Saturday, 1 February 2014

UK Cultural property export statistics

Mona Chalabi, 'Britain sells off £1.7bn of culturally important artefacts', Guardian  Thursday 30 January 2014

New statistics reveal that the UK government has allowed the export of thousands of objects of cultural importance in the space of less than a year - what were they? You can see all the data for yourself here . Here is a histogram of the exported artefacts by number of export licences granted. A staggering 28300 of them were for 'Prehistoric and European' material (archaeological material, Medieval and later antiquities and metal detected finds). These are items leaving the country legally. When you consider that in an average week five thousand British antiquities are on offer on a certain internet auction platform near you, the number raises questions on the number of British-dug items that leaves the country illegally, in unmarked envelopes and packages. Note also that you do not need an export licence for anything dug up outside Britain below a certain threshold value. That is the explanation of the relatively few records of export of oriental, Middle Eastern and Egyptian antiquities. Note the small number of coins and medals declared.

This shows the same objects by 'value'. Here we see that the average (declared) value of those 28000 declared archaeological finds was 640 each. Who says metal detectorists don't make money by selling finds?   Oriental antiquities are the highest value export (21mill), followed by Middle Eastern antiquities (19 mill) and only then more local dugups and antiquities (18 mill) then Egyptian stuff (11mill) .

The information missing is where those items came from. Are those ancient objects from exotic countries all pre-1970 imports, or are they freshly-surfaced items being laundered by passing through London's no-questions-asked (and they-can't-touch-you-for-it) market?

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