Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Respect for Colleagues

The ACCG seems to have been emboldened in its battle against what it terms (incorrectly) as "the radical archaeologists" (see postings by Nathan Elkins and Paul Barford). But officers of the ACCG are crossing lines in their personal attacks on colleagues, e.g. Wayne Sayles (Executive Director of ACCG) described two of his opponents in less than flattering terms (see response by Paul Barford).

Now Peter Tompa (President of ACCG) has attacked Professor Patty Gerstenblith of De Paul University. Gerstenblith is an authority on issues surrounding looting antiquities.
  • Director of De Paul's College of Law’s Program in Cultural Heritage Law
  • Founding president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
  • Senior advisor to the International Arts and Cultural Property Committee of the ABA Section on International Law
  • Editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Cultural Property (1995-2002)
  • Member of the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee (2000-2003) in the U.S. Department of State.
Tompa is no doubt feeling sore after he was criticised for constructing conspiracy theories. But as Gerstenblith is an authority on Cultural Heritage Law, why should Tompa be concerned about her serving on the Obama National Arts Policy Committee? Could he be backing the other side ... ?


Cultural Property Observer said...

David- Now you are being downright silly.

I was just reporting on a fact that she has joined this high profile committee and had given some money to Democrats including Sen. Obama's campaign. I'm not sure how this could be construed as "attacking" Prof. Gerstenblith.

I do note, however, that despite the denials, archaeologists do "lobby" under the common meaning of the term.

Perhaps, you should quote what I actually said:

"Of course, Prof. Gerstenblith is just exercising her rights to play the political game like anyone else. However, I find it quite ironic that this news crops up at the very same time that Ellen Herscher of CAARI (and AIA) makes the claim (also made earlier on the SAFE website) that archaeologists don't "lobby."

Incidentally, I do support Sen. McCain and I have given him money. You can check how much on the same website I have used. It does not approach Prof. Gerstenblith's donation level.


Peter Tompa

Unknown said...

He definitely does not seem pleased that Prof. Gerstenblith is on the committee, but has he really attacked her?

In any event I think this may be a very good thing for cultural heritage advocates, provided Obama wins the election.

David Gill said...


Is it appropriate to suggest a link between Prof. Gerstenblith's contributions and her appointment to the committee? Are you questioning her integrity? You make 'fierce criticisms' of Gerstenblith - and that, to me, constitutes an 'attack'.

I am not sure that Gerstenblith's appointment coinciding with Ellen Herscher's claim is 'ironic'. Or did you mean to use another word?

Could the officers of the ACCG get back to addressing the ethical issues relating to the damage of archaeological sites? Is it a 'coincidence' that your colleague David Welsh announced that the ACCG had raised money to 'attack' archaeologists (I thought it was to support your FOIA case) just as your posting on Gerstenblith appeared? Should I see these actions as 'ironic' or merely as examples of 'polemic'?

Best wishes

Wayne G. Sayles said...


You wrote: "Could the officers of the ACCG get back to addressing the ethical issues relating to the damage of archaeological sites?"

As an ACCG officer, I must say that we can't very well get back to that discussion because we never had it in the first place. When have you ever asked for or allowed an open and serious discussion? You merely attack and attack and then cry "Attack" from others when they respond with truths. Peter was being gracious in calling your point "silly".

By the way, I'm sure that Professor Gerstenblith is fully capable of defending herself if the need arises.


Cultural Property Observer said...


Thanks for your response. Yes. There is at least a possibility that though Prof. Gerstenblith is obviously highly qualified, her donations may have helped get her on the Committee. Ask the Obama campaign. I certainly do not know the answer.

No. I don't question Prof. Gerstenblith's integrity. It's simple. Those who donate money tend to get appointed to these types of political advisory committees and indeed to governmental advisory committees (like CPAC) as well (assuming your party wins of course). That's just the way the US political system works.

On the Herscher point, I just think PG's appointment underscores the fact that representatives of the archaeological community seek to influence government officials. Most people consider that "lobbying." Nothing wrong with that at all.

What concerns me about the Cyprus situation is that it appears based on what information that has been generated to date in the FOIA litigation and elsewhere that there was not exactly a "level playing field" and that there was in fact a concerted effort to orchestrate a change in existing precedent. We'll just have to see how the evidence ultimately pans on that one, but I do have a good faith belief that something untoward happened. You can of course, disagree, which is fine.

I also believe Dave Welsh's blog or posts are his own business as my blog is my own business and your blog is presumably your own business. There was no coordination with me on the point mentioned.

The ACCG really only speaks through its web site as far as I know unless someone specifically states as much. I'm sure the same must be the case for organizations like SAFE and AIA.

Finally, while damage to archaeological sites is an important issue so too is my government treating everyone fairly in trying to hash the issues out. I assume Derek Fincham will agree that process issues are very important to lawyers, and this is really where I am coming from.


Peter Tompa

David Gill said...

Dear Peter

I have sometimes observed that there is a tension between museum curators who wish to "own" antiquities, and archaeologists who argue that we should be good stewards of the archaeological record.

Do I sense another tension appearing in your comments? You emphasise the 'legal process' - I would point to the ethical issues.

Here are two parallel questions.

Is it legal to buy a recently surfaced archaeological object when it was been looted from a site in another country?

Is it ethical to buy a recently surfaced archaeological object when it was been looted from a site in another country?

My personal position is that I would stick with the ethics even if I could acquire the piece legally.

Thank you for your latest comments.

Best wishes


Ed Snible said...

Dr. Gill I found your last question interesting. I have been wondering myself. I am a small-time ancient coin collector (I've bought seven coins this year and sold zero).

I would prefer findspot and context of ancient coins to be recorded. I believe that laws nationalizing hoards contribute to looting rather than prevent it. (That's been the numismatic opinion since the 1880s when Evans persuaded England to reimburse based on numismatic rather than intrinsic value for coins.) I'm ethically troubled by the low monies the land owner receives but not by smuggling. I recently read an essay by law professor Eric Posner. [ ] I don't think he collects. He suggests "... recipient states should stop respecting the export restrictions of origin states ..." which seems to imply that collectors need not respect the laws either.

If I don't buy a coin someone else buys it. So there is little I can do to stop looting by not collecting, or collecting only objects with ironclad pre-1970 auction appearances.

I was wondering if you could write a blog piece advising collectors like me on what we can do? Perhaps every time I buy a coin I could donate money to police archaeological sites, sort of a "zero looting footprint" concept? Any other ideas?

David Gill said...

Dear Ed
Thank you for this thoughtful and positive response - and for the suggestion for a future posting.
Best wishes

Marcus Preen said...

"Perhaps every time I buy a coin I could donate money to police archaeological sites, sort of a "zero looting footprint" concept?"

What a neat idea. It crosses my mind though Mr Snible that rather than doing that you could simply refrain from buying any coin you weren't certain wasn't looted, thereby providing yourself with zero looting footprint and saving yourself the cost of a donation.

Your remark that "If I don't buy a coin someone else buys it" is only half the story. If you don't buy a looted coin the overall demand for it reduces a little, the price goes down commensurately and so does the incentive to loot it.

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