Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coins and Cyprus

There have been various unhelpful comments circulating about the decision to include coins in the agreement with Cyprus.

There was a public invitation to comment posted by the Archaeological Institute of America on January 28, 2007:

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the U.S. Department of State is asking for additional public comment on the inclusion of ancient coins in the Cypriot request for import restrictions


I was one of those who wrote to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (on January 31, 2007) concerning this issue. (For the AIA response.)

In the interest of transparency I include the core of my letter here:

I am writing to comment on the issue of whether ancient coins should be included as part of the agreement between the US and Cyprus. ...

It is clear that a considerable amount of newly surfaced archaeological material appearing in sale rooms and galleries (our research suggests a figure of some 85-90 per cent) has no previous history. Ancient coins, whether found in hoards or from stratified contexts on archaeological sites, hold key information about dating, trade and cultural contact. The breaking up of coin hoards prevents scholars from understanding the full range of coins which were buried together; it also needs to be said that a hoard which surfaces on the market lacks integrity. A coin removed in an unscientific way from a stratified deposit is no more than a collector’s item and its value as a chronological marker has been lost.

There is the suggestion that the finding of such coins is a random process. Although surface finds may be a small part of the story, the number of coins emerging on the market suggests that there may be a targeting of recorded and unrecorded archaeological sites to provide material for collectors and museums. On an island like Cyprus there is a finite archaeological resource. Failure to include coins in the proposed agreement could mean that archaeological sites were dug over, stratigraphy destroyed and knowledge lost for ever; hunting for coins has implications for the archaeological remains covered by the agreement.

I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to include coins as part of the agreement. Failure to do so could remove the protection from the other types of archaeological objects already covered.

1 comment:

Cindy Ho said...

I would also like to draw your attention to a list of letters sent to CPAC supporting the inclusion of coins on http://www.savingantiquities.org/Cyprusmou.php

Cindy Ho
SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone

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