[Northkeep] Period artifacts for sale or travels and travails of looting 3rd world culture

Alton lePeto altonscompany at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 31 13:37:39 PDT 2003

>>From: HNiewoehner at netscape.net (Hugh Niewoehner)
>>There used to be a guy who would show up at Medfair to merchant papyrus 
>>art, clothes, etc. from >Egypt.   He was an Army Officer who regularly 
>>went there officially.  Said he'd made friends with a >bunch of bedoin 
>>who'd bring him things the desert regularly turned up.  That year he had a 
>>small >selection of spear points and a few small coins.  Authentic?  
>>Probably.  Legal exports?  Could be argued >by lawyers for years.
>Or not.  I know there are some exaples of people who have been more than 
>happy to flaunt the fact that they've bypassed the normal authorities.
>The real problem is that on one hand, most of the people who are getting 
>involved are mostly good people who are innocently assuming that "well they 
>got it out of the country, it -must- be ok" (and understandaibly getting 
>REALLY defensive when it's brought up, which is why I wanted to malke sure 
>it was clear that I wasn't making any accusations in this.
>On the other hand, once the material's been dug up, it's lost it's context 
>and too often is just written off by the archeological purists as being 
>useless.  They would rather see it just trashed than sold, since selling 
>just encourages the looters.  And of course there is the aligned arguement 
>that "well, what if it's just picked up from the ground (as in the old 
>kid's practice of collecting arrowheads), are they doing something WRONG 
>(and who says?)."   There are no good answers here.
>Ultimately, it's like buying ivory.  Killing elephants for Ivory is just 
>wrong, and it's illegal.  There is a limited amount of it out there and 
>when that's gone, there will be no more.  When you go to the Gun shows, 
>there is often some there in pieces that is said to be either preban, or 
>was sold during a window when they were clearing out old stocks, or some 
>such.  Is it really, though?  Is the provenance clear?  Or is it off an 
>animal that only died recently?
>We just need to be more careful, not only with who we deal with, but know 
>who they were dealing with.

As a kid back in Louisiana, my family and almost every other farmer around 
us had Indian Mounds on our land.  Along with snakes, the occasional 
mini-balls and other trinkets a pre-teen boy usually carted home was 
literally dozens of these clay baked "cooking stones" we would find in the 
sides of the mounds and lots of (pottery) shards.  Later in life, while 
attending university, I found out I was a "gasp" pot hunter!
Now I know that with in the scientific community of archeology there is the 
theory that all of these items are in themselves significant, but I also 
know that whats in my back yard for the most part belongs to me.  A cooking 
stone is just a cooking stone and just because a copper knife, pottery 
shard, clay lamp, etc is thousands of years old does not make it a chunk of 
the "true cross".  These items of daily life were mass produced by people 
the same way we crank out all the drek we use.  Can you imagine the laughs 
someone would get over a court battle involving a bic disposable lighter?  
And these countrys that squawk the loudest about thier history and culture 
being looted are almost always the same ones that sell the really valuable 
items that they should hold onto.  So I say if ya see something that looks 
good that you want, buy it with the appropriate amount of caveats and 
sceptisim warranted.  I have bought all sorts of things from people sitting 
on the sides of roads, beaches, in bazaars etc.  Most of it was admittedly 
junk that looked kind of cool, but now and then you get a winner.  I once 
haggled with a couple of ethiopean silver dealers in a open air market in 
Cape Town, and came away with a set of nice antique Orthodox and Coptic 
crosses and neckalces.

just my 2 drachma,
Alton - "The Unashamed Pot Hunter"

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