Thursday, July 17, 2008

Does Looting Matter? One Year On

Today is the first birthday of Looting Matters.

Some 350 posts later and with an average of 7000-8000 page loads a month (USA 51%, UK 11%), it looks as if there continues to be interest in the discussion of archaeological ethics and the issues surrounding the damage to archaeological sites.

Does raising the issue of looting make a difference? Has public opinion changed?

Certainly the AAMD's new policy on the acquisition of antiquities (and see also the one for short-term loans) seem to indicate that there is a shift in attitude.

How far has this to do with the returns of antiquities from various North American public and private collections to Italy - and "celebrated" by the two Nostoi exhibitions in Rome?

And Greece, too, seems to be claiming returns from dealers and private collections.

Buyers at sales are now placing a premium on pieces with good collecting "histories". (I do hope in the next year the term "good provenance" can be dropped in favour of "good history".)

Private collectors also appear to be accepting the problems surrounding recently-surfaced antiquities - and their interests in the ancient world can perhaps be pointed towards the support of excavation, publication and archaeological research.

What will the next year bring?

I suspect the opening of the New Acropolis Museum in September will force the issue of the Parthenon marbles and other "historic collections" towards the top of the agenda.

The scale of the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq rumbles on.

But we need to be asking some more searching questions.

What are the intellectual consequences of newly-surfaced antiquities (and modern creations) entering the corpus of knowledge?

3 comments:

Chris Hall said...

Happy Birthday Looting Matters! 350 posts in a year. That's some blogging!

Nathan T. Elkins said...

Congratulations on one year!

Best,
Nathan

tksalvo said...

Provenance is a vexed issue.

I am no lawyer but we run a code for dealers for which we have been asking anyone in the legal profession since 1995 to come up with a watertight definition of 'good title'. So far we have had no takers.

The idea of collector provenance would work provided collectors could be accredited somehow and auction houses forced to give previous owner identity. Neither of these seem very likely.

Good luck anyway.

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