the people who control (and, obviously, thereby profit from) the smuggling and high-level illicit dealing - mafias and paramilitaries.

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