Friday 10 April 2020

In UK, Looted is Not Looted if it Was Stolen Years Ago?

Not looted because the photo was taken five years ago...
British Museum’s St John Simpson denies Europe is flooded with recently stolen artefacts (Lanre Bakare, 'UK curator criticises 'misleading' reports about looted items' Guardian Fri 10 Apr 2020)
Reporting of the illegal trade in antiquities from Iraq and Syria is leading to a false impression that the European market is flooded with looted items, according to a British Museum curator. St John Simpson, a senior curator and archaeologist in the British Museum’s Middle East department [...] “There’s a very strong tendency to say that all objects without provenance are the produce of recent looting,” he said. “But some objects have been circulating for decades, if not longer. [...] “Some of these objects floating around on the western market could actually come not from recent looting, they’re probably coming from 1990s or 2003 looting,” he added.
Uh? So that's OK then, not really looted he says. Just like the PAS just down the corridor from his office is "not really recording recently looted stuff" because although it's being dug up now, it's only being dug up by white men? What does it matter when it's looted? Stolen is stolen. In Britain you cannot get title to stolen goods even if you bought them "in good faith". So really all these objects are going "somewhere", just not to the exceptional little green island off the edge of Europe? Really? Nevertheless, whenever it was looted, it's being sold now by culture-criminals, and they are earning money from these sales, no? And that's not something anyone need be worried about, because.... the stuff was dug up by somebody else 'once upon a time'?
In March, a UN-backed report stated Germany had become an international destination for trafficking illegal antiquities from the Eastern Mediterranean, including Iraq and Syria, with almost half of the 6,000 examined items coming from the two countries. Released by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the study looked at antiquities sale in Germany between 2015 and 2018, and found only 2.1% had proven legal provenance. [...] Simpson said in Syria there had been “ad-hoc and opportunistic looting” but the picture painted by the German Federal Cultural Foundation’s study was down to “rather simplistic” reporting. “Put it this way,” he said. “I would like see every one of those objects personally to be confident that they are from recent looting rather than older items or fakes.” The curator said the situation in the UK is completely different from the 1990s when large numbers of looted Iraqi items were sold. He called for “caution and curatorial intelligence” to be used when deciding when and where items originated.
It is interesting to speculate on the meaning of the phrase "curatorial intelligence" and how one gains (or even measures) it. Obviously it is something the rest of us can only dream about. Apparently if you've got this gift, all you have to do is hold the questionable object in your curratorial hands, and it will "speak" not only of the past, but of when it was looted. Wow, Chapeau bas. The rest of us would like to see the paperwork.

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