It has been some time since LM commented on the incantation bowls from the Schøyen Collection and the discussion (including the report available via wikileaks).
A detailed study of the Schøyen collection is now available:
Prescott, C., and J. M. Rasmussen. 2020. "Exploring the “cozy cabal of academics, dealers and collectors” through the Schøyen Collection." Heritage 3: 68–97.
This raises important ethical issues for academics who are involved in the research on and publication of such newly surfaced materials.
In the wake of the trade in ancient materials, several ethical and political issues arise that
merit concern: The decimation of the cultural heritage of war-torn countries, proliferation of
corruption, ideological connotations of orientalism, financial support of terrorism, and participation
in networks involved in money laundering, weapon sales, human trafficking and drugs. Moreover,
trafficking and trading also have a harmful effect on the fabric of academia itself. This study uses
open sources to track the history of the private Schøyen Collection, and the researchers and public
institutions that have worked with and supported the collector. Focussing on the public debates that
evolved around the Buddhist manuscripts and other looted or illicitly obtained material from
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, this article unravels strategies to whitewash Schøyen’s and his
research groups’ activities. Numerous elements are familiar from the field of antiquities trafficking
research and as such adds to the growing body of knowledge about illicit trade and collecting. A
noteworthy element in the Schøyen case is Martin Schøyen and his partner’s appeal to digital
dissemination to divorce collections from their problematic provenance and history and circumvent
contemporary ethical standards. Like paper publications, digital presentations contribute to the
marketing and price formation of illicit objects. The Norwegian state’s potential purchase of the
entire Schøyen collection was promoted with the aid of digital dissemination of the collection hosted
by public institutions. In the wake of the Schøyen case, it is evident that in spite of formal regulations
to thwart antiquities trafficking, the continuation of the trade rests on the attitudes and practice of
scholars and institutions.
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