Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Whose Culture?: FYROM

David I. Owen has written a passionate essay, "Censoring knowledge: the case for the publication of unprovenanced cuneiform tablets", for Whose Culture? His focus is on Mesopotamia and his essay concludes,
"... concerted efforts ... must be made by local and international authorities to eliminate the organized looting and smuggling of antiquities" (p. 130).
I do not agree with Owen's overall position and I have discussed the AIA Policy on publication in my review of Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity?

Owen looks beyond Iraq in his essay. He reminds us of the scale of looting in the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), "the estimated 1 million artifacts ... smuggled out of the country since independence in 1991 ..." (p. 138 n. 12) [see my earlier comments on this report]. Among the pieces discussed by archaeologists from the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is the Koreshnica krater, reported to be from an elite burial and said to reside in a New York private collection. The scale of the looting is indeed shocking and Owen is right to condemn it.

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