Thursday, 1 January 2015

2015: The Year Ahead

What will I expect to see covered in 2015?

The debate about the looting of archaeological sites in Syria is likely to dominate the press and the wider debate of the movement of antiquities.

I would hope that the major auction houses will review their due diligence procedures in the light of events in 2014. However I suspect some will not and we will probably continue to see "toxic antiquities" surfacing on the market. Will the company used to check the collecting histories prior to sale be asked to become more rigorous? (One solution would be to use the 1970 UNESCO Convention as a benchmark.)

I also expect the San Antonio Museum of Art to investigate which items in their collection also appear in the Medici Dossier.

I suspect that papyri will continue to be debated. Have classical and New Testament scholars grasped the ethical issues about newly surfaced material?

At a local level I hope that there will continue to be discussion about the degrading of the archaeological record in England and Wales through the unscientific searching for "goodies". I suspect that there will be limited engagement with the debate from the senior staff of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. And, related to this, please could the Icklingham Bronzes be returned from a New York private collection to Suffolk?

The mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM) will continue to be discussed and issues raised by the Egyptian authorities. As it now appears that senior staff at SLAM were aware of the possibility that the mask had been removed from the store at Saqqara but had failed to contact the appropriate Egyptian authorities, it is likely that the Egyptian Government has retained the ethical high ground. It is also likely that the Director of SLAM will have to comment on why he did not respond to professional advice offered by North American Egyptologists.

I suspect some of my research time will be spent on looking at the issue of forgeries especially of Cycladic marble figures. We will be returning to the issue of marble figures that have lost their contexts and cannot therefore be considered as secure within the corpus of knowledge.

In May 2015 the UK will be going to the polls. I wonder if any of the parties will be bold enough to make a commitment to returning the Parthenon architectural sculptures to Athens so that they can be displayed within line of sight of the akropolis? More broadly I suspect that heritage will be a key item to help boost the UK economy through tourism but that there will be little additional funding.

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