Thursday 19 April 2012

The Antiquities Trade and its Links with Organized Criminal Groups and

Damien Huffer draws attention to the manuscript of Kimberly Alderman's talk from earlier on this year "Honor Among Thieves: Organized Crime and the Illicit antiquities Trade"suggesting it is deserving of wider dissemination, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. The text is an overview of the key elements of the global antiquities trade and the purported links between it and trans-national organized crime through middlemen (both local wholesalers and inter-regional traffickers). She defines the roles of final-destination retailers, private owners, and "museums/curators of diverse ethical stances" in completing the circle.  Huffer notes: 
 The key discussion of organized crime and the antiquities trade at the end of the document centers around the issue of "lateralization," i.e. the inter-connectivity of the various elements that sustain the trade (creatively termed a "biosphere," pp. 31). The claim that there is no such thing as a licit trade truly separate from the illicit one is something that I in my research have come to agree with. As discussed in the manuscript, the licit trade uses the infrastructure of the illicit trade to support itself, and all participants help support said trade, even those individuals who "insist on provenance and have never handled a tainted object" (pp. 32).  
One thing missing of course is the argument offered by those dealers and collectors who insist that their activities can in no way be connected with the illicit trade, that is the coin fairies who continually take the stuff looters loot and the coin elves that supply the fresh artefacts that continually appear on the antiquities market. I am sure though that the antiquity dealers' lobbyists, such as the international coin dealers' Cultural Property Observer will see the importance of addressing this omission.

Damien Huffer, 'Organized Crime and the Antiquities Trade?', It Surfaced down-Under, Friday, April 6, 2012.


Cultural Property Observer said...

With all due respect to the author, the “proof” for this article is stitched together from the opinions of individuals with a vested interest in claiming that there is a link between the antiquities trade and organized crime. It also depends on a very loose definition of “organized”, requiring the involvement of only three or more individuals acting in concert. In that regard, I would note that under such a theory one Damien Huffer, who was arrested while studying anthropology at the University of Arizona for criminal trespass with two other students who were protesting a Shriner organized circus, would also be involved in “organized crime.” See

Paul Barford said...

Well, how ridiculous can this get? First of all Tompa's summary dismissal in fact does the author no "respect".

Secondly, as regards applying the UN definition of organized crime to mere protesters, one wonders just what kind of a state ACCG's Tompa would like to see.

I would say it somewhat libellous for him to accuse Rebecca Feather (is this her?), Jeff Jensen and Mr Huffer of being "involved in organized crime" because they mingled among circus crowds on a fairground handing out
leaflets protesting animal cruelty.

With regard Tompa's (mis)use of this definition, I do not know about Arizona (probably you can be shot there for it), but in my country "trespass" is a misdemeanour, and not a crime. Also Tompa fails to prove "financial gain" was involved (see the actual definition cited by Ms Alderman). How much money does Mr Tompa think Ms Feather made out of handing out leaflets on Rodeo Fairgrounds on that November night twelve years ago?


Paul Barford said...

Oh, by the way, let it be noted that Tompa got his information about this protest from the spite-filled blogging of one "Candice Jarman" a British metal detectorist writing under an assumed name and was targeting archaeological preservationists such as Mr Huffer and myself.

Damien Huffer said...

You're spot on, Paul, but I really don't think that's her...not from what I can remember. "Candace" and Mr. Tompa obviously have nothing substantial to say in defense of their assertion that links between organized crime and looting are imaginary, so they choose to kill the messenger.

The misdemeanour (not crime) in question happened so long ago that I can barely remember it, but I can guarantee that it was no money making endeavor! All expenses were out of pocket, as is common for undergraduate students choosing to fight for a cause they (we) believed in, and nitpicking in this manner misses the larger point.

Those of us who choose to keep pointing out the damage done by the antiquities trade and its suppliers, supporters and apologists do so because we have the facts and (in many cases) years of professional experience as archaeologists and scientists to back us up. We've seen first hand what's lost when looting occurs and what's gained when archaeological data and knowledge is shared with all stakeholders. We're not going away anytime soon!

Far too often we must rely on grants, largess or our own savings to complete our projects. It's often alleged that it's the high priced lawyers of the world who are in it for the money...

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