Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Evidence and legal patience: seeking clarification

Peter Tompa (Washington lobbyist and coin collector) has been pressing me --- "anxiously" --- to comment on the acquisition of a dekadrachm by a national numismatic museum. The prompt was certainly an interesting one and it brought me directly to a letter signed by Tompa (and posted on the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) website). The communication, sent from Dillingham & Murphy LLP, was addressed to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (February 1, 2007) and related to the 'Request for Import Restrictions on Coins at the Behest of the Republic of Cyprus'.

In the letter Tompa comments on the movement of ancient coins and specifically those minted on Cyprus. In note 10 he observes that Athenian dekadrachms are not found in Greece. He then slips in an allegation about a recently acquired dekadrachm "which is thought to have been found in Turkey". Unlike the rest of the material in his letter such a comment is unsupported.

Who "thought" that this coin was found in Turkey? What are Tompa's documented sources for his information? What is his due diligence process? Does he know which (coin) dealers handled the dekadrachm? Will he confirm that that the dealer(s) is / are not linked in any way with the FOIA request relating to coins from Cyprus?

Such questions need to be asked because Tompa's "postings" sometimes need to be seen in context.

Tompa urges me to make an instant comment.

But it made me stop and think: Tompa and I have something in common. We both value empirical evidence.

So what is the basis of his allegation?


Cultural Property Observer said...

David- The allegation about the Decadrachm was made by Arthur Brand (a sometimes contributor to items posted on the SAFE web site) in a book he has published, the name of which escapes me. I have no idea which dealer(s) handled the coin accessioned by the Greek National Museum or whether Brand's allegations are true. That, however, is still irrelevant to my simple question. Do you think that Greece should return to Turkey a valuable ancient Greek coin that allegedly was removed from Turkey illicitly? Certainly, you can answer that.

By the way, since you constantly harp on me being a "lobbyist" (when archaeologists lobby on these issues as well), please disclose to your readers if you have received any money from the Greek Government or related entities related to your studies in general or work in the cultural property field. I would particularly be interested to learn if you attended that conference last year at the Acropolis Museum, and, if so, who paid for your attendance. The Senate and House LDA database should give you an idea of how much the firms I have been associated with have received for what lobbying I have done on behalf of two numismatic trade associations (lobbying work for ACCG has been done "pro bono") but there is no way to look up how much Greece has spent spreading its nationalistic message that everything and anything that is ancient Greek, anywhere in the world, belongs to Greece.


Peter Tompa

David Gill said...

You must mean Arthur Brand's Het verboden Judas-evangelie en de schat van Carchemish (Soesterberg : Aspekt, 2006) [WorldCat].
Are you sure he is "a sometimes contributor" on the SAFE site? I did a search for postings by (or about) him on SAFE Corner without any results. Or do you mean he has left comments there?

Have you read Brand's book? I presume you must have done in order to allude to this dekadrachm in your letter to CPAC. Or did you receive the information through another source? Have you checked it out? I think you should verify the details of who handled the dekadrachm.

I am so grateful to you for raising this as an issue.

With best wishes

Cultural Property Observer said...

David- You don't seem to want to answer my questions, but I will answer your question as best I can. I recall that Brand has been quoted in one or more stories on the SAFE website. They may have been in PDF form, which is why you can't find them.

I did not (and could not) read his book (which in Dutch), but a summary was previously posted on the VanRijn web site, which is no longer active.

I suppose there may be at least a grain of truth in what Brand has written in his book, but as with VanRijn, his mentor, I would be very careful before accepting it all as fact.

There are certainly unprovenanced hoards that have come to market. As you know, I advocate systems akin to the UK Treasure Act and PAS to help ensure that they get properly recorded. Countries like Greece are certainly free to decide what laws are best for them, but that does not mean we should automatically support their views of cultural property or question them when they seem to be acting inconsistently with what they preach.


Peter Tompa

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