Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Cypriot antiquities law on looted artefacts and private collections

Prompted by recent discussions on this blog and elsewhere, archaeologist Sam Hardy has put up a monumentally helpful post on his blog called 'Cypriot antiquities law on looted artefacts and private collections'. It explains very carefully how at different times there were various mechanisms by which antiquities could be licitly obtained, owned and bought and sold. It also deals with illicitly-obtained antiquities. The conclusion is significant for those opposing the application of the recent Cyprus-US bilateral cultural property agreement requiring imported antiquities to be accompanied by one of two types of paperwork showing export was legal:
It is abundantly clear from this review of Cypriot legislation on excavating, finding, looting, collecting and dealing antiquities that there is a legal source for the antiquities market. More importantly, it is abundantly clear that antiquities without find-spots and acquisition dates (and, indeed, find-methods) are very probably looted.

In light of all this evidence, what may be more surprising is how blatantly illegal collections of looted antiquities have continued to be legalised by the Republic of Cyprus Department of Antiquities. Nevertheless, in order to avoid any collector's confusion over the implications of the problems in Cyprus, it is important to be clear: this disastrous policy was a product of the local community's desperate attempts to minimise the harm done by international art dealers' and antiquities collectors' direct and indirect funding of the looting of the island.
This is the kind of thing I have been proposing collectors' lobbyists should be doing systematically for all the so-called 'source countries' to help fellow collectors understand the legal context in which collecting antiquities takes place, but they prefer their own mythologising to real facts.

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