Wednesday 19 June 2013

Top of the US Dealer lobbyists' "Malefactor Source Countries" List

The dealers' lobby goes from the ridiculous to the barking mad with the publication of the latest proposal from the Cultural Property Research Institute's Arthur Houghton to institute a list of so-called "Malefactor Source Countries" which is reportedly being discussed at some length by "political figures associated with the [US] Congress". Sort of like their list of "nations supporting terrorism" blacklist. He asks for proposals. I'd like to propose Great Britain as fitting into the given definition very snugly on all three counts:

a) "has unregulated markets in antiquities that motivate the looting of archaeological sites or material";

b) "engages in public development (roads, buildings) that destroy archaeological sites or material", AND (not "or")

c) "has laws that allow or encourage private development that has the effect of destroying archaeological sites or material".

On three counts. That should put it right at the top of the list - oh, with The United States of America and a few other countries. The antiquities markets of both countries are under no kind of regulation, which allows the no-questions-asked sale of items which includes those looted from elsewhere (shipwrecks, foreign sites, local sites etc). In both countries public development ploughs through ancient sites, sometimes there is a full excavation, most often only a partial one, or none at all (maybe with a watching brief). Last time I looked, some states in the US now have no state archaeological service even. British antiquities law does not protect the majority of sites from the effects of private development, the US Protection of Archaeological Resources Act also fails to provide blanket coverage in a similar manner. I think it is pretty difficult anywhere (except maybe Antarctica) to have any development which is not going to come in conflict with preserved sites of past activity.

Anyway, so much for our so-called 'special relationship'.

As I say, "political figures associated with the [US] Congress" seem barking mad to a degree disturbing in people who clearly have ambitions to impose their will and ideals on the entire world. It is also disturbing that even they once again seem totally unaware of what the 1970 UNESCO Convention actually attempts to regulate (clue its is in the document's title). Duh. UPDATE 20.6.2013 Over on the Cultural Property Obfuscation blog, the argument still goes on. Peter Tompa reckons:
[UK] Export control does regulate the [UK antiquities] market as part of regulating export so I don't get your point.
Well, it is quite obvious that not only does this guy not see my point, but is utterly incapable of formulating a consistent position himself. When the US dealers' lobbyist bellyaches (as he often does) about the Chinese antiquities market, one gets the impression that he is talking about Chinese people buying Chinese antiquities in China (and therefore competition for US buyers outside China). It seems pretty clear he is not talking about Chinese exports to the US. So, as far as Tompa is concerned, the meaning of the word "market" depends on whom he is sniping against at a given moment. I reiterate the British antiquities market is not in any way regulated. Mr Tompa claimed that Britain "appears to have laws encouraging rescue digs". I asked him to cite that "legislation" (because there is none). His only answer was: It's my understanding that rescue archaeology in the UK is mainly a local concern and govererned by local law. Its suffering due to budget contraints currently, but it does exist. What? What "local law"? County law? Borough Council law? Just what on earth does this cultural property lawyer think he is writing about? Mr Tompa, can you quote one of these "local laws"? The one for Colchester maybe, a nice Roman town, lots of history. What is the local law there to which you refer? Either prove you are not speaking tommy-rot, or admit you cannot. To reiterate, despite Tompa's protests, the United Kingdom does indeed fit fairly and squarely all three of the definitions he and Big Mr Houghton propose as the hallmarks of "Malefactor Source Countries". I suggest if they do not like that, then they'll have to either abandon this ill-conceived project, or if they persist on this spiteful and unhelpful divisive course, change their facile definitions for something more subtle.

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

Over on the "Cultural Property Obfuscator" blog, its author tries to suggest that chalk is cheese and regulating export is the same as 'regulating the market". I say it is not, they are two separate things. Mr Tompa insists that when he uses the term "market" he means export. So I'd like to draw attention to this from a later post:

" Given China's own huge internal market in Chinese artifacts of the sort restricted under the current agreement, its net effect has only been to give Chinese commercial interests a leg up on their foreign, particularly American competition. "

So a internal market which is the opposite to external export.

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