Monday 18 March 2013

A Petition to Suppress the Selling of Dodgy Antiquities

One day perhaps we might see something like this on the antiquities blogs:

A group of concerned collectors and antiquities dealers has originated an online petition requesting an investigation of allegations that several US dealers have for many years been selling artifacts of unknown provenance, represented as licitly obtained, to novice collectors who lack the expertise to judge the authenticity of those claims.

The petition is here.

An extensive discussion of this issue and the petition has been carried on in the AncientArtifacts group, but has now moved to the Responsible and Ethical Collecting of Antiquities Forum. Readers are invited to join both groups, read their message lists and then decide whether they have an interest in participating in this petition.

Defrauding of novice collectors by unscrupulous and indiscriminate sellers of dodgy antiquities is a very serious problem in the antiquities trade. It discourages the victims from continuing their interest in collecting, and gives a bad name to honest, reputable dealers and expert collectors who participate in the trade. The only  effective approach to preventing inexperienced collectors from being defrauded through such a procedure is criminal prosecution of negligent and undiscriminating sellers.

A thorough investigation of this trade by the responsible authorities would determine the extent to which US dealers are involved in the sale of looted and smuggled antiquities to collectors, with false assurances of legitimacy, knowing their claims of licit provenance of the items in question to be unprovable.

An investigation such as the petition requests is not a "witch hunt" and is not unfair to those being investigated. It is the only responsible and appropriate method for determining whether sellers of objects whose value depends upon licit origins are defrauding the public.
Now, why do we NOT see such a thing on antiquities' collectors forums and blogs? They all SAY that they oppose looting, they all SAY they want to avoid having objects in their collections which result from criminal activity such as theft, looting, smuggling, corruption, tax evasion. Yet it is very hard for them to actually show they have taken any steps whatsoever to getting such practices eliminated from the "legitimate market". What might that say about such a market and about the collectors that frequent it?

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