Friday 9 December 2011

Focus on the CCPIA: Bring out the Clowns

The US is considering renewing the bilateral cultural property agreement with Cyprus pursuant to the US being a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property'. This is the occasion of the inception of yet another parade of moron logic from US collectors of dugup ancient coins. The first public comment has been published on the website. The author writes:
U.S. import restrictions [on illegally exported artefacts] will not, in any case, deter looters because there will always be a world market for coins. [...]. These import restrictions will, however, undermine a hobby of great value to historians, numismatists, lovers of metallic art and your people. I hope you will oppose import restrictions.
It is not clear to whom this person thinks he is writing, it looks ("your people" suggesting he imagines he is addressing the Cypriot government) as if he will be surprised to learn that he was addressing to the Washington-based Cultural Property Advisory Committee. It looks like he is unaware also of the fact that the import restrictions are already in place and here are merely up for renewal (his lack of awareness on this raises the question of what actual - rather than imagined - effect the measures are indeed having on US collectors if some of them do not even know they exist). Probably the author of this comment would also be equally surprised to learn that the 1970 UNESCO Convention rather than "looting" is about "the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property". This rather reduces the impact of his suggestion (unthinkingly cut-and-pasted from Peter Tompa's instructions):
To prevent looting of coins, medal (sic) detectors are the thing to regulate not trade in coins.
In what way does the writer of this advice to the CPAC think that the use of metal detectors to search for collectables on the archaeological sites of Cyprus is not "regulated", and how would deregulating trade in dugup artefacts (that is allowing an unmonitored free-for-all) "prevent looting"? The attitude of coiney collectors over in the US to metal detectors (the tool) and metal detectorists (those who use them for seeking various things - including meteorites) seems wholly ambiguous. Why "regulate metal detectors" and not - for example "spades"? In what way is the Washington CPAC entitled to dictate the rights and restrictions of Cypriot citizens the other side of the world? Why anyway should any Cypriot government listen to a bunch of collectors of decontextualised ancient bric-a-brac to some and potentially to a large extent dug up while trashing archaeological sites in foreign countries and smuggled out of them in defiance of antiquity preservation and export legislation? These people seem hardly in a position to dictate anything to anyone, still less a foreign government. It seems to me that in withdrawing the funding for UNESCO at the end of October this year (in response to democratic voting by representatives of most of the world's governments), the United States of America has forfeited its ability to have any influence (still less exercise moral leadership) on the heritage policies of any other sovereign nations. Regulate yourselves, your own citizens, don't try to impose your will and values on others until you have your own house fully in order.

Vignette: "Lovers of Metallic Art" - binman Michael Carroll ('chavtastic chavdom')


Cultural Property Observer said...

It does not speak well for you or the archaeological community in general that you mock American citizens and others commenting at the invitation of the US State Department on this MOU.

Of course, Dr. Stone is quite right in what he says. The CPIA anticipates that US import restrictions should only be granted foreign requesters as a last resort after other less disruptive measures have been tried.

And thank you for linking Dr. Stone's website to your post. His background certainly does not fit the fantasy you have created for yourself that only right wing tea party types are opposed to import restrictions.

One great thing about coin collecting is that it brings together very diverse people that share a common interest in ancient coinage. Can the same be said of archaeology as you and the other hardliners envision it?

Paul Barford said...

Well, first of all - since we have freedom of speech in my country too - I am entitled to my opinion on what people say EVEN IF they are the citizens of the Holy United States of America which obviously some feel (probably considering it the only country in the world with democracy) should be beyond reproach.

I am me, and nothing I say should be construed as representing any "archaeological community". Your pal Dealer Dave in any case says I am its "albatross" and an "embarrassment to them". [Listen to Dealer Dave, the voice of coiney reason].

The 1970 Convention envisages all countries working together all the time to protect the world's cultural heritage from smugglers and dodgy dealers. What the rogue state USA makes of it is an entirely different matter. I think you should get out of the Convention and stop pretending.

I am not an American, so I see nothing "disruptive" about making US dealers and US collectors stop importing material which has not been lawfully exported. If it is disruptive to the current market, all the more reason for the US to get out of our Convention.

So, like Dave Welsh, you see nothing whatsoever amiss in what Dr Stone wrote? He wrote exactly what the ACCG wants people to write to the CPAC to represent the coin "collecting" community?

I think you will find that archaeology also brings together very diverse people that share a common interest in the past. I personally know many who extend right across the political spectrum. I do not know any that carry guns though.

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