Wayne Sayles has commented:
The imperial busts used throughout the empire were typically made in Italy and sent out to show the world what their emperor looked like. Does the display of an object thereby make it the cultural patrimony of a country? Should a Roman coin stolen from a display in New York be returned to NY or to Italy? This whole concept is a mine field with lots and lots of booby traps and a million possible scenarios to account for. Cultural Property Nationalism is simply an unworkable concept in a world of globalism.When challenged, he clarified his position:
The reason to return the MA [Marcus Aurelius] bust to Algeria is that in our small window of world history the object belonged to Algeria when it was stolen. To the extent possible under international law, recognizing that there are statutes of limitation and other legal issues in some cases, an object proven to be stolen should be given back to the people it was stolen from. That is a matter of justice, not of heritage. Trying to apply issues of heritage to a place that did not even exist in antiquity and to a people who now occupy the land by conquest and have no vested interest whatever in the culture before them, is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. As I said, Cultural Property Nationalism is simply an unworkable concept in a world of globalism. I'm surprised that you would try to defend it.Can the theft of archaeological material from a collection, and its legitimate return, really be misinterpreted in this way?