Tuesday, 8 August 2017

There is a very vocal crowd in the archeological community

US 'coin collector and hobby advocate' Scott Barman posted on his blog an article about the need to oppose the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention by the US, an article recently highly praised by Wayne Sayles as representing 'the ancient coin collector perspective'. Barman named the post 'An Ancient Dilemma' but it seems to me the only dilemma he has highlighted are his own problems of understanding what he is discussing and in keeping to the facts. As an example, we read in his text, two thirds of the way down:
There is a very vocal crowd in the archeological community that would want to see everything dug up from the earth put into museums or otherwise locked away from the public. (Links to these people omitted on purpose) Using the pejorative “coinys” to describe collectors of ancient coins, these people have advocated for the confiscation of these coin so that they can be entombed behind display glass inside the state run museums of the world. They consider coinys profiteers who would rather trade in history than preserve history.
First of all, the term is 'coiney'. As far as I am aware, it is not yet used by any 'crowd' of archaeologists, vocal or not. Perhaps his inability to prove the truth of what he is saying is whuy he does not provide 'links to these people'. What is jhe afrraid of, that if he provided links, it would turn out that 'these people' do not say what he wants his gullible readers to believe?

Secondly, if he is referring to me, Mr Barman misses my whole point because this blog is not about what should happen to 'everything dug up from the earth', but rather about those that dig them up for private entertainment and profit, thereby destroying archaeological evidence. It is about the effects and context of the action, but Mr Barman is exclusively and simplistically concerned with its products. I do not know how it is in the US, but objects placed in public collections are not 'locked away from the public'. They are kept there on trust for the public. Mr Barman presumably would like to see them in his personal ephemeral collection and scattered among those of his acquisitive collector mates.

It certainly would require Mr Barman to cite links to statements where 'those' who 'use the pejorative term coinys to describe collectors of ancient coins', have advocated 'for the confiscation of these coin so that they can be entombed behind display glass inside the state run museums of the world'. What utter nonsense. Artefacts which are illicitly obtained should not be illicitly obtained. My focus is not on the object but the deed. Let's use legal sanctions against culture criminals that by participating in the market for illicit artefacts trample over others' rights to access the common heritage. They can keep their illegal coin collection during their punishment for all I care - let them reflect on why this has happened and whether it was worth it.  But then what should happen to those coins afterwards? Can anyone sell them with a clean conscience? Can anyone buy them, knowing what they are? Perhaps Mr Barman moves among people who would have few such qualms, he does not say. But his comment is another example of the US fixation on 'repatriation' of artefacts, rather than a reason why an artefact has been rendered stateless by the actions of the no-questions-asked commerce in antiquities.

As for 'them' considering coineys to be 'profiteers who would rather trade in history than preserve history', .I think that is a pretty good characterization of the trade which turns the destruction of archaeological evidence into commercial goods. Mr Barman can show us in how many V-Coin or EBay descriptions we can find preserved the collecting history of an item. Let us recall the statements of dealers that they cannot provide this for their artefacts because that would put the price up. So, history is indeed lost for commercial reasons.

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