Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking Ahead: 2016

The continuing looting and destruction of archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq is likely to dominate the news. The academic discussion will focus on how material is moving from the Middle East to the markets in Europe and North America. We are likely to see confirmed material from Syria surfacing on the London market. The bigger question is which groups benefit from the sales?

Dealers, galleries and auction houses have been keen to reassure the press that they would never handle recently surfaced material from Syria or Iraq. (Incidentally, I walked into one London gallery this summer and the object nearest to the attendant's desk had a label naming one of the best known handlers of recently surfaced antiquities.) The observation that one of the major international auction houses continues to offer Italian material identified from the Becchina and Medici archives suggests that the due diligence process needs to be improved.

I suspect that there will continue to be identifications made from the Becchina, Medici and Symes archives. But will the Michael C. Carlos Museum return material to Greece? And will Madrid hand objects back to Italy?

Heritage Crime is a major topic in the UK: damage to archaeological sites, removal of lead from churches, theft of heritage signs. There needs to be a voice through the RSA, the Heritage Alliance, and other heritage organisations to draw attention to the problem. It is unclear how the newly reformed Portable Antiquities Scheme will engage with the debate.

The issue of forgeries in the market need to be explored.

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