Saturday, 17 October 2020

Looting and the (Whole) Market

On social media today there is some discussion of an article from The New Indian Express, 'When the buying by museums stops, the looting stops' (by S Vijay Kumar, 17th October 2020). 

This is only true up to a point, this would be the case were it not for the existence of a whole load of greedy, self-centred private collectors, and a whole bunch of established dealers that will do what they can to stay in business. And what do you do about people that go out with metal detectors to find their own antiquities by looting sites? The constant focus on the 'high end' segment of the market and shoulder-shrugging towards the 'low end' obscures the nature of the problem. We have to challenge attitudes to the commodification of all ancient artefacts (potential archaeological evidence)* and arouse public interest in protecting ALL of the evidence from the past, not just the expensive gallery/trophy items. Why are we failing? 

The UK long ago became a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. And who in the UK gives any consideration to the contents of Article 10? Remember that one? 

Article 10
The States Parties to this Convention undertake:
(a) To restrict by education, information and vigilance, movement of cultural property illegally removed from any State Party to this Convention and, as appropriate for each country, oblige antique dealers, subject to penal or administrative sanctions, to maintain a register recording the origin of each item of cultural property, names and addresses of the supplier, description and price of each item sold and to inform the purchaser of the cultural property of the export prohibition to which such property may be subject;
(b) to endeavour by educational means to create and develop in the public mind a realization of the value of cultural property and the threat to the cultural heritage created by theft, clandestine excavations and illicit exports.
Which particular UK state-supported institution fulfils this task today? The PAS that pats artefact hunters on the head as they trash site after site in search of collectable artefacts to pocket? If not them, then who else?

*Surely the principle of "Responsible Collecting" (PAS please note) should be to restrict collecting to artefacts that can be verified as not constituting archaeological evidence. The fact is that the PAS record shows that what people are collecting is above all former archaeological evidence - the record is there to salvage what information they can. 

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.