Friday, September 23, 2016

Spotlight on European collections


Attic black-figured amphora
 from the Schinoussa Archive. Courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis.
Following the recent return of antiquities from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek to Italy, the spotlight will be on other European collections that contain archaeological material that appears to have been derived from Italy. Among the museums are:
The Italian authorities will no doubt be negotiating with each of these institutions to secure the return of this material.


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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Architectural terracottas from Pyrgi

It now appears that some of the architectural terracottas returned from Copenhagen to Italy [press release] were derived from the Etruscan sanctuary site at Pyrgi, the port serving Cerveteri. It is unclear why the museum authorities in Denmark have been so reluctant to disclose a full list of what has been returned. What is becoming clear is that many of the objects were handled by or associated with individuals such as Robert Hecht, Giacomo Medici, and Fritz Bürki.

Other European museums, especially those in Germany, Holland and the UK, need to be looking carefully at objects that were acquired from these same sources.


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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Policy on the Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts

I am grateful to a colleague for sending me detail of the Society of Biblical Literature's policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts. It is an endorsement of ASOR's Policy on Professional Conduct. There is a pointer to ASOR's Section III.E:
studies of the past are enhanced when an artifact is clearly associated with an intact archaeological context. Artifacts which lack a defined archaeological findspot or provenience have a greater potential to undermine the integrity of archaeological heritage in view of the possibility of admitting suspect artifacts into archaeological heritage. Looting is an illegal act that breaks the association between artifact and context. A looted artifact may be considered stolen property. Therefore, archaeological heritage that is looted is more likely to travel through illicit channels of distribution and/or exportation, which involve processes that may mask or confuse the identification of the artifact or its true findspot.
There is an acknowledgement of the problem of looting and the conditions for the "cuneiform exception" are made clear.

There is a deliberate recognition that there are intellectual consequences of publishing (or presenting) recently surfaced material: "introducing data of uncertain reliability to the realm of public knowledge".

It would be helpful for both organisations to focus on collecting histories and the authenticated documentation that support the presentation of such information.

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