Tuesday 3 January 2017

'Britain Leading the Way' Really?

I think we already have a strong contender for the 'most parochial piece of heritage reporting of 2017 award' (BBC: 'Syria monuments damage 'akin to looting Welsh castles'...' BBC Wales  3rd January 2017)
Destruction of Syria's historical monuments is akin to Wales' castles and Stonehenge being "looted and obliterated", an archaeologist has said. Swansea University's Dr Nigel Pollard heads a team digitising pre-war images of the ancient world treasures
While it is nice to see collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record being recognized to have a global context, that is about as far as this tub-thumping local-interest article goes. I suspect some of what the good doctor is reported to have said has been taken out of context: 

For example, more can be done to stem the trade in looted antiquities by supporting the training and resourcing of officials in neighbouring countries, such as Turkey and Lebanon, to clamp down on smuggling, Dr Pollard said. "There is also much we can do to better co-ordinate preservation work being carried out by disparate organisations," he added. Dr Pollard believes the UK government deserves credit for leading international opinion. It has already established a fund to support some projects and its Cultural Protection Bill - to safeguard items and sites threatened by conflict - has passed its second reading in the Commons and could become law early in 2017. Meanwhile, UK armed forces are setting up a new "Monuments Men" unit of specialists in cultural property protection.
Ummm, "Britain leading public opinion" eh? Really? Where? This CPB implements which international convention, signed.. when? (Answer for those not keeping up, this is the shameful hyper-scandalously-late implementation: the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954). Note that the opinion is being spread in Britain that "more can be done to stem the trade in looted antiquities" by remote control (under British 'leadrship' of course) by making sure the foreigners in Turkey and Lebanon police their borders better.How about the country whose antiquities market is (probably) second only to the US policing its borders and markets? Dr Pollard will know of the Palmer report and Britain's pledge to drain the swamp of the British illicit antiquities trade. What training and resources have been put into that? The Palmer Report was published  in December 2000. I hardly call sixteen years of abject inaction and neglect 'leading the way'. The way to stop child prostitution is not just getting young girls to 'dress modestly', but catch the kerb crawlers. There should be no loopholes allowing the sale of laundered looted artefacts and antiques from any conflict zone in the UK. That is how we can actually do more to stem the trade in illicit antiquities, make the markets impenetrable to them and those who would launder and trade in them. Complacency is not the way to achieve that. Britain has been doing that for decades.

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