Skip to main content

The Antiquities Market and the Journal of Field Archaeology


In the opening editorial of the Journal of Field Archaeology, James Wiseman ("Editorial Comment", JFA 1, 1/2 [1974] 1-2 [JSTOR]) wrote:
The section of the journal called "Perspectives"is open to all readers and the readers are encouraged to comment on, or even challenge, the studies published here or elsewhere, or to write on any archaeological topic. "The Antiquities Market" reflects another central interest of the Association for Field Archaeology; it will provide a forum for commentary on the illicit traffic in antiquities.
Later in the same number is the first of a series of sections on the "Antiquities Market" (pp. 215-24 [JSTOR]). This informs us in the heading section:
The Antiquities Market will be a regular feature of the Journal of Field Archaeology. Its aim is to provide just what is stated in the sub-title: news and commentary on the illicit traffic in antiquities. The presence of this feature in the Journal reflects one of the central concerns of the Association for Field Archaeology, that is, the proper recovery and the protection of antiquities.
The JFA has a distinguished record of presenting the current debate in this area and I feel honoured to have had my research with Christopher Chippindale appear in its pages (see abstract).

Nathan Elkins has written an important piece on the presentation of coins in the classroom (see my comments specifically on this article with a reminder that it was one in a series). The introductory essay by Morag M. Kersel and Christina Luke states,
Public outreach is one of the most undervalued aspects of our work and yet it is one of the most important things we do. Nathan Elkins' article about the Ancient Coins for Education (ACE) program illustrates the importance of such efforts.
This is why it is surprising to see the ill-informed response of a Washington lobbyist and lawyer, Peter Tompa, to Elkins' piece. Not only has Tompa not read Elkins' article ("I must confess I have not read his work") but the fact that this research appears in an academic article (published by Boston University) merely draws the statement, "Elkins' article is not readily available to those not associated with the university culture for free and I don't want to spend any money to get it". (See comments by Paul Barford.)

Tompa, it should be remembered,  is a Director of the Cultural Property Research Institute (CPRI) that has so far acheived the production of a seriously flawed and unreferenced interim report. Tompa's name is also attached to the legal papers relating to the "Baltimore Coin Affair".

Tompa, never reluctant to show his lack of knowledge in these areas, has now turned his attack to the Journal of Field Archaeology in a provocatively entitled piece, "Is the Journal of Field Archaeology now just another propoganda [sic.] tool in the cultural property wars?". Tompa writes:
Unfortunately, it thus appears that the Journal of Field Archaeology has departed from its original scholarly mission in favor of becoming just another propaganda tool in the culture property wars.
If Tompa was at all observant, he would have noticed that this area of research has been a central area of JFA's publication record since its first number over a quarter of a century ago.

Is Tompa really this ignorant of cultural property matters? What does it tell us about the CPRI? What does it tell us about Tompa's role in the CPAC Review of Article II of the MOU with Italy? What does it say about the way that Tompa sees conspiracies where they do not exist? What does it say about the "quality" of his "research"?


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

MMK and YMR said…
Thanks for coming to the defense of the Archaeological Heritage and Ethics section of the JFA! In 2008 the name of the Antiquities Market section was changed to Archaeological Heritage and Ethics in order to address the variety of ethical and heritage issues confronting field archaeologists. We welcome all submissions on topics that concern the ethical practice of field archaeology. Many thanks, Morag and Christina
David- Reread my posts. Do you equate "Ancient Coins for Education" and its program to teach children about ancient history through coins as being part of the "Antiquities Market?" I don't and if you do, you are as twisted on this point as Elkins and Barford are.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa
David Gill said…
Peter
I did read your postings very carefully - which is more than you had the courtesy to do before you attacked Nathan Elkins for publishing his work in JFA.
The 'Antiquities Market' section of JFA was renamed 'Archaeological Heritage and Ethics' as the editors of JFA point out in their comment above. Nathan's carefully researched piece, supported by ample references, fits (in my personal opinion) squarely in this section of JFA.
Best wishes
David
David,

If I may, I would like to add that my research indicated that ACE's sourcing practices in fact reinforce the illicit antiquities market and detrimental to archaeology since the group's directors are always on the search for bulk lots of earth-encrusted coins for donation or purchase. The type of material sought and acquired, and from what types of sources, is detailed. ACE has also been incorporated into broader initiatives aimed on counteracting regulatory measures and ethical practices. Neither were the laudable educators involved in ACE nor the group's respectable mission of educating secondary students about classical history the subject of criticism.

If Peter had read the article, he would have understood the content of the article and its relevance to the issue of the "Antiquities Market" or "Archaeological Heritage and Ethics."

Thank you for your support. I still have some remaining offprints that I can send to interested parties.

All best,
Nathan

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.