Who Owns Antiquity?
2012-09-10 0:00

By Blake Gopnik | TheDailyBeast.com

In 1966, curators at the archaeological museum of the University of Pennsylvania bought a pile of gorgeous Bronze Age jewelry from a Philadelphia dealer. They couldn’t know their purchase would change how museums work.

The 24 gold objects had come to Penn with no trace of where they’d been unearthed, or how. That left scholars there without much clue about why and when the gold had been worked, or by whom— and with the suspicion that it had been dug up by looters. Frustrated, they decided to take steps to prevent this kind of “homelessness” for other antiquities. In 1970, they issued a declaration (a Philadelphia tradition, after all) insisting that the Penn museum would no longer acquire ancient objects whose history could not be properly tracked. Later that year, a UNESCO convention on cultural property suggested the same rule for all other museums, and since then, reputable institutions have pretty much toed that line.

Last week, Penn brought things full circle by announcing that it was more or less undoing the 1966 acquisition that had helped raise the issue. Thanks to a new agreement hammered out with the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Penn’s so-called Trojan Gold will be sent to Turkey on indefinite loan, to live in a new museum planned for a site near Troy itself. (Chemical analysis of a speck of dirt lodged in the 4,400-year-old jewelry now hints that, just as scholars had long guessed, it once came from Trojan lands—although long before Homer’s war there.) In exchange, Penn’s museum will get to host shows built on loans from great Turkish excavations, and its archaeologists will continue to have privileged access to those digs.

“We’re not just a museum that shows objects made in other countries,” says Brian Rose, a Penn archaeologist involved in the negotiations. The museum is dedicated to the “archaeological narratives” that go with such objects, Rose says, and those will run deeper with the gold’s “repatriation” to Troy. “Every archaeologist would like to see the material taken from a particular site, or excavated from that site, displayed near that site,” Rose says. “I certainly value the context of an object as one of the most important components of that object.” He explains that Penn also wanted to “make a strong statement about looting and cultural preservation”—as per its long-ago declaration—and above all wanted to cement the museum’s close collaboration with Turkey. That was the real issue at the heart of the decision, according to Rose. “Archaeologists have to be diplomats as much as they have to know the archaeology of the ancient world, because there’s a political dimension to everything we do now.”

A variety of Bronze Age earrings from Penn’s “Trojan Gold.”

That political dimension, and the extreme caution it breeds, is precisely what some players are pushing against. Three weeks ago, the Cleveland Museum of Art announced that it had bought a wonderful head of Drusus Minor, the bloodthirsty son of the Roman emperor Tiberius. (Tiberius was the “Caesar” whom Christ wanted us to “render unto.”) David Franklin, the museum’s director, calls it “a strong and stunning object” that will now rank among the CMA’s top 50 treasures. The thing is—and Franklin says he knew this would make waves—the 2,000-year-old marble head didn’t come with a slam-dunk paper trail proving that it could not have been illegally unearthed since the time of the UNESCO convention. The French owners who first put the Drusus head on the market, in 2004, bore witness to a family tradition that it had come with them from Algeria in 1960, and that they’d already owned it for almost a century by then. Franklin felt this oral history gave him enough to run with: “We did as much if not more than anyone could have done to research this object ... If all the arrows are pointing in one direction, you can make a reasoned assumption,” he says. The inevitable risks that this assumption might turn out wrong are balanced, he feels, by the open access that scholars and visitors now have to this wonderful work of art. “These objects were not created as antiquities”—as evidence, that is, for use by modern historians—“they were created as art. The artists themselves created these objects to be admired.” He also points to the long-term protection the Drusus head will now get, as it never would out on the open market passing from collector to collector. (Its tiny traces of original colored paint might be especially at risk.) “These things are fragile, and they should last forever—as they might in a museum,” Franklin says. He argues, only half in jest, for a bill of rights for works of art, built around what they might need to survive and prosper.


Read the full article at: thedailybeast.com

Indy Knows Where Antiquities Belong:

Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Robert Bauval - Post-Revolution Egypt

Robert Temple & Olivia Temple - Egyptian Dawn, Undiscovered Tombs & Egypt Today

Hugh Newman - Megalithic Sites of New England, Global Earth Energies & Lake Titicaca

Linda Moulton Howe - Hour 1 - Baltic Sea Object, Göbekli Tepe & Creation of Homo Sapiens

Michael Cremo - Forbidden Archeology

Marcus Allen - Crystal Skulls, Global Catastrophy, Collective Amnesia & Global Warming

Brent Jessop - Club of Rome, Climate, UNESCO & Eugenics

Marshall Masters - The Kolbrin and Ancient Records of Planet X

Related Articles
Egypt ’to copyright antiquities’ (2007)
Egypt’s Antiquities Chief Quits Cabinet, Warns of Looting
Treasure hunter finds rare antique in Cumbria
Medieval silver treasure found on Gotland
Iran’s priceless antiquities lie in line of fire
SCA releases full list of treasures missing from the Cairo Museum
10 die in Egypt while digging for ancient treasures
Treasure worth £150m ($235m) found in Atlantic shipwreck
Antikythera treasures: richest haul of objects ever found from the ancient world
Billions worth of treasure found in Indian temple
Largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure found in U.K.
Viking Treasure Trove Discovered in Swedish Garden
Rare stolen Swedish atlas recovered
Rare Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ Scrolls Found In Australian Collection
Egypt asks Berlin to return Nefertiti bust, Germany says "Nein"
Egypt Threatens Removal of Ancient Central Park Obelisk
Obelisk looted by Mussolini to be re-erected after 70 years
Baghdad museum’s slow recovery
Some Looted Artifacts Returned to Iraq
Etruria-celtica: Etruscan literature and antiquities investigated
Treasures, trinkets, and fakes mingle in Israel’s controversial antiquities market

Latest News from our Front Page

Norwegian school brutally kicks out students, reopens as immigration center
2015-11-25 1:46
A failing Norwegian school has brutally kicked out all of the students living there with just a few days notice to find somewhere else to live and study. It has now reopened as a reception center for immigrants. The school, called Waldorf, is in the Røyken municipality of Buskerud County. It had been failing for sometime, and was officially declared bankrupt ...
Why not hear about Islam from a woman who grew up as Muslim in the ME?
2015-11-25 1:52
Youtube description: She says: "I have reached a boiling point with these lies about Islam! Please share it, don't let me waste my breath....go to voxpopulinews.net for a translation of the ISIS website along with other great articles and podcasts!" Source: youtube.com
Funniest Moments of Illegal Migrants
2015-11-25 1:27
Youtube description: - Beginner picture: Macedonia - Disastrous migrant: Hungary-Serbia border (Serbian side) - Grateful migrants: Hungary (Budapest) - Border Control: Austria (Slovenian border) - Migrant actor: Hungary-Serbia border (Serbian side) - Intelligent migrants: Hungary-Serbia border (Hungarian arie) (The fence was built from the border 2,5meters, in Hungarian area) - Idiot migrant: Hungary (Bicske) Source: youtube.com
Pew: 65% say the news media has a 'negative effect' on America
2015-11-25 1:55
More than six in 10 Americans believe that the news media, followed closely by Hollywood, has a negative effect on the country, according to a new survey. An extensive new Pew Research Center survey finds that 65 percent believe that the news media "has a negative effect on the way things are going in the country." Some 56 percent said the ...
Hostage situation reported in N. France, several suffer 'gunshot wounds''
2015-11-25 1:12
A hostage situation has been reported in the northern French town of Roubaix near the Belgian border. Several people have sustained gunshot wounds, Reuters reported citing medical sources. The area has been cordoned off by police, RTL reported, adding that gunfire can be heard. La Voix du Nord newspaper says the hostage takers are armed with Kalashnikovs. Witnesses told the daily that ...
More News »