Thursday, June 30, 2016

AIA View of CPAC Meeting on the the Bolivian and Greek MOU

Nathan Elkins, writing on the AIA's blog, gives his views about what happened at the CPAC meeting concerning proposed renewals of the Bolivian and Greek MOUs.

Of course, CPO remembers it all a bit differently.

More importantly, CPO feels he has been misquoted concerning what he said about current import restrictions being improperly based on where a coin is "made" vs. "found." Elkins is flat out wrong. CPO certainly did not "admit[] this was only his interpretation of the CPIA as other attorneys, academics, and the federal courts have not agreed with Tompa’s understanding of the ‘found in’ vs. ‘made in’ argument."

Perhaps Elkins can be more specific about his contention. Certainly both Urice and Adler have agreed with CPO in their Rutgers Law Review Article. Moreover, then State Department Deputy Legal Adviser Mark Feldman also seemed to agree that the focus must be where an object is found in his statements made at the time the CPIA was being discussed.

Finally, Elkins--who is no lawyer-- appears to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what a U.S. District Court and the Fourth Circuit have actually said about the matter.  Both have agreed that import restrictions only apply to objects of archaeological interest "first discovered within" and "subject to export control" of a specific UNESCO State Party.  Yet, they have refused to conduct a judicial review of the designated lists because they consider the issue to be a "political question" that makes the issue "non-justiciable."  So, no Court has actually looked at the issue on the merits.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Germany's Controversial Cultural Heritage Law Passes Lower House

Germany's controversial cultural heritage law has passed  the lower house of the German Parliament, apparently with opposition parties abstaining from voting on the measure.

The German Government hopes the upper house will take up the measure before recess on July 8th.

While additional regulation was probably inevitable, the assumption that an artifact is "stolen" because a dealer or collector cannot produce an export permit from a postulated "country of origin" where an artifact was made hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago brings back bad memories of Germany's totalitarian past.

So, small wonder the law lacks popular support.  Rather, the restrictions against collecting appear to be a special interest measure being pushed by the the German Federal Foreign Office (which--like our own State Department-- views repatriation as a "soft power" opportunity, domestic interests be damned), the German Archaeological Institute (a Federal Foreign Office entity, whose members depend on excavation permits from source countries to excavate),  and a small group of  countries with cultural nationalist pretensions (mostly undemocratic or even dictatorial regimes that view anything "old" as state property).

Germany's coalition government is already deeply unpopular due to its mishandling of the economy, immigration, and the Greek bail-out. 

Hopefully, Brexit (which was voted on the same day) and what it says about the people's distrust of  government "experts" has scared the politicians enough that at even this late date, Germany's upper house will consider the due process rights of Germans before requiring such non-existent documentation. 

After all, Germany's ancient coin and antiquities trade is not only good for Germany's economy, but it helps encourage people to people contacts and appreciation of other cultures. 

Image:  Monika Grutters, Germany's Cultural Minister, pitching her "soft power" initiative

Monday, June 20, 2016

Marine Antiquities Scheme to Launch

The British Museum has announced that a "Marine Antiquities Scheme" to encourage divers and others to report their finds will be launched this July.  The Marine Antiquities Scheme hopes to match the success of the  Portable Antiquities scheme that covers finds on land.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Papers Not in Order

The Israeli Antiquities Authority raided a store selling ancient artifacts and coins and has charged the owner with violating Israel's new registration laws.  It is unclear from the story whether there is any actual evidence the store was selling recently looted material.

CPO is concerned that hard to comply with registration schemes will lead to more seizures of artifacts without proof they were actually looted.

Moreover, if dealers are to register there wares so should archaeologists.  Requiring archaeologists to maintain registries will help protect against pilfering of archaeological stores and provide at least some information short of publication on what is being found.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Antiquities Coalition Funded Study Belatedly Debunks Wild Antiquities Coalition Numbers

Fiona Rose Greenland, who is funded by the Antiquities Coalition and University of Chicago, has debunked wild claims about the value of antiquities stolen by ISIS.  Ironically, in so doing, Ms. Greenwald calls into question some of the more dubious claims made by the Antiquities Coalition, one of her study's sponsors.

Of course, this new information comes too late to impact the debate on HR 1493, which has already passed Congress.