Thursday, 23 May 2013

Questions about the Spengler Collection remain Unanswered by US Department of State.

The late William F. Spengler was, during his career with the U.S. State Department, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan. During his tenure in Kabul, Mr. Spengler [...] regularly visited the bazaar and selected individual pieces of interest [ie ancient dugup coins] that he typically purchased at the prevailing scrap or precious metal rate. [...]  Due to the benevolence of Mr. Spengler, many of these coins are preserved today in institutions here and abroad.
"Does the US State Department encourage its employees to engage in the purchase and collection of ancient artefacts from the cultures of the countries where they are stationed? (Actually that is not a rhetorical question, it seems to me that since this matter has been raised by Mr Sayles, an official statement is called-for)".

 'The Spengler Collection at the CPAC', Monday, 20 September 2010


Cultural Property Observer said...

These were openly available for sale at the time. If that is no longer the case, its because the Taliban chased the antiquties and coin dealers away to Pakistan, and since, the American Archaeologists moved in with the US Military and they have told the natives keeping and selling what they find is a no no.

Paul Barford said...

In what way "openly"?

I think we all deserve to see a DoS statement on their position on this.

In any case, do you not see a difference between buying something IN a country and taking it OUT?

I have several cats quite legally acquired in the Republic of Poland, but if I wanted to take them to the UK there are procedures to go through. Same with my car. Two different things.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I'm sure the State Department will get right back to you on that.

In any event, Mr. Spengler has been dead for years. I suspect he acted in accordance with the legal practices of the time, but even if he did not, the coins -- which were openly available for sale in Afghanistan-- could not be deemed stolen under US law. And, as you may recall, the US Congress rejected an attempt to impose import restrictions on Afghan coins some years ago.

I'd move onto other things. I'm still unclear why you are so fixated on Americans (even deceased ones). I think you should turn your attention to what is happening in your own native Poland.

Paul Barford said...

Sorry, do you think I should "ignore America"? Ignore the greatest country in the history of the planet (according to some at last)? Why would I do that?

I am not, strictly, a "native" of Poland, and unlike most Americans I am not fixated merely on what happens within the frontiers of the country in which I live, "hang the rest of the world", but seek to see it in its wider context. You should try it some time.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thank you. We do. We are happy to learn a lot about ancient cultures through the study and handling of ancient coins.

Paul Barford said...

I would say well over 90% of human cultures of the past were not coin-using societies, so such a view of ancient cultures is both narrow and biased.

You will not understand the crucial fifth century in Britain through any coin evidence, the spread of the Slavic languages over half of Europe through any coin evidence, the African societies which were/are the roots of Black Americans, nor indeed the tens of thousands of years of the history of your own land before Columbus through any coin evidence. Neither will you understand thousands of years of Egyptian history through coins, the Mayans, Incas and Azteks, the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, the Hebrews before Josiah (incl. Solomon and David), linear pottery A or B, a whole range of Neolithic and Bronze Age societies (civilizations), the Magyars, indigenous cultures of Australasia and Southeast Asia.

I think you self-satisfied US coineys are missing an awful lot of the rich panorama of the past with your narrow-minded heads-down over round discs with pictures on them.

And anyway, is it the ancient cultures today's America needs to focus on to understand its place in the world, and not the cultural challenges of the modern world?

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