Friday, 26 October 2007

UCL and the Incantation Bowls: new revelations

Michael Balter has reported on the Incantation Bowl saga at UCL ("University Suppresses Report on Provenance of Iraqi Antiquities", Science 318, October 26, 2007). The discussion is now about the commissioned report which has not been made available for circulation.

Lord Renfrew is quoted:

It is shameful that a university should set up an independent inquiry and then connive with the collector whose antiquities are under scrutiny to suppress the report through the vehicle of an out-of-court settlement.

The archaeological community was looking forward to reading this report because UCL in a press release of May 16, 2005 had stated that it would
provide a model for best practice in dealing with the complex cultural issues that can arise from such situations.
Is suppressing this report "best practice"?


jamesdoeser said...

The great majority of people here at the Institute of Archaeology, myself included, are really upset about this. UCL might be behaving in a legally judicious way but it reflects very badly on the university and all the work people do here to ensure good ethical practice regarding antiquities.

nice blog btw

David Gill said...

The Institute of Archaeology is a world class body which has done so much to speak out on the issue of looting. You all appear to have been placed in a difficult position by this decision.

David Gill said...

The press release, "Correction of media innuendo concerning alleged 'looted' provenance of incantation bowls" (October 14, 2007), from the Schoyen Collection should also be read:

jamesdoeser said...

This will only get resolution once the report is published. Legal title is such a touchy subject (god knows I encountered this when formulating public discussion of the Sevso treasure) that no one wants to encounter the wrath of the lawyers. The effect of such fear is that the subject becomes taboo - hardly the way academia should be conducted in the 21st century.

This will not go away and if the Science piece is to be believed then legal proceedings by the Iraqis will take this in a whole new direction anyway.

Don Thieme said...

This sort of behavior by academics and university administrators reminds me of the ridiculous over-classification of government papers and documents. Surely their foolish secrecy has done more harm than good both to the authentication process and to the academic reputation of UCL.

David Gill said...

For the full text of the Science report see

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