Thursday, 30 August 2018

Finders, But Not Keepers: Cultural Heritage and Ownership

Elliot Olson, 'Finders, But Not Keepers: The Controversies of Cultural Heritage and Ownership'    Global Heritage Fund August 21, 2018
The transport of antiquities and cultural objects is hardly new, but recent international cases are bringing new attention to antiquities of questionable provenance. Who should own cultural artifacts? And when should artifacts be returned to their countries of origin? [...]  It is impossible to deny that the smuggling of historical artifacts generates enormous profits. Take the recent arrests in Italy of an international gang thought to have smuggled more than €40 million worth of archaeological artifacts to European collectors and auction houses over the past few decades. These are far from the only criminals profiting from the illegal sale of antiquities. Reports of terrorist organizations receiving extensive funding from antiquities sales prompted new European Union regulations in 2017 to reduce the illegal trade in looted cultural artifacts. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has made headlines this year with prominent crackdowns on illegal sales of antiquities. 
Cultural items time and time again vanish from archaeological sites only to resurface (from 'underground') abroad under suspicious circumstances. There is a high international demand for antiquities, and the unfortunate reality is that both collectors and auctioneers are not always scrupulous about establishing a legal paper trail for the artifacts they buy and sell. 

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