Who Owns Antiquity?
2012 09 10

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

Who is Gary Hirshberg? And why is he a leader in the anti-GMO movement?
2014 11 20
“Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently announced that Russia will no longer import GMO products, stating that the nation has enough space, and enough resources to produce organic food. ‘If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat them. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.’” (Collective Evolution, April ...
Rural school is denied top grade by Ofsted inspectors because it’s ’too English’ and not diverse enough
2014 11 20
A high-performing primary school has missed out on Ofsted’s top grade after being judged too English. Pupils at the rural primary lacked ‘first-hand experience of the diverse make-up of modern British society’, declared the watchdog. However, around 97 per cent of the population in the town to which the school belongs are white. Ofsted refused it an ‘outstanding’ rating and graded it ...
Another banker Dead: Citigroup executive, 42, found dead in the bathtub of his Manhattan apartment with his throat cut
2014 11 20
Comment: The strange banked deaths continues. The global head of Citigroup’s environmental and social risk management was found dead in his New York apartment on Tuesday with a laceration to the throat. The body of Shawn D. Miller, 42, was discovered in the bathtub of his condo in Manhattan’s Financial District. There was no knife or obvious weapon found at the scene, leading ...
Six Hours of Increased Memory By Adding This to Breakfast
2014 11 19
Researchers from Monash Asia Institute at Monash University found that you can spice up your memory and help with diabetic and prediabetic conditions with a tiny amount of a powdery substance that might be in your cabinet as we speak. This substance can be added to scrambled egg recipes... Can make porridge and oatmeal pop when something sweet is added. Mixed into ...
5 Killed at Jerusalem Synagogue
2014 11 19
Comment: Wonder if this has anything to do with the continuation of the ethnic cleansing in Gaza this summer, or are they blind to their own actions and once again think that this comes out of the blue? Report from RT The gruesome slaying of five Israelis at a synagogue early Tuesday left many residents of this city fearing that the worst ...
More News »