Sunday 15 July 2012

Cypriot Coin Dealer Accuses his Country of Not Obeying Uncle Sam

I am appalled. In connection with the renewal of the US-Cyprus bilateral cultural property agreement on Friday,  some comments "forwarded to me from a Cypriot coin dealer" have appeared (without a link to the text of the MOU) over on the blog of a US lobbyist for a no-questions-asked trade ('Cyprus in Breach of MOU with US?' July 14, 2012). This Servant of American Colonialism alleges that "Cyprus has done little to live up to its end of the MOU [...] of the 9 criteria listed in the MOU, 5 are the sole responsibility of Cyprus. Of these 5 criteria 3 have DEFINITELY not been met, possibly more". Presumably the inference is that the MOU should be lifted so American buyers can import coins into the US which have no documentation of legal export from Cyprus. If so, this would be an individual that is willing to sell out his own country just so that he can continue to sell recent dug ups to his American friends. Although declaring "I have nothing to lose", and Mr Tompa assuring the outside world that he will never accept comments from anonymous contributors, the would-be whistleblower of course remains anonymous. The justification for the wide-reaching accusations of this individual are as follows:
Article II/C. states "The Government of the Republic of Cyprus will systematically continue to conduct the inventory of cultural resources in museums, ecclesiastical buildings, private collections and archaeological sites. Every effort should be made to engage all Cypriots in this effort." The last time the Department of Antiquities gave an amnesty for the registration of private collections of antiquities/coins was in 1996. [...] I don't know if once in the last 16 years can be classed as a 'systematic inventory' but in my opinion it does not! 
There seems to be a logical faultline here. This presumably refers to the inventory of cultural property of Article 7(b) of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (be it noted, one of the several requirements of the Convention which the US does not accept as applying to itself) and not to the cataloguing of private collections. The USA also has made absolutely no headway in the creation of inventories of the contents of US private collections of artefacts on designated lists on US territory.  There have been several amnesties for illegally held archaeological material in private hands, and Cypriot legislation is quite clear what should happen to the records of the material from those old collections (it is the responsibility of dealers and collectors to keep the government informed about transfers of ownership of catalogued and licenced material in private hands) as it is quite clear about what is to happen to ANY freshly surfaced finds appearing since then. There should be no need for an "amnesty", any collector (or dealer) not following the law in their dealings with material from old documented collections and freshly-surfaced stuff should face the legal consequences.

Anonymous Whistleblower also fails to notice Article III of the MOU: "The obligations of both Governments and the activities carried out under this Memorandum of Understanding shall be subject to the laws and regulations of each Government, as applicable, including the availability of funds". Let's take a look at the next accusation:
Article II/D. states " The Government of the Republic of Cyprus will make every effort to discourage pillage of cultural resources, and the unauthorized export of such material, through public education programs [...]." Nothing whatsoever suggested in this paragraph has been implemented.
Really? So seeking and arresting smugglers does not count then? But if 'Anonymous' would look at the MOU, he will find that the US too has to "take appropriate steps to publicize this
Memorandum of Understanding". Have they? The US requires the Cypriot government to " engage all Cypriots in this effort", is every citizen of the US even aware that there is an MOU with Cyprus (does every citizen of the US even have the ability to find the island on a map)? The third Anonymous accusation is equally sweeping: 

Article II/F. "The Government of the Republic of Cyprus will use its best efforts to allocate sufficient resources for site conservation, museum development, and the adequate conduct of salvage archaeology where there is proposed land development [...]  I think I have emailed about this before. Apart from a few of the main 'tourist attraction' archaeological sites, 95% of all other sites in Cyprus don't even have the basic deterrents needed to counter looting. In my opinion lighting is the most basic and most important of all deterrents needed and even the main sites do not have this.

 Once again, instead of looking at the whole range of tasks the US Government sets in front of its Cypriot counterpart, Anonymous only looks at one narrow issue, whether archaeological sites in Cyprus are guarded 24/7 and floodlit at night. How many of the tens of thousands of the archaeological sites out in the desert in the USA have round the clock guards and floodlights? I would say until the US establishes a nationwide programme of its own of this nature, it is unreasonable to expect other nations to precede them in this, just because the US tells it to (see the second part of this post below).

More of this nonsense from US dugup antiquity dealers here:  'The Cyprus Connection', Saturday, July 14, 2012.  [Now we read that a key factor the Jesuit-educated shopkeeper has against Maria Kouroupas, Executive Director, Cultural Heritage Center, U.S. Department of State is that she is reportedly "a pillar of the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland". Good for her].

I was struck by the similarity in tone between Peter Tompa's "Anonymous Whistleblower" who is a Cypriot coin dealer, and Cypriot ancient coin dealer (how many of them can there be?)  Elias Tziambazis here.  Is it Mr Tziambazis who thinks Cyprus owes the United States of America unconditional loyalty and obedience alongside sharing the ACCG's boundless hatred of Maria Kouroupas


kyri said...

hi paul,can you imagine if the results of the heritage health index,2007,conducted on us museums was on cypriot or greek museums,

190 million objects,in us museums/ archives ect in danger.

%65 of us institutions have experienced damage to collections
due to improper storage

%40 of institutions have no funds alocated in their annual budgets for preservation or conservation.

they would be up in arms calling source countrys incompetent and not proper custodians of their own cultural heritage.
this HHI report was done in times of plenty,things are probably worse now.
as for this "anonymous cypriot coin dealer" having lived in cyprus myself,bad lighting?? ,in a country with the longest days and famous for its contiueous sunshine[42 deg today] his whole email is a bit of a joke.

Paul Barford said...

Well, I am afraid as we so often observe with the Americans it's often a case of "do as we say, not as we do".

Cultural Property Observer said...

The person who wrote the post was not this individual (by the name given at least) but someone else. Your attack on Mr. Tziamaziz undercores why I chose not to disclose his name. He made perfectly appropriate observations.

Speaking of anonymous individuals, Kyri might want to disclose his full name as well.

As for the discussion of the number of objects in US museum collections: (1) the US is not demanding import restrictions on US artifacts based partly on the theory that US museums are the best stewards of artifacts; (2) this is an argument for deacession of artifacts in both the US and Cyprus.

Finally, at least the US museums know how many artifacts they have in inventory. Can Cypriot and Greek museums say the same?

Paul Barford said...

If Mr. Tziambazis does not like people commenting on the rude things he said about Maria Kouroupas etc, then he really ought not to post them on the internet.

Your correspondent equally should expect discussion and criticism of what he allows you to post up, it's a pity he apparently has not the guts to put his name under what he wrote.

" the US is not demanding import restrictions on US artifacts based partly on the theory that US museums are the best stewards of artifacts
But is it not the case that by making demands on Cyprus TELLING THEM how to do things, they are at least working under the impression that the US has all the answers, and thus assigns itself the "right" to behave so autocratically? What is it with you guys?

If 40 % of those collections in the US self-admittedly have serious backlogs in cataloguing, how can you say they "know how many objects they have"? That's nearly HALF.

[As for my commentator, I know who Kyri is and quite a bit about him; I'll not use his surname until he does, but certainly he is well enough known in collecting circles for us all to be sure he's not a sockpuppet].

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