Friday, August 7, 2015

Heritage Crime Matters

My review article of two edited volumes has now appeared in the latest issue of Antiquity 89 (2015) 991-93 [Contents]:

DUNCAN CHAPPELL & SASKIA HUFNAGEL (ed.). Contemporary perspectives on the detection, investigation and prosecution of art crime: Australasian, European and North American perspectives (Farnham & Burlington (VT): Ashgate, 2014).

LOUISE GROVE & SUZIE THOMAS (ed.). Heritage crime: progress, prospects and prevention (Basingstoke & NewYork: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

There were a number of profitable contributions, perhaps my favourite being the essay by Dr Sam Hardy on 'Threats to cultural heritage in the Cyprus conflict'.
This essay resonates with the early 2015 debates about the looting of archaeological sites in Syria and northern Iraq during the present conflict with IS.
A second important contribution was:
In Contemporary perspectives, Duncan Chappell and Damien Huffer bring a helpful perspective on the looting of archaeological sites in Southeast Asia and the appearance of material on the Australian market. They comment on material acquired by major Australian museums from the art dealer Subhash Kapoor; some of the items have now been returned to India
Some of the papers written from a legal perspective were disappointing and, in my opinion, rather failed to engage with the reality of the issues.

Some of the comments I make in the review relating to the situation in the UK are now dated given the changes announced for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

At the end of the article I ask two key questions:
Is the academic discourse of ‘heritage crime’ failing to address such significant archaeological concerns? Is the continuing and unsustainable destruction of the archaeological record to supply the insatiable demands of the market having serious intellectual consequences for our discipline?
Can I suggest that readers of LM have a look at the books in a library before spending £135?

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