Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Two Notions of illicit Antiquities - Trade and the Outside World

A spokesman for the US antiquities trade is making a case for there being two different notions of the term "illicit" when applied to portable antiquities, that used by academics and others discussing portable antiquities issues, and that used by US dealers which reduces the whole notion down to one category "illegally exported artifact". In other words, according to what this US dealer says any artefact coming onto the market need not be treated with any kind of suspicion and can be sold perfectly openly as a licit artefact, unless it is accompanied by a piece of paper saying "this artefact has been exported illegally".

I wonder though what the US dealer's position is over export licences issued by the Islamic State and according to the law of the territory they govern. If the artefacts leaving ISIL land were accompanied by export licences issued by the state administration at the point of exit from that territory, would Mr Welsh sell those items in his shop as "licit"? I think the whole question he is trying to reduce to simple disneyland proportions of banality is in fact far more complex - apparently too complex for Mr Welsh to get his head around. Bollocks Mr Welsh, you are talking bollocks.

Vingnette: They apparently also eat bollocks in the Rockies, near where Mr Welsh lives

UPDATE 3rd August 2016
Dealer Dave really will not accept that the US dealers' definition of "illicit antiquities" is one that cuts no ice over here in Europe. Clearly the antiquities trade is intent on alienating itself from any wider discussion:
"I believe that in the end Barford's "cunning methodology" is not convincing to thoughtful readers like myself when countered by reasoned and factual arguments"
Come on then, let's see some. Are Hopi masks sold in France licitly sold or illicitly sold if there is no mechanism by which their export from US can be proven to be illegal? How can you tell one from the other? Are artefacts which are direct products of illicit excavations in contravention of national patrimony laws licit or illicit? How can you tell one from the other? Are nighthawking finds sold on eBay UK licit or illicit? How can you tell one from the other? As for illicit cultural property, where does Holocaust art fit into his narrow definition of the term if it remained within the borders of the country where it was taken? I am sure we all look forward to seeing some "reasoned and factual answers" from the antiquities trade about what they take the term illicit antiquities to mean.

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