Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lord Renfrew calls for greater diligence over selling antiquities

Last week Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn called for greater diligence over the selling of archaeological material in the UK. He gave as a specific example the case of the lots that had to be withdrawn from a Bonhams sale in October 2008 (see my comments from last year).

Renfrew is quoted from his speech in the House of Lords:
Bonhams the auctioneers withdrew from its London antiquities sale at the request of the Italian Government some 10 antiquities, among them items formerly owned by the now sadly notorious dealer Mr Robin Symes. I understand that the Italian authorities had already made representations to the Home Office about several warehouses in London containing antiquities formerly in his ownership—many of them, it is alleged, illegally excavated in Italy.

What is an auctioneer in this country doing, selling antiquities without a documented provenance? It is scandalous that this practice continues, and to put an end to it is one purpose of this amendment. There are serious matters here, which demand government attention.
Does this need further legislation? A better solution would be for those dealing in archaeological material to show a more rigorous level of due diligence.

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