Saturday, 16 July 2011

Old Pots and New Shoes

On his 'Paul Barford - heritage - the truth: Fighting the lies and distortions of the radical archaeologists' blog, the British metal-detectorist who says his name is "Candice Jarman" has a go at somebody else: 'David Gill gets an award'. He seems to object that a Welsh university lecturer should be lauded for raising awareness of the threats posed by the international antiquities trade. This guy must find it difficult using his metal detector to search for relics, given that he has this huge heart of pure gold hovering just above the search coil:
Is n't it a shame that awards and honours are not reserved for those who save lives or do real good improving people's welfare, like doctors, nurses, charity workers and philanthropists?
Mr "Candice" goes on to say that Looting does not really "matter" in the wider scheme of things:
Of course, no one advocates the wholesale stripping of archaeological sites for saleable artifacts, but if a poor labourer in the Middle East goes out one night and finds a couple of cracked old pots and sells these to a collector to buy medicine for his sick mother, or buy shoes for his children so they can walk to school - is that really such a crime?

We get the usual collectors' litany of all the other things conservationists "should" be doing other than worrying about the commercial destruction of the world's archaeological record. On the other hand there are people who raise awareness about Saving Whales and getting other people to join them, as there are groups that set up and fundraise for poverty relief schemes in the Third World.

"Candice" shuts his eyes to the fact that many of the people out in the countries of the developing world who are campaigning and combating the depredation of the archaeological record in their countries, attempting to protect it from looting (such as my colleagues in the Inspectorates of Egypt) do not fall into the picture painted by his facile characterisation:
For the most part, the 'radical archaeologists' are rather privileged, comfortably-off, middle class academics with reasonable salaries, easy access to healthcare, and decent pensions (all paid for by whom I wonder?) - not for them the daily struggle to survive and care for loved ones faced by millions in the source countries of the third world.

The moral sword has two edges though does it not? The middle class academic works for his salary (not actually as huge as "Candice" appears to imagine) and from that has to support their families in the society where they live. The antiquity collector however does all this too, but obviously has - by one means or another - a disposable income that will allow them to add an additional ancient round gold geegaw with the face of some dead ruler stamped on it, or a little blue mummiform figure or scarab beetle. What they do with them is largely a mystery. But for the money they spent on it, quite a few little brown people could have shoes to go to school in, could buy textboks. Does it not seem a tad hypocritical to hear these collectors of useless (unless they are used as a good means to locate capital) geegaws castigating archaeologists for raising concerns about the destruction of the archaeological heritage and thereby failing to "Save the World"?

Just think of what good the money spent by US collectors on coins on one internet venue alone could do in the world. Many of these antiquities are taken from the ground in precisely the poorer countries of the world, but most of the money injected into the system by "international collectors" (that means the collectors in countries with high average disposable incomes) does not go to the original looter for shoes and medicines, it goes to the middlemen and dealers along the long clandestine and illicit route from a hole ripped out of an archaeological site and a collector's cabinet. In many cases the cash in all probability goes indirectly to organized criminal groups involved in a variable range of insalubrious trans- and international money-making activities. That's what lies behind the imagined salon-philanthropism of the dugup antiquity collector.
Vignette: New shoes, California style.


Anonymous said...

Excellent. Let the collectors dispose of their income in socially useful ways ! Barford's razor strikes again.

Mo said...

Jarman and Co also refer to philanthropists. In the Guardian's article about Christian Levett. He is refered to as a "philanthropist".

Philanthropists give money away for the good of society. They don't just move money from one asset to another. That's not philanthropy it's wealth management.

Christian Levett and his ilke make money from buying and selling various assets or derivatives based on the value of assets. Often they borrow assets to sell.

Sometimes they sell "naked shorts" which means that they don't have the asset to sell. Some countries have outlawed this practice. Their maniplulation in the markets can cause market volitility.

These Hedge Fund managers do not make anything constructive or create employment they just move money and assets around.

The Crosby Garrett Helmet could have created jobs and income for Cumbria.

If a Hedge Fund Manager has brought the Crosby Garrett Helmet my keyboard will be smoking.

Sorry Paul if I sound off about this topic.

Paul Barford said...

That's what blogs are for, isn't it?

Mo said...

Just as a matter of interest would an export order still be required to take the Crosby Garrett Helmet out of the country?

Paul Barford said...

As a fresh dug-up yes. As an object - even if curated in a private collection for some time - of value over a certain threshold value, yes.

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