Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Paolo Ferri: Returns are Symbolic

Fabio Isman has interviewed former Italian state prosecutor Paolo Ferri for Il Giornale dell’Arte. This has been abstracted for The Art Newspaper ("Clandestine excavation is a crime that is hard to prove", January 5, 2010). HeFerritalks about an investivagation of a statue that appeared on the London market and noted the key Swiss companies Editions Services and Xoilan Trading.

The scale of the looting is significant. Ferri talks about the 130 objects returned to Italy (from North American public and private collections) and notes:
The few restitutions that have proved possible are largely symbolic: they concern perhaps 3% of the finds from clandestine excavations which have appeared on the antiquities market.
This suggests that there are thousands more objects to be identified from the photographic dossiers and stacks of invoices. Indeed Ferri claims,
we have a database of at least 200,000 objects that come from clandestine excavations and ended up on the black market. This is why it is vital to work with the areas most affected by clandestine excavations. It is also necessary to continue negotiations with museums that have made purchases of these finds.
Isman's closing question asked,
Which antiquities have proved most difficult to retrieve and which ones still need to be tracked down?
Ferri's immediate reply was this:
Coins come to mind: the first antiquities that are found using a metal detector, they are often of crucial importance for dating an archaeological site or a tomb.
His comments are no doubt linked to the renewal of the MOU with Italy.

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Cultural Property Observer said...

There was considerable evidence in the record for the Italian MOU that disputes the use of coins for dating sites. And, of course, for import restrictions to be imposed on coins, certain legal criteria--most notably the concerted international response requirement-- must be met. Here, of course, Italy itself does not require of its own citizens what would be required of Americans if import restrictions are imposed. Perhaps this explains why Paul Barford has reported that Italy has decided against asking for import restrictions on these common items. Barford has not disclosed his sources, but perhaps you can enlighten us what you know.

David Gill said...

Thank you for your comments. I await, like you, the official outcome from the MOU.
With best wishes

Paul Barford said...

Peter Tompa "disputes the use of coins for dating sites" and of course everybody knows that in the case of Roman period sites in Europe, we date them only by the shape of the flint tools (Acheulean, Mousterian etc) found in them...

If, as Tompa suggests Italian citizens exporting coins they've dug up in tombs etc to Peter Tompa and his dealer mates do not in fact have to apply for export licences to send them out of the country, then yes, it would be rough on the latter to ask the latter to show those permits - but is that in fact the case?

As for "concerted international response", over 120 countries are party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention but somehow do not see this as something to be applied as exclusively as the dealers of the USA. Shame on them!

But actually the wording of the US CCPIA does not actually imply what Tompa says: SECTION 2602 9a) (1) (C) (i): "if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented [...] by those
nations (whether or not State Parties) individually having a significant import trade in such
- first of all the condition is not that, but "would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage". Secondly this clearly does not refer to ALL states, but just those which "have a significant import trade in such material". Which nations have a more significant import trade in "such material" (here: ancient artefacts dug up in Italy) than the USA and export to which from Italy requires export licences?

Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Barford- No export permits necessary for most coins for major market countries of the UK and Germany. In Italy itself, apparently you need to apply for an export permit, but after a 45 day waiting period you can just ship without one. Now, can you enlighten us about what you know about what will happen on this MOU? You have indicated previously that coins will again be exempted, but no source was cited.

Sincerely, Peter Tompa

David Gill said...

Please address questions addressed to Paul Barford on his blog.
Thank you for respecting this request.
Best wishes

David Gill said...

The MOU decision, including coins, can be found here.

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