Saturday 23 April 2011

The Antiquity Dealers' View on Stewardship

Coin dealer Wayne Sayles explains to a list member on coin dealer Dave Welsh's coiney microforum Unidroit-L his views on stewardship of the archaeological heritage. The occasion for this was that member's questioning of the ACCG challenge to the US government over the import of illegally exported dugup artefacts. Sayles suggests:
In my view, import restrictions are not the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it. The mentality that imposes import restrictions on any and all utilitarian objects simply because archaeologists want to be exclusive stewards over them IS potentially the beginning of the end.
First of all nobody is planning "import restrictions on any and all utilitarian objects" bought fresh from the factory in Turin, just certain types of dugup and ethnographic collectables. This is because their production involves the depletion of a resource.

So the problem is not that archaeologists want to be stewards of "them" (objects) but the archaeological record which is trashed in the production of the commodities that Sayles wants to be allowed to import even if it has been illegally exported from another country.

This is the fallacy which collectors want to propagate, that this is about the "ownership" of objects as property, but the truth is that it goes deeper than that. What is the problem for the archaeologists is the origin of the objects dealers like Sayles and his collector clients want to own, to buy and sell. The archaeologist wants to protect archaeological sites from illicit exploitation as a source of illicitly-obtained collectables. The actions of the ancient Coin Collectors Guild in opposition to the CCPIA show that collectors of the United States are not only willing to lay hands on such illicitly-obtained finds, but in fact positively desire to get their hands on them. If this were not the case any curbs on the import of illegally exported antiquities would have no affect on them whatsoever.

Vignette: Stewardship, not just about the squirrels in the park...

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