But isn't the "Mother of All" such "factoids" in the cultural property debate the insinuation by members of the archaeological community like Prof. Gill that undocumented artifacts "must be stolen?"I would have hoped that Tompa as a trained lawyer would be precise in his use of language. My use of the word "stolen" is normally applied to:
- objects stolen from a museum (e.g. Corinth, Baghdad, museums in Italy)
- objects stolen from archaeological stores or similar holding areas (e.g. Egypt, Italy, Libya)
- objects stolen from a private collection
- objects stolen from a monument at a recorded archaeological site (e.g. the eye of Amenhotep III, part of an Egyptian tomb decoration)
For me "stolen" implies "obtained by theft" (OED).
Tompa also draws attention to "undocumented artifacts". But let us be more precise. I often use the phrase "recently surfaced antiquities" (or something similar) to indicate objects that have appeared in a museum, private collection, auction or some other sale that do not have authenticated documentation that allows the collecting history to be traced back to 1970 (see "The 1970 rule"). (Christopher Chippindale and I had been using 1973 as our benchmark but for these purposes let us use 1970 as the date now adopted by the AAMD.) Objects that surfaced prior to 1970 deserve to be treated in a different way to those that have surfaced post 1970.
At the same time 1970 should not be used to ignore national laws that have earlier dates or indeed claims on significant cultural property. This category could contain the Benin bronzes, the Rosetta stone, the Parthenon sculptures, or bronzes removed from China. However it should be noted that such objects normally have some documentation or collecting history. For example, we know that the Parthenon sculptures were displayed on a marble temple constructed on the Athenian acropolis during the 440s and 430 BCE.
In our 2000 paper, "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting", published in the American Journal of Archaeology, Chippindale and I drew attention to the lack of collecting histories in a range of private European and North American private collections. Our research was indeed significant as objects from two of the collections discussed by us have now been returned to Italy; items from one of these two collections have been returned to Greece.
And why have these objects been returned to Italy and Greece? Is it because they have undocumented histories?
Tompa knows this is not the answer.
It is because there is documentary evidence and, in some (perhaps all) cases, photographs of the pieces. Some of this information was seized in raids in the Geneva Freeport.
Tompa, as an attorney, knows that museums and private individuals would not hand over objects to foreign governments unless there was some kind of evidence. He will also have observed that these cases did not come to court. Amicable agreements were made with the institutions and individuals.
But back to Tompa's "mother of all factoids". Are members of the archaeological community, including myself, insinuating that undocumented artifacts "must be stolen"?
I can only speak for myself. But the answer has to be "no".
Is Tompa presenting the views of the archaeological community in an accurate way?
Archaeologists are raising concerns about the looting of archaeological sites.
Red figure loutrophoros (ceramic), attributed to the Darius Painter. South Italian, Apulian, ca. 335-325 B.C. One of four objects to be transferred in title to the Italian government but to remain on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.