Tuesday 15 July 2014

Collectors Laugh at Ethical Issues

Stage two
We have seen that a lot of people are labouring under a misapprehension that if you explain it to them clearly enough, artefact collectors and dealers will come round to doing things in a way which is more sustainable and discourages the entry of illicit material onto the market. It is my experience and observation that collectors and dealers however are not at all inclined to change even the slightest thing in their dealings with the dug up ancient heritage. Huge amounts of time and money are being wasted on a false assumption. We have seen two attempts recently by coin collectors, for example to deny that there even is an archaeological context which is destroyed by collection driven exploitation of archaeological sites. Here we have the reaction of Moneta-L discussion list on my comments on the effects of archaeologists fraternising with no-questions-asked coin sellers at archaeological conferences on effecting change in trade practices: 
the cheese has finally fallen off his cracker [...] Perhaps we could all chip in for the cost of the plain white ambulance, the nice male nurses and the jacket with the long arms? Sometimes things are almost too funny to parody! 
So once again (as we saw here), nothing but ridicule and attempts to convince each other that the concerns can be dismissed as a coiney joke at everybody else's expense. I suggest anyone who thinks one can reason with people like this, that if we throw enough money at schemes like the PAS we will eventually achieve best practice in the antiquities trade, to take a bit of time and register with a forum like Moneta-L. Just take a look at who is saying what about collecting ethics, and in what manner. Then make up your own mind whether it is possible to "reason with" and work with these people. You don't even have to talk to them to get the picture, just listen to how they talk amongst themselves, and about what.

UPDATE 15.07.2014
I see that Mr Bude the dealer has joined the discussion. He boastfully surmises that the archaeologists invited him to their conference "because I've studied the coinage extensively and know more about it than anyone else in the world [...] Or is knowledge unimportant?". But the issue I am discussing is not about "knowledge", but what it is based on. To take an extreme example to illustrate the point, Jozef Mengele knew more about the results of the response of the human body to certain medical experiments, and the results are all well-archived today, but - due to the manner in which those results were obtained - should they be used today by modern doctors unable to repeat his experiments? Chinese medical researchers carried out a whole load of experiments on prisoners and obtained some interesting results, we hear, yet no foreign conferences or publications were open to them to publicise them. The international medical community took an ethical stand and blocked Chinese doctors from disseminating 'knowledge' obtained by unethical means. For the Kinsey Report convicted child rapists were interviewed, should the results of the interviews (drawing medical inferences based on criminal activity) be used in their report? (They were). Not even these are black and white issues - but are ones that should be debated. In the same way, should archaeology in general not stand up against those who wish to profit from the anonymity and laxity of the current antiquities market? Should it not differentiate between knowledge licitly generated, and that which is not? The AIA have a publication policy which rejects research based on illicitly obtained material. Should not British archaeology, also concerned about the illegal antiquities trade, not take a similar stand? Suppose some of the Eadberht coins Mr Bude was discussing had been ripped from scheduled sites by 'nighthawks' and their 'laundering' not picked up by could-not-care-less dealers from which Mr Bude obtained his 'data'? Is their use ethical research? I suggest it is not, but am interested to hear what others say - not that we'll hear it from blinkered coin collectors. 

UPDATE 15.07.14:
Pretty unlikely, now see what coiney Robert Weinstein writes: "Wow! The followup is unbelievably twisted. He compares Ron to Joseph Mengele and child rapists!". How about reading what I wrote Mr Weinstein? If you need help understanding some of the words, there are dishineriys online (you'll have to use the UK versions to get my full meaning). Is there any real reason why you cannot see the point being made?

1 comment:

David Knell said...

Well, if the ACCG is the best that many coin dealers and their supporters can come up with as Stage Three, the final stage should be a doddle. The more the ACCG jeers at serious conservation issues, the more incensed the general public will become.

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