Saturday 2 April 2011

Larry Rothfield on Guarding Sites from Looters

Larry Rothfield has an interesting post on what is actually involved in guarding sites from looters (What It Takes to Effectively Police Archaeological Sites). Collectors and dealers slyly try to put the blame for looting on "foreign gubn'mints" who "do not do enough to protect their heritage from looting", so when looted material comes on the market, they feel it is OK to deal in it, because ostensibly the government and people of the source country "did not care enough" about it to stop it leaving the ground or country. Putting a total stop to any opportunities for looting by guarding every single lootable site in a country (England alone is estimated to have one million surviving archaeological sites for example) with an adequately resourced task force of men is obviously something not even the richest nations can afford. Far simpler and more cost effective is to reduce the abilities of culture-criminals to make money by selling looted material on a market which until now not only facilitates it, but one might suspect even secretly welcomes it. If we are to stop this, dealers and collectors have the choice between showing themselves to be trustworthy and cleaning up the market and definitively closing off the routes by which illicit material can enter it themselves, or having external controls imposed upon them.

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