Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Iranian Lawmakers and Landowners Want "Optimal Utilization of Dugup Ancient Objects and Treasures"

          Weird Jiroft stuff               

It seems that draft legislation has been submitted to Iran's parliament intended to turn Iran into a “regional centre” for antiquities trade, aiming to prevent the “cheap smuggling of national heritage”. Rather transparent motives there... The proposed law would reduce archaeology to "treasure hunting" and give license to non-professionals to dig anywhere for artefacts for sale. The plan calls for the creation of a regional 'hub' for 'treasures sale'. There are other disquieting details, including a measure that states that after someone requests a permit, if the Ministry doesn't reply within just 3 weeks, their request is automatically approved. Archaeologists and University professors have already protested (Radio Farda, 'Archeologists Concerned Over Bill Turning Iran Into Hub For Antiquities Trade' May 11 2022).

In a letter addressed to parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, 61 archeology professors called on parliament to scrap the proposal, dubbed the "optimal utilization of ancient objects and treasures," warning it will pave the way for the misuse of historical artifacts and monuments by traffickers and looters. They also said that the bill submitted this week by 46 lawmakers, had been drafted "without any consultation with official archaeological institutions."
(see also ASP, 'Iran archaeologists oppose bill allowing antiquities trade', Al Arabiya news 11 May, 2022). It is disheartening to see that after almost a century of antiquities laws and (sometimes faltering) efforts to preserve the country's rich archaeological heritage, legislators are now regarding cultural heritage and archaeology as a saleable commodity. If passed, this new law would mean that from now on sellers with Amlash, Luristan, Elam, Jiroft and a whole lot of other kinds of artefacts will not have to exert themselves to prove a pre-something export date to claim licitness, they will be able to say brazenly that something was freshly excavated. Name me a collector that would then ask to have a copy of the excavation permit for their collection's paperwork.

Once again, we see the consequences of an ivory-tower archaeology ("they did not sask us first" means they have not established themselves and the discipline as a voice in the public arena) to properly inform lawmakers and the public what archaeoklogy is and has to offer, allowing public discourse to focus on "the things (we have in our museums/ have been taken out of our country/ have been repatriated from dodgy dealers)" and the number (26) of trophy sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. The profs are concerned about one thing, but under their watch the man in the street has come to think the issue is something else. This is exactly the same as is happening in the UK with the PAS and elsewhere. Why do archaeologists everywhere only see the need for proper public outreach in hindsight when a situation like this arises, can the discipline become preeo-active?

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