ancient oil lamps, Roman oil lamps, ancient art, antiquities sale, artifacts sale, antiquities dealers

New Video: Ancient Oil Lamps

Here is another in our series of short, informal videos dealing with various aspects of antiquities collecting. In this video, a brief look at ancient oil lamps (opens in a new window or tab): https://youtu.be/hQq_zBME874

Islamic State smashing ancient sculptures in Syria, 2014

Making Matters Worse? The Debate Over “Repatriating” Antiquities to Failed States in the Middle East

Making Matters Worse? The Debate Over
“Repatriating” Antiquities to Failed States in the Middle East

In November of 2013, at a private ceremony at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, DC, a group of four stone cylinder seals, artifacts used in ancient Mesopotamia to mark ownership of property, were handed over to the Iraqi Ambassador (FBI). Both before and since, United States officials and those of other nations have returned looted artifacts to Iraqi government representatives, often with much fanfare. Although the objects returned by U.S. officials in 2013 would have fetched only a few hundred dollars on the open market, that and other ceremonies were touted in official circles and the press as substantive progress in the effort to stem the flow of looted artifacts from the region. Little could those involved have known that just one year later much of Iraq would fall under the control of a self-styled Islamic Caliphate, bent on destroying all physical traces of the region’s pre-Islamic heritage. The fate of the many objects returned to the Iraqi government over the past decade is now uncertain, and serious questions are being raised as to the wisdom of returning more.

As the “Arab Spring” movement for democratic change spread through the Middle East, sectarian violence on a scale that could not have been predicted engulfed the region, particularly Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. Many of the aforementioned states already had poor track records of heritage management, and as some simply disintegrated into warring factions (Libya, Syria and Yemen) the stage was set for ISIL (Islamic State in Syria and the Levant, referred to hereafter as Islamic State), to step into the resulting power vacuum. The result was wholesale destruction of ancient artifacts and archaeological sites and the looting and destruction of museums (Cullinane, Alkhshali and Tawfeeq). With Islamic State on the rampage, and other religiously motivated groups swearing allegiance to them in Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria, Yemen and Afghanistan, the threat to ancient heritage is greater than ever, and the debate over whether or not to return antiquities, looted or legally exported, to the modern nation states where they were discovered is fiercer than ever.

To make sense of this issue, it is necessary to return briefly to an era in which the trade in antiquities from the Middle East was unregulated. This period may be roughly defined as beginning with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 and ending with the United Nations 1970 “Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property” (Convention). This span of nearly 200 years coincides with the age of European colonialism and, for a few decades following the First World War, European occupation of much of the Middle East. With the rise of nationalism and independence for the new nations in the region, restrictions were imposed on the export of artifacts. Although many nations did not sign it right away, and some have still not done so, the 1970 United Nations convention became the standard by which the provenance, or documented ownership history, of an object might be judged. Still, the national export laws of the various states in the region often were out of sync with the 1970 Convention. Egypt and Jordan, for example, did not halt the legal trade in ancient objects until the early 1980s.

Key to understanding the demands by modern nations for the return of artifacts thought to originate within their modern borders, is the scale of the trade in ancient objects. Throughout the roughly two hundred years outlined above, antiquities of every sort were quite legally removed from the lands now defined as modern nations in the Middle East. This was done systematically on behalf of museums, universities and private collectors. Even in relatively recent times, one high profile New York antiquities dealer, who started out selling Egyptian antiquities in the gift shop of the Brooklyn Museum for only a few dollars each, recalled visiting Egypt annually in the 1960s and ‘70s on buying trips, sometimes leaving the country with thousands of objects, all entirely legal under Egyptian law at the time (Dorfman). The net result was a huge pool of legal antiquities on the market from Egypt, North African nations such as Tunisia and Libya and Middle Eastern nations such as Israel / Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. Many of these same countless thousands of objects continue to circulate on the market today.

In the transitional years of the 1970s and ‘80s, when national and international laws governing antiquities exports were still new, many North American and European museums continued collecting antiquities in a fashion unchanged from the unregulated years of the past, resulting sometimes in the purchase of objects whose provenance was questionable. Over the past thirty years, western museums have been under growing pressure from some foreign governments to return objects, often using the threat of legal action or actual litigation, in some cases supported by documentation indicating the items had been removed illegally. A good case in point, one that generated considerable media attention, was The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1972 acquisition of the Euphronios Krater, a Fifth Century BC Greek vase, looted just months earlier from an Etruscan tomb in Italy. The dealer who sold the piece to the Metropolitan Museum had provided specious documentation on its origins. The Museum eventually conceded that the piece was stolen and returned it to Italy in 2008. Similar controversies have embroiled other North American museums, especially the Getty Museum in Malibu and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (McGuigan). But in all these cases, claims made were by European nations, such as Italy and Greece, and their claims could be substantiated. No such claims have been settled with western museums by nations in the Middle East.

Far more troubling for museums and private collectors is the “national identity” claim put forward by some nations. These rest primarily on the notion that a work of art produced thousands of years ago by a culture in which it would be impossible for people in the corresponding modern nation to survive, much less function, are the property of that modern state simply by accident of geography (Cuno, Artifacts). Perhaps the most famous example of this type of claim is the Greek government’s campaign to acquire the Elgin Marbles, removed from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1812 under a permit granted him by the Ottoman Sultan (Greece was then a province of the Ottoman Empire and did not attain independence until 1832) and housed since 1816 in the British Museum. The Greek claim is primarily based on national identity, with arguments framed in moral terms. In the specific case of the Elgin Marbles, the Greek claim does have some merit, in that reuniting the fragments currently in London with those in Athens’ new custom built, climate controlled Acropolis Museum would make for a far more satisfactory arrangement and might lead to long term loans of antiquities from Greece to the British Museum (Maupin).

Many nationalistic claims of this type can be easily dismissed simply by the complex nature of the objects themselves, such as a mosaic glass dish made in Egypt when it was a province of the Roman Empire, shipped to Rome itself in antiquity, and finding its way to a Roman town in England, by which time it had already become an antique. Or a shipwreck containing wine jars made in Greece in the Roman period and lost off the coast of Croatia. The question raised is who might claim ownership of these objects? In these two examples, a total of four modern nations could potentially lay claim, opening a Pandora’s box of legal challenges and counter-claims. But the larger issue is one of precedent. Museum officials worry that if every foreign claim on the basis of emotionally-driven national identity, political expediency, artistic continuity or one interpretation of morality were agreed to, many museums in North and South America, Europe and even parts of Asia would be virtually emptied of artifacts.

Some governments in the antiquities-rich Middle East have sought universal moratoriums on importation of specific types of antiquities into the United States, and the U.S. State Department has imposed bans on the importation of certain types of cultural items from Egypt, Iraq and Syria. These have been actively supported by a very well-heeled lobby composed of the Archaeological Association of America and a host of richly financed non-profit groups variously describing themselves as operating in the sphere of “heritage protection” or “cultural property” and constituting a flourishing new industry. In the face of these mounting pressures, a growing number of museum professionals, art historians, academics and commentators have, over the last few years, begun to call for a reexamination of museum practices and official policies advocating the return of antiquities to source countries. Their proposals for a changed approach to antiquities repatriation are based on wide ranging philosophical and practical arguments.

Perhaps the most prominent voice in advocating a reconsideration of antiquities repatriation is James Cuno, Former Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, now with the J. Paul Getty Trust, and author of several controversial but highly successful books examining such fundamental questions as “Who owns antiquity/” and ‘Does it serve anyone’s interest to limit access to antiquities?” (Cuno, Who Owns). He, and a number of other prominent academic critics of antiquities repatriation policies, argue that the art and artifacts of the ancient past are a global heritage that belongs to all mankind, and most modern antiquities rich nations have little or no real claim to the ancient heritage that remains in their borders by accident of geography (Appiah). Further, they argue, emotionally driven claims by foreign governments to objects of the distant past are most often about modern politics, not art or archaeology. Cuno cites as an example both Turkey and Greece, whose early governments used new laws banning the export of antiquities, and making all antiquities found on their soil property of the state, as a means of creating a clear national identity where one did not previously exist (Cuno, Who Owns). And more modern governments, including Mussolini’s regime in Italy and successive regimes in Egypt, have used antiquities and ancient monuments as a tool for stirring up nationalist sentiment and cohesion during times of crisis.

Scholars arguing against repatriation of antiquities share the view that “encyclopedic” museums, housing the widest possible range of man-made objects from around the globe and across time, are the best possible venue in which to see antiquities. They argue that the more objects that are removed from museum collections due to litigation by foreign governments, the less comprehensive these museum collections will become, and the cultural experience for the museum going public will also be reduced in quality (Bennett). Further, they make the case that by concentrating antiquities, or any form of art or artifacts, from a particular culture only in the museums of the modern nation state where those objects were found, they are placed at greater risk in times of political unrest. Better to spread the risk, they argue, by housing antiquities in many encyclopedic museum collections worldwide, thus reducing the chances they may be destroyed or looted in a single unstable nation (Mashberg and Bowley).

Both the governments of antiquities rich nations in the Middle East and the archaeological and “cultural heritage” lobby have responded in a predictably negative way to such proposals. Archaeologists, in particular, claim that antiquities that have no provenance or whose archaeological contexts have been lost are dead objects that cannot provide any meaningful information. The response from critics such as Cuno is that even removed from their archaeological context, ancient objects have much to tell. Former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Philippe de Montebello, in reference to the Euphronios Krater, stated: “Although having not been properly excavated, it is far from meaningless…. All great works of art have, in addition to their historical and other learned contexts, an aesthetic context as well” (qtd. in Eakin).

In light of the terrible damage recently done by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, the still fresh memory of other crimes against archaeological heritage in the broader Near and Middle East in recent years (dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, looting of the Baghdad and Kabul Museums, burning of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu, bombing of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo and looting of regional museums in Egypt), and the near certainty that further damage will be deliberately done to the region’s ancient art and monuments by extremists or simply as a result of being caught in the crossfire, a growing number of commentators are asking if James Cuno’s reasoning should not be taken a step further. They point out that when antiquities were in danger of being destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, ironically it was the 1970 UNESCO Convention that prohibited concerned outsiders from removing the objects from the country for safekeeping, with the result that they were destroyed. Now they wonder if the UNESCO convention should be amended, imposing substantial fines or other penalties on nations that fail to protect their ancient heritage. Others are even advocating for a return to the old system of “partage,” under which foreign museums or universities excavating in the Middle East would evenly divide archaeological finds with the host government, thus insuring that a share of the objects found would be protected outside the country in the event of political instability (Marlowe).

Moralistic pronouncements from the archaeological community, countless conferences full of expensive luncheons and carefully worded resolutions put on by the heritage industry, high profile attempts by dysfunctional governments in the region to reclaim antiquities already looted or missing, and bans on the importation of objects from some countries, have all done absolutely nothing to reduce looting of archaeological sites or stop the ongoing destruction of the ancient past by extremists. With new reports coming out of the Middle East almost weekly of crimes against the shared ancient heritage of all humanity, the urgency that concerned governments, academia, the museum and collecting community, heritage organizations and others take some form of new and meaningful action, including adoption of some of the proposals outlined above, cannot be overstated. Based on the lack of meaningful action to date, it seems doubtful that such common sense will prevail.

NOTE: As this article is being posted, news reports indicate Islamic State is closing in on the ancient Syrian site of Palmyra.

Works Cited

* Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “There is No National Home for Art.” The New York Times. New
York Times Company, 22 Jan. 2015. Web.
* Bennett, Drake. “Finders, keepers.” The Boston Globe. Boston.com, 10 Feb. 2008. Web.
* Cullinane, Susannah, Alkhshali, Hamdi and Tawfeeq, Mohammed. “Tracking a trail of historical
obliteration: ISIS trumpets destruction of Nimrud.” CNN. Cable News Network. Turner
Broadcasting System, Inc. 13 Apr. 2015, Web.
* Cuno, James. “Artifacts as Instruments of Nationalism.” The New York Times. New York Times
Company, 21 Jan. 2015. Web.
* Cuno, James. Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage.
Princeton University Press, 2008. Print.
* Dorfman, John. “The Lure of Egypt.” Art and Antiques Jan. 2010. Art & Antiques Worldwide
Media, LLC. Web. Accessed 21 Apr. 2015.
* Eakin, Hugh. “Who Should Own the World’s Antiquities?” The New York Review of Books 56.8
(2009). Web.
* “FBI Returns Cultural Antiquities to Iraq.” fbi.gov. Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S.
Department of Justice, 6 Nov. 2013. Web.
* “From The Elgin Marbles To King Tut’s Tomb: Who Owns Ancient Artifacts?” Here & Now.
Narr. Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. Natl. Public Radio. WBUR, Boston, 15 Dec.
2010. Radio.
* Marlow, Ann. “Should Iraq’s Archaeological Treasures Stay in the West?” The Daily Beast. The
Daily Beast Company LLC, 11 Apr. 2015. Web.
* Maupin, Chris. “A Tale of Two Museums: Visiting the New Acropolis Museum and the
Archaeological Museum of Rhodes.” Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities, Jan. 2010. Web.
Accessed 21 Apr. 2015
* Mashberg, Tom and Bowley, Graham. “Islamic State Destruction Renews Debate Over
Repatriation of Antiquities.” The New York Times. New York Times Company, 30 Mar.
2015. Web.
* McGuigan, Cathleen. ”Whose Art Is It?” Newsweek. Newsweek, Incorporated, 149.10 (2007).Web.
* United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Convention on the Means of
Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of
Cultural Property 1970. Paris, 14 Nov. 1970. Web. Accessed 21 Apr. 2015.

VIDEO: The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and its Successors

Now on YouTube, a new video from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology from their “Great Wonders” series. This time, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The link opens in a new tab or window – https://youtu.be/6F-iKIz6b8Q

Roman fibula, Roman brooch, Roman art, Roman antiquities

Roman Enameled Owl Brooch Found in Denmark

An exceptionally well preserved Roman enameled owl brooch has been found in Denmark by metal detectorists and is now undergoing study. Read more here about how it may have arrived in Denmark (Opens in a new tab or window) – http://cphpost.dk/rare-roman-iron-age-clasp-found-on-bornh…/

Pyramid of Gaius Cestius Restored!

Some good news about ancient monuments for a change! Thanks to a wealthy Japanese benefactor, the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius in Rome, whose surface had been covered in grit and urban dirt, has been restored to its brilliant marble white. The photo essay shows the before and after, interior of the pyramid, restoration ceremony in Rome, etc. Opens in a new tab or window: http://www.demotix.com/news/7399621/completed-restoration-pyramid-caius-cestius-rome/all-media

Watch the installation of a group of Apulian vases

Another marvelous vid from the Getty, for their new exhibit of recently conserved Apulian vases (exhibit link here: http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/apulian_vases/). Enjoy – https://youtu.be/XRwHd3XEMZE

SOURCE Egypt Independent

NEWS ITEM: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry Destroys Archaeological Site

This is astonishing. Now the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry is in the business of destroying archaeological sites. Most likely this is a case of corruption, in which contractors pressured local authorities to direct the Ministry to destroy the site. Here is a link to the story (opens in a new window) – http://www.egyptindependent.com//news/hellenistic-era-ruins-demolished-alexandria

NEWS ITEM: From The Wall Street Journal, New Louvre Exhibit Showcases Unknown Treasures of Thrace

‘The Saga of the Thracian Kings’ brings together 1,600 objects from 17 Bulgarian museums, documenting ancient art works from the Odrysian kingdom. Here is the link (opens in a new window): http://www.wsj.com/articles/louvre-showcases-treasures-of-ancient-thrace-1429195647

Roman artifacts, Roman brooch, Roman antiquities

Another Update to the Clio Ancient Art Website

Customers Friends and Fans of Clio Ancient Art:

We have updated our website once again with more fine antiquities and some superb ancient coins. Here are links to these –

• A silver Denarius of Caracalla: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i693.html
• A silver Denarius of Trajan: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i690.html
• A silver Denarius of Gordion III: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i692.html
• An Antoninianus of Probus: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i691.html
• A Byzantine bronze Follis of Leo V The Armenian & Constantine from the Syracuse mint: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i689.html
• A large Roman bronze knee brooch: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i684.html
• A large Roman iron penannular brooch: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i685.html
• A small Roman bronze knee brooch: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i686.html
• A Roman bronze brooch: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i687.html
• A Roman P-Shaped bronze brooch: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i688.html

As always, thank you for looking.

Best wishes,

Chris M. Maupin
Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities
Chris Maupin Trust for Ancient Art
PO Box 7714
Wilmington, NC 28406
Phone: 704-293-3411
Web: http://www.clioancientart.com/

Pompeii, archaeology, antiquities

Selling Artifacts to Save the Past

To raise much needed revenue for archaeological excavations, reduce the strain of storage and maintenance of artifacts on museums and national heritage agencies and help undercut the trade in illicit antiquities, governments, universities, public museums and related institutions should consider making duplicate, common and unwanted artifacts available to the public for sale.

Government agencies responsible for management of archaeological sites and artifacts in antiquities rich countries – nations whose long histories of human occupation have left them with considerable archaeological and architectural remains – have found themselves increasingly pressed to adequately store and preserve the wealth of archaeological materials excavated or accidentally unearthed in their territories. The situation has been described as “a crisis in curation” and that “the problem continues to be widespread and serious” (Kersel 44). Many of these nations once participated in a system known as “partage” under which foreign archaeological missions divided duplicate or similar objects between themselves and national heritage and museums agencies. With the end of European colonialism and a rise in nationalist sentiment in many of these countries, the partage system came to an end and all antiquities stayed in the host nations. This helped fuel the storage crisis (Kersel 48).

This crisis is not limited to developing nations rich in antiquities but to economically postmodern western nations as well. At the most recent “Dig It!” conference in London, museum professionals and archaeologists met to discuss the crisis of storage for archaeological collections in the UK. Despite much debate, no practical solutions were arrived at (Sharpe).

Just as a crisis exists in storing archaeological materials, another crisis is slowly unfolding for national heritage agencies and research institutions in funding both routine ongoing archaeological excavations and rescue archaeology, and with such basic tasks as maintenance of ancient monuments and the publication of archaeological excavation reports. Sometimes referred to as “archaeology’s dirty secret,” the failure to publish excavation results can be said to reduce archaeologists to little more than looters (Kersel 46). This is true both in antiquities rich Mediterranean and Near Eastern nations, where widespread political instability has frightened away outside funding sources, even in specific countries that have remained stable, and in developed European nations, where national priorities have shifted in light of fiscal belt tightening. “Archaeology in England is in the middle of its worst crisis ever” was the pronouncement in a recent blog entry by a prominent British academician (Nevell).

At archaeological sites all across the Mediterranean world and beyond, remains that have been excavated, published and restored over the past century or more have begun to fall victim to official neglect. One site, in particular, has garnered a great deal of attention due to its high profile: Pompeii. Visited by as many as two and a half million tourists and locals per years, the site has suffered extensively at the hands of the very tourists whose revenues support it and through wasteful and indifferent practices by the Italian governmental agency tasked with its preservation. The photographs below make this point very clear. In the first image, a frescoed wall of the mid-First Century AD is shown covered in graffiti scratched into its surface by Italian school children and foreign tourists (Personal photograph). In the second image, a storage pen for excavated materials is open to the weather, allowing complete and fragmentary Roman transport vessels, roof tiles and even a lead cinerary container to slowly crumble due to lack of climate control (Personal photograph).

Pompeii, archaeology, antiquities

Pompeii, archaeology, antiquities

Despite a legal market for antiquities in most European and North American countries, there is also an illicit market, involving the illegal removal of artifacts for profit, and it thrives in times of political upheaval. Egypt, Syria and Iraq have all fallen victim to this practice in recent years. To many people involved in archaeology and cultural heritage protection, the importance of this problem far outweighs the other issues raised above. While evidence suggests that the actual extent of illicit excavation in most countries is not as severe as sensationalist media reports would suggest (Proulx 17-18), there can be no doubt that in times of conflict and political instability the problem is exacerbated. The well-heeled cultural heritage “industry” and the archaeological community have sought to associate this trade (which is primarily carried out by impoverished locals when conflicts impede their livelihoods, and who are primarily seeking precious metals that may be easily transported or melted down) with organized crime on an international scale (Massey 732-33). Both communities have made many imperious pronouncements, seeking to take the moral high ground in the debate over antiquities, but have offered little in the way of practical solutions to this illicit trade. In a 2003 interview, Jane Waldbaum of the Archaeological Institute of America said simply “We do not support a legal trade in antiquities. Period” (Tierney).

Although the crises outlined above can only be solved through multiple solutions, there is one proposal that can address, at least in part, all of them: Selling, using a carefully monitored and documented methodology, duplicate or common antiquities to help reduce the artifact storage problem, generate much needed revenue for archaeological digs and research by national heritage agencies and universities and help to undercut the illicit trade in antiquities.
The assertion that duplicate archaeological objects that have little or no practical research value, after being recorded and placed in storage, could be sold to benefit archaeology, museums and heritage protection is not a new one. It has proven to be a highly controversial suggestion, arousing powerful emotional responses from the archaeological, historic preservation, cultural heritage, museum and antiquities dealer communities. In view of the recent unprecedented acts of religiously motivated destruction of archaeological resources in the Middle East, the continuing decay of World Heritage sites in Italy such as Pompeii and the gradual shifting of financial priorities in most countries away from culture, the arts and heritage, the time has come to examine this idea seriously.

The most credible proposal of this type came from a most unexpected source. The late Israeli archaeologist Avner Raban, a highly respected scholar and field archaeologist with forty years experience, rocked the archaeological world in 1997 with an article entitled “Stop the Charade: It’s Time to Sell Artifacts” (42). Raban proposed that Israel and other Mediterranean countries should permit the sale of artifacts from legal archaeological excavations following their publication in scientific journals. Specifically, he proposed that such sales be governed by clearly defined rules that included triplicate documentation of each object (one to the government archives, one to the excavating institution and one to the purchaser) and a prioritization of objects that sent unique items to national or regional museums and less important items to university or other study collections for further research or display. Only the remaining objects might be sold on the legal antiquities market through authorized dealers. To guarantee the items would be traceable for future study, each object would also bear the excavation permit number, a registry number and locus number – the precise location of the find within the excavation (45).

The logic behind Raban’s proposal was that objects with such precise documentation, even if they tended to be very common types, would fetch far greater sums on the open market than objects with no clear provenance, a concept that this writer can attest to through personal experience. The revenue thus generated for archaeological projects, storage, display and additional curatorial research would also change the perception of the antiquities buying community from facilitators of looting to benefactors of archaeology. In addition to undercutting the illicit trafficking in such objects, Raban’s proposal would also make it more difficult for forgers to ply their trade (45).

Of course, entrenched interests continue to oppose ideas such as Raban’s, the most obvious of these being the professional associations representing the established archaeological community. These special interests cling to outmoded nationalistic concepts of cultural patrimony because doing so facilitates obtaining excavation permits in host countries. In a recent New York Times piece, J. Paul Getty Trust Chief Executive James Cuno addressed the issue of repatriating art and artifacts to nations on the basis of “national identity” claims, which he argues cannot be adjudicated, only debated. He argues that the notion of “cultural heritage” is a construct of modern nation states and therefore not relevant to archaeological context (Cuno). And in a remarkable break with much of the academic community, Sir John Boardman, Emeritus Professor of Art and Archaeology at Oxford University and widely recognized as the world’s greatest living authority on ancient Greek vase painting, posed the question: “So who do these archaeologists think they are, as absolute guardians of the world’s heritage?” (qtd. in “Some Scholar’s Opinions”). He criticizes at length the archaeological community for failure to publish excavation reports, comparing an unpublished excavated site to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, and for their complicity in supporting, through their silence in the interest of receiving excavation permits, tyrannical regimes in antiquities rich nations. Despite such criticisms, the archaeological community continues to resist any innovative proposals such as Raban’s that might appear to lessen their grip on the past.

Since Raban’s original article, similar ideas have been floated again. Herschel Shanks, publisher of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine, said in 2003, following the looting of the Iraq Museum, ”Archaeologists like taking the high moral ground against selling antiquities, but it doesn’t solve the problem of looting. I would like to use market solutions. Sell very common objects, like oil lamps or little pots, and use the money to pay for professional excavations” (Tierney). And at the recent “Dig It!” conference in London, an audience member asked if museums should sell excess material in their shops. The panel unanimously replied in the negative (Sharpe).

Despite the resistance, ideas similar to Raban’s may soon prove to be the only viable option for dealing with the issues outlined above. Time, space and funds are running short for archaeologists, museums and the past itself.

                                                                   Works Cited
Kersel, Morag M. “Storage Wars: Solving the Archaeological Curation Crisis?” Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies 3.1 (2015): 42-54. Print.

Massey, Laurence. “The antiquity art market: between legality and illegality.” International Journal of Social Economics 35.10 (2008): 729-738. Print.

Nevell, Mike. “Archaeology in Crisis.” Archaeologyuos. WordPress, 7 Apr. 2014. Web.

Pompeii, Italy. Personal Photographs by Author. December, 2002, JPEG files.

“Pompeii to Receive Italy Rescue Fund.” BBC News. BBC, 4 Mar. 2014. Web.

Proulx, Blythe Bowman. “Organized crime involvement in the illicit antiquities trade.” Trends in Organized Crime 14.1 (2010): 1-29. Print.

Raban, Avner. “Stop the Charade: It’s Time to Sell Artifacts.” Biblical Archaeology Review 23.3 (1997): 42-43. Print.

Sharpe, Emily. “An embarrassment of riches: UK museums struggle with archaeological Archives.” The Art Newspaper. theartnewspaper.com, 6 Mar. 2015. Web.

“Some Scholar’s Opinions.” International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art. n.d. Web. Accessed 15 Mar. 2015.

Tierney, John. “Ideas & Trends: Did Lord Elgin Do Something Right?” New York Times. New York Times Company, 20 Apr. 2003. Web.