Thursday, February 19, 2015

Egyptian antiquities on the market

My study of Egyptian antiquities surfacing on the market is due to be published in March 2015.

Gill, D. W. J. 2015. "Egyptian antiquities on the market." In The management of Egypt's cultural heritage, edited by F. A. Hassan, G. J. Tassie, L. S. Owens, A. De Trafford, J. van Wetering, and O. El Daly, vol. 2: 67-77. London: ECHO and Golden House Publications.

Several million dollars’ worth of Egyptian antiquities are sold on the market every year. The majority of these items seem to have surfaced for the first time since 1973, the date of the Archaeological Institute of America’s ‘Resolution of the Acquisition of Antiquities by Museums’. Some of the material appearing on the market appears to have been removed from archaeological stores in Egypt. There is also clear evidence that reliefs and other items are being removed from recorded tombs. Many other items, such as the Akhmim stelae, come from previously unknown sites, and their removal has led to a loss of knowledge about the original contexts. The scandals surrounding the return of antiquities to Italy has resulted in more rigorous acquisition policies being developed by North American museums. This is likely to suppress the market for Egyptian objects that do not have recorded collecting histories.

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Larry Rothfield said...

Looking forward to reading this. I did have a question about the last two sentences of the abstract. What is the basis for the claim that more rigorous museum acquisitions policies suppress the market in antiquities? Logically, of course, there should be some impact, but the degree of impact -- suppressing? slightly reducing? -- would have to depend on many other factors. How big a player is the museum world in the market? How much of a difference does it make to buyers that they may not be able to donate the dodgy piece to (some) museums? I honestly don't know the answers to these questions, and was wondering if you've got any research to share that might help answer them.

David Gill said...

Two initial thoughts. First, my research draws on the monitoring of Egyptian material passing through the auction houses. Second, donors appear to be more reluctant to offer objects to museums if they are unable to demonstrate the full collecting histories.


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