Monday 28 April 2014

UK Metal Detectorist Tells the World that Illicit Artefacts "do not Matter"

Archaeologist Lisa McIntyre over in Florida seems to be pretending not to notice what her UK detecting buddy is saying about opposing the US-Egypt MOU about combating smuggling. As an archaeologist who has thrown in her lot with artefact hunters and collectors, she does not see any ethical requirement on her (is she an AIA member?) to take a private or public stance of the question at all. She says on a metal detecting blog near you that such an idea is "crazy" and she "do[es] not do crazy".

Meanwhile, Howland has again expressed his opinion (DOS-2014-0008-0016) on the MOU: in a public comment submitted to the CPAC, courtesy of the PAS and its laissez faire failure to inform and combat such attitudes among artefact hunters in the UK, this is how they react in order to be an "ambassador for the hobby" in the public eye:
The so-called problem of its citizens removing ancient artefacts is entirely an Egyptian problem -- if a problem it really be. People are removing artefacts, no question about that, because they are poor and selling them as a way out of poverty, often with the connivance of corrupt officials.
This insular and blinkered view ignores any notion of the existence of a global heritage. Herte Mr Howland is reducing the whole MOU to the question of looting (NOT mentioned in the 1970 UNESCO Convention of course - Howland, tekkie-wise, is being misled by others here rather than finding out for himself), He suggests that these "Egyptian poor" will not be stopped by what he calls "restricting the collection of antiquities by US collectors". Of course that is not what the restricted lists of the MOUs actually do, it only affects the way artefacts are moved from one country to another.  Howland suggests that the best way the US could stop this looting (see above) is to provide the country with more financial aid but considers for some reason that "subsidising the Egyptian military is not popular with the US electorate I suggest". That is rather an odd surmise, given the degree to which Egypt's military has consistently been and continues to be supported by the US government in pursuit of its Middle East objectives ("from the Camp David peace accords in 1978 until 2000, the United States has subsidized Egypt's armed forces with over $38 billion worth of aid"). Howland continues:
That the US should enter into MoU's (sic) with the non-democratic military regime governing Egypt when at the same time, US soldiers are being maimed and dying in the cause for (sic) the democratisation of Afghanistan, is bizarre to say the least, and an affront to all US military personnel. Does it REALLY matter in the greater scheme of things that poor people are taking artefacts at a time when we know more about the ancient Egyptians than they knew about themselves? I believe it does not matter.
Can Lisa McIntyre the tekkie-loving US archaeologist agree with that? Is artefact hunting really just related to "poverty" or is it related to greed? In the US for example, are pot hunters, and metal detectorists artefact hunting out of sheer poverty? Many of the groups doing the looting on sites in Lower Egypt and in the Western Desert in recent months are armed, the fact that these so-called "paupers" do not sell their AK74s to buy bread for their children tells us something about the people this detectorist would see being subsidised instead of confronted. In addition, to equate Egypt with Afghanistan and say that helping fight crime in Egypt is in some way "an affront to all US military personnel" is a grotesque leap in illogic that only a metal detectorist could make.

It would be interesting to hear how Mr Howland feels that "we know more about the ancient Egyptians than they knew about themselves". If that is the case, how does the artefact collector feel that happened, and why he thinks that is in any way relevant to protecting (or not) the archaeological record from destruction? That he feels there is a limited amount of information people need to know and gathering more is superfluous? Would that amount be metal-detectorist-dumb-down-enough level, or something perhaps a little more nuanced and fuller?

The detectorist states his belief that "looting does not matter". But many people in the rest of the world believe it does, whether it happens in Bournemouth or Beni-Suef.

Let us see whether McIntyre, the US archaeologist who so far has fully supported people like Mr Howland with their anti-archaeological nastiness, has anything to say to her government about whether they should more actively support efforts to curb the smuggling of fresh artefacts out of Egypt. Or would the cost of taking a stance be too high for her? What about all those other archaeologists on both sides of the Atlantic who are happy to sit in the artefact hunters' pockets?

Vignette: Antiquities - an Egyptian problem alone?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suspect one of them has twigged that playing to the cheap seats is a non-transferable skill and the other one hasn't.

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