I was in a meeting earlier today with European colleagues. We were discussing the implications of the return of material from the Michael Steinhardt collection as well as items from Fordham University, the Getty, the Cleveland Museum of Art and San Antonio Museum of Art. And as we reflected on the number of items involved, my colleague cried out, "We need to look beyond the objects".
He articulated the major issue for these returns. It is not just about where these objects reside. But it is about the archaeological contexts that have been lost. It is about the permanent loss of knowledge.
The couple of hundred objects are likely to represent a couple of hundred contexts that have been ripped apart; associations lost for good.
As academics should we be shifting the discussion towards the intellectual implications and consequences of such destruction?