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John Piscopo




Location: LaGrange, IL 60525 SW of Chicago
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PostPosted: Thu 13 May, 2004 9:04 pm    Post subject: UNIDROIT Convention to govern the antiquities trade         Reply with quote

Dear Friends,

Hershel Shanks is the editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review. He is more sympathetic to the study of artifacts and is more tolerant of collectors. This article penned by the Editor in the March-April issue gives you a flavor of how we who are collectors are despised by the professional archaeologists, even though we buy their books, support their institutions and fund their excavations.

You will see a great deal of Political Correctness by some of the participants, an unwillingness to discuss the merits of an argument that disputes what has become dogma. I do hope that more rational minds enter into our discussions.

I am typing out only the first half of the article that deals directly with antiquities, the last half of the article deals with the James Ossuary and the Jehoash inscription.

This article fleshes out a bit the email I sent earlier commenting and expanding on Chuck Jones' response to one of my earlier emails. I was surprised in reading the article that no mention was made in the discussion of the UNIDROIT Convention and any action program to get it ratified. If you would like to know more about UNIDROIT, I would encourage you to join http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Unidroit-L/?yguid=30974666 In short, the archaeologists of the world have written a convention governing everything produced by the hand of God or man, of any value or rarity, that can be dated prior to 1900 and cannot be provenanced as to having been obtained legally prior to idts date of ratification. Many nations have already ratified the convention but not the US, Britain, France or Germany, the nations with the bulk of the world's collectors. Besides swords manufactured before 1900, their definition includes stamps, coins, minerals, fossils, and just about any class of artifact you can conceive of.

Chuck, if you are reading this, I do hope you can provide some more rational minds that are willing to collaborate with collectors rather than regard us as enemy thieves eager to support the looters of mankind's heritage by despoiling archaeological sites that must be responded to by restricting all artifacts to their countries of origin, strangling the collectors and their infrastructure of dealers within a blizzard of paperwork and encouraging governments to make claims on private collections.

I hope this posting provides some clear indication to all of us what the character of those who would like to destroy our collections and independent studies is.

Best regards, John Piscopo

A Tale of Two Meetings ISSUE OF ANTIQUITIES SPLITS SCHOLARS IN ATLANTA HERSHEL SHANKS

The decision was unanimous: Antiquities collectors are criminals, responsible for the worldwide scourge of looting.

That was the theme of the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), held in Atlanta late last November. ASOR, the leading professional organization of Near Eastern archaeologists, was only one of several scholarly associations separately encamped in Georgia for their "annual meetings." Others included the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Near Eastern Archaeological Society (NEAS). In all, more than 9,000 scholars gave well over a thousand papers both obscure and general--from the "Bioarchaeological Study of Plastered Skulls" to "Erotic Conversion as a Response to the Priest Pedophila Crisis" to "Shifting Ethnic Identities in Iron I Northern Moab" to "The Rhetorical Artistry of Aramaic Daniel."

Elaborating on the broad-based attack on antiquities collectors, Amir Ganor, head of the Robbery Prevention Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), was explicit: The high-end collectors of museum-quality objects are nothing but "prominent criminals."

Alex Joffe, formerly of Boston University and now an independent scholar, described the "ratline" that begins with looters, then passes through the antiquities dealers and ends up with collectors. When scholars publish articles describing and analyzing unprovenanced finds that come from the antiquities market (that is, objects whose findspots are unknown, and which therefore may have been looted), the scholars are doing something "not only pathetic but pernicious," Joffe said. Such scholars are guilty of making "a moral compromise." Elizabeth Stone, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, agreed. Addressing her fellow scholars, she said that when they publish unprovenanced finds (like the James ossuary inscription that mentions Jesus), "we are all culpable."

Neil Silberman, a prominent archaeology writer now based in Brussels, compared antiquities collecting today to the search for relics as far back as the Byzantine period--the hunt for bones and clothes and objects of Biblical figures, most of which were of course fictitious. The search for a similar emotional charge is what leads many people, students as well as their parents to volunteer for archaeological excavations in the Holy Land. Today's collectors, Silberman said, represent "the modern cult of relics."

Silberman would simply ban the collecting of and trading in antiquities. "We must have the courage to end this nonsense," he said. This would bring a certain "moral clarity" into society's position: "Some things," he said, "are not for sale."

Gideon Avni, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, picked up on this theme. Recalling the hundred thousand people who saw the James ossuary in late 2002 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (an exhibit arranged by the Biblical Archaeology Society), Avni likened the throngs to "medieval pilgrims," using that description as a form of denigration.

In a major address Lord Colin Renfrew, of Cambridge University in England, carried the attack one step further-- to museums. He said he feared using the word "conspiracy" because he might be sued. He then considered "collusion," but decided that that too was legally dangerous. So he settled on "pernicious symbiosis" to describe the relationship between antiquities collectors and museums. He condemned the museums for displaying unprovenanced objects that belonged to antiquities collectors.

Lord Renfrew did not hesitate to name names-- collectors such as George Ortiz, Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman, and especially Shelby White and her husband, Leon Levy; museums like the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Denver Art Museum, the Getty Museum (which he said may have reformed itself), the Fine Arts Museum of Basel, Switzerland, and the Miho Museum in Japan: museum scholars and curators like Cornelius Vermuele and Martin Bodner; museum directors like Thomas Hoving and Philippe de Montebello. All were roundly condemned.

Lord Renfrew suggested a "major public campaign," of which ASOR scholars would be a part, to ensure that museums do not acquire or display unprovenanced artifacts.

Not all museums participate in this "pernicious symbiosis", however. One notable exception is the British Museum, of which Lord Renfrew is a Trustee. By contrast, he noted that prominent collector Shelby White was a trustee of the Metropolitan, which had a special exhibit of the objects from the collection of Shelby White and Leon Levy.

During the question period I asked Lord Renfrew if he knew that Mr. Levy (who died recently) had been an honorary trustee of ASOR. He replied that he did not, but that there was an "evolving morality" that would now, one supposes, lead ASOR to withhold such status from collectors, regardless of their generosity. Renfrew had himself once written a scholarly essay on the Greek Cycladic figurines for the museum exhibition catalog featuring unprovenanced artifacts from a private collection. But not now. He now has the zeal of a convert. He would not participate in the pernicious symbiosis today.

Professor Lawrence Stager of Harvard University then rose in Levy's defense, saying that we must also consider the good things that collectors do. Levy, he noted, had poured millions of dollars into supporting his own excavation of Ashkelon in Israel without suggesting that he be rewarded with so much as a pottery sherd. Levy had also supported the excavation of Meggido and other sites. He and Shelby White had established a program for financing the publication of excavation reports, which has distributed additional millions of dollars to scholars. Among the recipients of this largesse are a number of ASOR scholars. (Jane Waldbaum, who is also president of the Archaeological Institute of America, which takes the same position as ASOR with respect to unprovenanced artifacts, is among them. Her research continues to be supported by this apparently tainted money. Thus far, she has not renounced it.) And among those who have served on the board of directors of the Shelby White-Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications, Steger noted, is Professor Martha Joukowski, of Brown University, now the vice-president of ASOR. Professor Joukowski, who was in the audience, leapt to her feet and cried,
"I resigned."

In response to Professor Stager's comments, Lord Renfrew referred to society's increasingly higher standards of morality, suggesting that it might not be proper to accept money from collectors in light of these "evolving" moral standards. Professor Renfrew said that he had heard of a proposal to change ASOR's strict policy against ASOR scholars' publishing scholarly articles about unprovenanced artifacts and that he was opposed to such a change.

Since I had made the proposal to change ASOR's policy, I thought I should explain it and the reasons underlying it. I raised my hand, and Lord Renfrew recognized me. We, too, despise looters, I said, and, indeed, the Biblical Archaeology Society agrees with Lord Renfrew's aim, which is to reduce, if not eliminate, looting. But we feel that it cannot be reduced simply by excoriating collectors and museums. Indeed, this strategy has proved wholly unsuccessful; looting is worse than ever. We support police stations, protective electronic fences and market based strategies to reduce looting. The antiquities market, we contend, can never be eliminated. Moreover, looted objects sometimes have significant scholarship value-- inscriptions, coins, items of high artistic merit. These need to be rescued when looted. They are worth less because they do not have and archaeological context, but they still have scholarly value, which cannot be ignored. We distinguish between good collectors and bad collectors. Good collectors ransom items of importance and make them available to scholars to study and publish, and then allow them to be displayed to the public. Bad collectors are those who keep these objects hidden and private; we, the public, never know about them or see them. I argued that the blanket vilification of collectors is counterproductive. It does nothing to reduce looting and only sends the market underground, with the result that collectors who are willing to make their important artifacts available for study would not do so for fear of the kind of vilification that Lord Renfrew was heaping on them.

At his point, Professor Joukowski, who continues to display in her home her museum-quality antiquities collection, jumped to her feet and tried to shout me down. I resisted. "I let you finish," I said. "Now let me finish." From the other side of the room, Nan Frederick, an ASOR trustee from Annapolis, Maryland, shouted, "You've talked long enough." At that point, I thought it best to sit down, so I did.

Lord Renfrew then addressed Professor Joukowski: "Is there something you would like to say?"

"Thank you very much (for your remarks)." she replied, emphasizing each word, and then sat down.

It was a memorable session.

The rest of the article follows, changing topic to the James ossuary.

I collect swords and bayonets dated WWI back to the Bronze Age from the US and Europe and ancient swords and other weapons from Eurasia. I participate in many historical forums for the study of ancient history and weapons. I am happy to share what expertise I have. John Piscopo
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Allan Senefelder
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Location: Upstate NY
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 5:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This pretty whacked and in denial of reality . I wonder how these good folks would view restorers ? My house mate runs a
bussiness restoring antique porceline and fine china and i've watch wonderful pieces of history be saved from the garbage can by her but I guess these folks would see her as just another link in thier "ratline" and creating some bastard
forgery .
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John Piscopo




Location: LaGrange, IL 60525 SW of Chicago
Joined: 26 Jan 2004

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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 6:30 am    Post subject: UNIDROIT         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
This pretty whacked and in denial of reality . I wonder how these good folks would view restorers ? My house mate runs a
bussiness restoring antique porceline and fine china and i've watch wonderful pieces of history be saved from the garbage can by her but I guess these folks would see her as just another link in thier "ratline" and creating some bastard
forgery .


Dear Allan,

This Convention is worse than your worst nightmare. It would eventually result in having to maintain a paper trail on every single artifact, fossil or mineral specimen dated prior to 1900 in order to prove ownership. There would eventually be cases of documents for every artifact as its ownership was carried down through the ages. Look at your antique sword. You have it registered somewhere, then that piece of paper has to accompany that specific sword for the next hundred thousand years or so, together with another piece of paper that documents every additional change of ownership, and this goes on forever. If your sword is sold ten times per century and one sheet of paper is enough to satisfy the do-gooders that a legal transaction has been conducted, you would have a book of 100 pages every thousand years, 10,000 pages in 100,000 years. For every sword, belt buckle, arrowhead, stamp, coin, rifle, bayonet, dagger, spearhead, button, hairpin,
garment pin, fibula (Safety Pin), book, tool, dinosaur tooth, mammoth bone, turtle shell, fossil of any kind, unusual crystal or mineral formation, piece of jewelry, painting, sculpture, industrial artifact, carved wooden figure, duck decoy, bronze figurine, etc. The Convention defines its scope in breathtaking terms and makes the assumption that everything is stolen or looted unless it has a defined chain of ownership from the time your nation ratified UNIDROIT.

The proponents of this law maintain that governments would not make claims for minor items like low value stamps and coins but would maintain a great deal of circumspection in what they chose to claim. The problem is that none of us who collect antiques or antiquities would feel comfortable in ownership if the Convention was ratified. We would start to register our collection artifacts and start the paper trail. It would not be difficult for a foreign government to make a claim against me, Iran claiming an ancient Iranian sword for example. I could only protect my interest by having established a paper trail. If a claim is filed, no matter what my proof of proper ownership, I lack the financial resources to dispute the Iranian government in court. I would have to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs to defend a $1,200. sword. How many precedents like this would it take to destroy all interest in collecting ancient swords?

In an attempt to stop the looting of ancient archaeological sites and the fencing of stolen artifacts through the andiquities and antique dealers, they composed this International Convention that would destroy all forms of collecting, including stamps and coins. Needless to say, the sheer amount of paperwork eventually involved would be a daunting hurdle for new collectors to jump. A gradual reduction of the number of collectors would lower demand and dealer prices. There would be a long slow decline in valuations. Antiques and antiquities would become cheap, sometimes to cheap to bother with and they will simply find their way to garbage dumps over a period of generations. This is the agenda.

I first found out about UNIDROIT in February when invited by David Welsh, a coin dealer, to join his newly formed group, link above, to learn more about the new law. While I support the aims of UNIDROIT, I feel that its ratification would be a disaster, destroying our past, our scholarship and our ability to convey our world's cultural and technological heritage to our future generations. That would be a terrible loss.

I encourage all of you who read this letter to join UNIDROIT Yahoo Group and read the postings in the Message archive. The future of all you hold dear as a collector is at stake.

I collect swords and bayonets dated WWI back to the Bronze Age from the US and Europe and ancient swords and other weapons from Eurasia. I participate in many historical forums for the study of ancient history and weapons. I am happy to share what expertise I have. John Piscopo
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Allan Senefelder
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Location: Upstate NY
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

John I believe I will be doing exactly that . I'm a political individual and the text you've provided above while cloaked in the guise of archelogy/acedamia is in fact political in nature and spooky . Farmer Richesmuller tilling his field in Germany
unearths a dagger or ceramics ,he is not a "looter " he simply found it but the way its written these folks would construe
his as such. Whats more thier take flirts with suplanting personal property rights , Farms Richesmuller found the item
on HIS property and therefore it is HIS to do with as he sees fit wheather he keeps it , sells it , turns it over to a museum ,
buries it again or throws it away . There is a large difference between robbing archelogical sites and selling the stuff off
as well knowingly buying said stolen items and the average collector who's obtained his/her pieces from shows ,auctions,
personal transactions and maybey something left to them . The text you've provided clearely shows that these folks make no distinction at all . There are laws on the books around the globe to deal with those who steal from protected sites
and those who fence thier booty ( see Bjorn's post on the fellow selling Swedish good on e-bay ) . If these laws are not
being enforced to the fullest then they need to be wheather the issue is manpower , or haphazard enforcement or what have you . Piling more laws , regulations on top of a system thats not working while appaulingly prevelent today has
NEVER made that system work better . Only examination of why its not working and fixing that part which is flawed
can do that .
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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 7:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Under American law the treaty would probably be unconstitutional as applied to existing privately owned items. It would also turn upside down a thousand years of Anglo American laws concerning the ownership of "lost and found" items. There have been many special statutes about state ownership of "buried treasure" and salvaged goods from shipwrecks, but I am aware of none of them that have been applied retroactively to items that are already in the possession of private persons.

The Anglo-American legal system has operated for a thousand years on the presumption that whoever is in physical possession of an object is its rightful owner, and the possessor has the right to continue to possess it until a challenger affirmatively establishes a superior claim of title. Statutes of limitation are also used to bar ancient claims of ownership. The owner of lost or stolen property is the party who bears the burden of proof, and even then he must act within a comparatively short period of time to recover his property or lose it forever. Thus there is no legal requirement in the Anglo-American system to maintain documentary proof of the legal rights of the person from whom you peacefully obtain possession of an ancient item.

Any statute or treaty that converted these rules into a presumptive forfeiture to any alleged ancient source of the item, absent proof of a perfect chain of title, would be radical in the extreme. The treaty as described would appear to treat all lost or concealed property as if it had been stolen, without proof of its actual history. In circles where the most popular political views are generally Marxist, this sort of change might not be objectionable, but it should offend the rest of us a great deal.

Any legal system that required collectors to register items they already own would probably generate a lot of civil disobedience and turn many legitimate collectors into lawbreakers. Then the practice of trading in items that really are stolen will be made easier, not harder, by habituating collectors to the practice of evading legal authority.
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John Piscopo




Location: LaGrange, IL 60525 SW of Chicago
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 7:28 am    Post subject: UNIDROIT         Reply with quote

Dear Allen,

These are not people of good will, you are correct that they have a political agenda. I would be willing to bet $1,000. against a dollar that of the American members of ASOR who voted for President in 2000 that 90% plus voted for either Gore or Nader. I would easily believe that they would promulgate confiscation of all private collections of everything if they thought they could get away with such an outrage. I would also bet that President George Bush will not be their candidate for reelection in 2004.

Would you like to bet that a single one of the ASOR members owns any swords?

I could readily be convinced that their hatred of collectors stems from their hatred of private property in general. That they would advocate confiscatory taxes on the achievers and jail terms for businessmen.

I collect swords and bayonets dated WWI back to the Bronze Age from the US and Europe and ancient swords and other weapons from Eurasia. I participate in many historical forums for the study of ancient history and weapons. I am happy to share what expertise I have. John Piscopo
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John Piscopo




Location: LaGrange, IL 60525 SW of Chicago
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 7:47 am    Post subject: UNIDROIT         Reply with quote

Steve Fabert wrote:
Under American law the treaty would probably be unconstitutional as applied to existing privately owned items. It would also turn upside down a thousand years of Anglo American laws concerning the ownership of "lost and found" items. There have been many special statutes about state ownership of "buried treasure" and salvaged goods from shipwrecks, but I am aware of none of them that have been applied retroactively to items that are already in the possession of private persons.

The Anglo-American legal system has operated for a thousand years on the presumption that whoever is in physical possession of an object is its rightful owner, and the possessor has the right to continue to possess it until a challenger affirmatively establishes a superior claim of title. Statutes of limitation are also used to bar ancient claims of ownership. The owner of lost or stolen property is the party who bears the burden of proof, and even then he must act within a comparatively short period of time to recover his property or lose it forever. Thus there is no legal requirement in the Anglo-American system to maintain documentary proof of the legal rights of the person from whom you peacefully obtain possession of an ancient item.

Any statute or treaty that converted these rules into a presumptive forfeiture to any alleged ancient source of the item, absent proof of a perfect chain of title, would be radical in the extreme. The treaty as described would appear to treat all lost or concealed property as if it had been stolen, without proof of its actual history. In circles where the most popular political views are generally Marxist, this sort of change might not be objectionable, but it should offend the rest of us a great deal.

Any legal system that required collectors to register items they already own would probably generate a lot of civil disobedience and turn many legitimate collectors into lawbreakers. Then the practice of trading in items that really are stolen will be made easier, not harder, by habituating collectors to the practice of evading legal authority.


Dear Steve,

The ratification of the UNIDROIT Convention would be under its own terms and would have the same effect as the ratification of a Treaty. There are several international treaties that the US has also chosen to ignore or withdraw from, the Kyoto Accords, the International Court and the some convention that would allow Americans to be arrested for war crimes and tried in the Hague. Joining any of these treaties and conventions would trump the US Constitution, just as the NAFTA did.

If ratified by the Senate, the Federal Courts would be tasked with the adjudication of claims brought on behalf of governments charging that any given artifact was illegally obtained by a collector. The Collector as Defendant could defend himself by presenting evidence that he legally acquired the artifact prior to the UNIDROIT ratification, and possibly have the Court agree with him.

The problem is that if UNIDROIT, say in 2006 by a Kerry Administration, all artifacts would have to be identified, dated and registered to establish its legality. Fifty years from now that registration, together with all transfer documents, would have to be presented into evidence to defend agains a claim. And 200 years from now as well if the foreign government made a claim against your great great great grandson and his heirloom received from you and your progeny.

Are you willing to assume the good will and common sense of judges in perpetuity to safeguard your rights and the rights of your descendants? Personally, I am not.

They will fight for their agenda for generations if necessary, and every little victory will set a prescedent for another one.

Foreign claimants would not have to be successful to win, all they have to do is bankrupt a few collectors trying to protect their rights in order to frighten the rest of us. They have very deep pockets, we do not.

I collect swords and bayonets dated WWI back to the Bronze Age from the US and Europe and ancient swords and other weapons from Eurasia. I participate in many historical forums for the study of ancient history and weapons. I am happy to share what expertise I have. John Piscopo
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 8:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Voted for Gore or Nader? The Kerry administration? Sorry, folks, this discussion has become a bit nutty. Y'all are complaining because ARCHAEOLOGISTS are politicizing this debate? I'm expecting to see a post describing the fleets of black UN helicopters poised to swoop down and carry collectors to unknown fates in concentration camps.

If I may say a word on behalf of the archaeologists and others who think a nation's right to preserve its own past trumps anybody's right to private ownership of its cultural property...
Why object to restrictions that require proof of legal provenance? Is that requirement really so radical? Don't collectors want legal and ethical collections? The fact is, the antiquities collecting market DOES drive looting and illegal trade of antiquities. I would note, too, that the discussion so far has concerned antiquities rather than antiques. Those black UN helicopters are not going to swoop down and sieze anybody's antique basket hilt sword or rapier. But people who are buying ILLEGALLY excavated artifacts-celtic swords, say-are no different from people who buy any other kind of stolen property, and should not be treated differently just because of the "service" they might provide. And denials of culpability just aren't credible. It's like buying a flat-screen TV off the back of a truck for $50 at midnight and pretending that you're not involved in anything unethical because you didn't personally steal the shipment of flat-screen TVs. Inviting all your friends over to watch the new TV doesn't change the fact that it's stolen, and doesn't relieve you of ethical or legal culpability in the theft, no matter how many hands the TV passed through before you bought it. Collectors/dealers/curators shouldn't be treated any different just because they spend thousands or millions of dollars buying/fencing stolen property, have genuine affection for the stolen artifacts, study them dilligently, publish articles about them and hold doctorates in Art History. Further, the attitude that it's OK to break another country's laws as long as one obeys one's own is Exhibit A in the scholarly indictment of collectors. Exhibit B is the attitude that it's OK to support the illegal antiquities trade because it's too complex and pervasive for some countries to stop.
The fact is that illegal excavation destroys a culture's record of itself. Artifacts removed from their archaeological context are virtually useless to scholars trying to understand the cultures that created them. Too many people think archaeology is a treasure hunt, and so see nothing wrong with pot hunters and other looters, amateur or professional, getting to the treasure first. They figure the artifact exists no matter who excavates it. But people fail to appreciate that the artifact in-situ, in its archaeological context, can have tremendous implications for our understanding of ancient cultures. Archeological context dates in-situ artifacts. In-situ artifacts can undermine what scholars thought they knew and force us to rewrite history books. That's precisely WHY collectors, dealers and curators read scholarly books, site reports, articles, etc.-because archaeology is their only means of identifying, understanding and appreciating their collections, legal or otherwise.
Complaining about sinister international conspiracies doesn't address the real problem here–that looting archaeological sites PERMANENTLY destroys human history, occurs ONLY to supply artifacts to private collectors and museums, and devalues all collections by limiting the amount that can be known about ancient cultures.
As for private property-even the US recognizes that significant cultural properties (even insignificant ones) are owned collectively by all citizens. That's why we have state and federal antiquities laws. That's why you can't go out and loot the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in search of belt buckles. That's why you can't take a backhoe to the Mississippian indian mound on your property. Ask the fellows who leased and looted Slack Farm about Anglo-American traditions of "finders/keepers". Are they out of prison yet? England has similar laws, and even provides for the state purchase of finds on private properties. Surely we can agree that the laws restricting illegal excavation of Shilo or Cahokia or Stonehenge are valid and valuable. Why object when other countries want to protect their properties in the same way?

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 8:34 am    Post subject: Re: UNIDROIT         Reply with quote

John Piscopo wrote:
There are several international treaties that the US has also chosen to ignore or withdraw from, the Kyoto Accords, the International Court and the some convention that would allow Americans to be arrested for war crimes and tried in the Hague. Joining any of these treaties and conventions would trump the US Constitution, just as the NAFTA did.


Treaties ratified by the Senate have the same effect as statutes passed by Congress. Both treaties and statutes are subject to the constitutional constraints of the Bill of Rights, including the Fifth Amendment prohibition on taking of private property without just compensation.

These constitutional principles would only apply to property that was already privately owned at the time the treaty is ratified. So existing collections would be 'grandfathered', but the burden of proof that an item was entitled to protection as a previously owned item would be essentially the same as the burden to prove how a collector acquired other items at a later date. Collectors would only need to trace private ownership back to the date of enactment of the law, rather than back into antiquity, unless the American government was prepared to pay fair value for the seized item.

You are correct that we must all trust in the honesty and integrity of our judicial system to protect whatever rights we have, whether their source is a statute or a constitutional provision. Sometimes that trust is well placed, sometimes it is not. It is always expensive, burdensome, and stressful to be engaged in a legal dispute no matter how certain the outcome may be. Therefore the less opportunity there is to have to litigate any question, the happier anyone should be.

Any law that threatens to involve a collector in litigation is an inducement to conceal the very existence of the collection. Owners of concealed collections act as if they are criminals when they are not, and therefore become indifferent if not hostile to the effective enforcement of laws aimed at the true criminals.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The usual control FREAK agenda: Have they even considered the financial cost of all this record keeping for the ALL KNOWING STATE. ( Excuse my shouthing.)
Also even if you could accuratly register everything perfectly today, the information would turn into inaccurate junk due to normal human error, negligence and the refusal to comply.
Actual enforcement would make the cost of going to Mars (Manned mission) look like petty cash.

In Canada, our government, decided to implement a universal registry of all firearms: The cost was projected to be by the legislator at the time to be 2Millions Dollars Canadian. Ten years later the cost has balonned to 1Billion dollars going on 2Billion. The compliance rate is at best 50% using the Government figures. (They keeped reducing the numbers of estimated firearms in the country in an attempt to minimise the noncompliance rate.)
The ERROR rate on the registration information is considered to be around 75% or more. (Don't have the exact number brfore me.)
No Real crime have been proven solved by using this data bank so far. (If there had been I am sure the Government would have rushed to bring it to the attetion of the public.)

To top if off the Canadian Government is trying to influence the U.N. to make all countries do the same.

Rant aside, there seems to be a mind set that believes that all human problems can be solved by lists or registries that everything must be counted, numbered and controled by the state.
This is almost the same as a compulsive repetitive disorder and is seriously indicative of a mental disorder.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:

Why object to restrictions that require proof of legal provenance? Is that requirement really so radical? Don't collectors want legal and ethical collections?
* * *
As for private property-even the US recognizes that significant cultural properties (even insignificant ones) are owned collectively by all citizens. That's why we have state and federal antiquities laws. That's why you can't go out and loot the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in search of belt buckles. That's why you can't take a backhoe to the Mississippian indian mound on your property. Ask the fellows who leased and looted Slack Farm about Anglo-American traditions of "finders/keepers". Are they out of prison yet? England has similar laws, and even provides for the state purchase of finds on private properties. Surely we can agree that the laws restricting illegal excavation of Shilo or Cahokia or Stonehenge are valid and valuable. Why object when other countries want to protect their properties in the same way?


Every country has the right to create its own laws concerning ownership of 'ownerless' objects, including ancient items that are concealed under the 'sands of time'. While any archaeological artifact remains undiscovered, it has no actual owner, but only the presumptive owner that the law defines it to have. If a statute or treaty defines these ownerless objects as the collective property of the people or the state, most people would not object - probably because most people don't own any realty that might bear some such object. The question is how to regulate access to these still unfound objects without criminalizing the lawful ownership of objects that are not still lost.

If archaeological sites are truly valuable, then they can be purchased by whoever wishes to preserve them. Government has the eminent domain authority to acquire ownership of land bearing such assets, by paying for it. Simply declaring some piece of land that archaeologists would like to excavate a 'significant cultural property' is just another taking of property that requires payment of compenstion to the owner. Ordering the owner of the land on which antiquities happen to be located to preserve and protect them at private expense is not the appropriate or lawful way to go about it, under the American system of laws. Neither is it proper to require everyone who presently owns an ancient object to forfeit it without payment if he can't produce a certificate of title going back a few centuries.
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John Piscopo




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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 9:43 am    Post subject: UNIDROIT         Reply with quote

Dear John,

This savage assault on collecting has become overtly political in its character. It is no longer science, it has instead distorted what they are calling science to the point that it is hardly recognizable. It is really becoming a kind of crusade in the name of what is perceived as political correctness.

No one who is receiving public funding to support their work should ever be allowed to behave in this manner. This objection actually has nothing to do with the exact nature of their cause, but is rather a matter of principle. No one has the right to promote any political cause using public funding, except as specifically authorized by Congress (such as federal matching funds for Presidential campaigns). What the anticollecting zealots are doing in these conferences is really a political activity and a conflict of interest, and as such it is just as reprehensible in its way as government employees engaging in any other political activities during working hours. They are using public funding and resources that belong to the public to support their own particular political agenda, which is to pass laws that outlaw collecting of antiquities - very likely including ancient coins.

By openly conducting these political activities at so many academic and professional conferences, and in internal institutional proceedings and academic activities, they are also forcing everyone else in the archaeological and institutional art field (with a few brave exceptions) to publicly conform to these views or face professional oblivion. That is not exactly free speech at work.

If these anticollecting zealots want to pay their own way to travel to such conferences, stay in hotels at their own expense, take vacation time for the period that they are absent from their normal responsibilities, and publish anticollecting papers that they write on their own time after they have done their normal work, then I say that they have every right to do so, provided that they also identify themselves as private individuals rather than presenting their opinions as though they were speaking for their institution.. But I do not think that any individual who engages in such activities at the taxpayer's expense should be allowed to continue to do so. Nor do I think that any institution which continues to allow its employees to engage in such activities should receive any further public funding.

Collectors, why are you just sitting there doing nothing while these zealots are working so hard to ban collecting, working to destroy your treasured avocation and probably make your collections valueless in the process, and all the while they are actually being supported by YOUR OWN TAX DOLLARS?

Dave Welsh
dwelsh46@cox.net
Unidroit-L Listowner

I collect swords and bayonets dated WWI back to the Bronze Age from the US and Europe and ancient swords and other weapons from Eurasia. I participate in many historical forums for the study of ancient history and weapons. I am happy to share what expertise I have. John Piscopo
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John Piscopo




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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 10:12 am    Post subject: UNIDROIT         Reply with quote

Dave and all,

It is even more clear, now, that the anti-collector lobbying has
reached cult status. We see no signs of compromise, no recognition of
the problems that Unidroit is creating, nothing but zealotry.

Such thinking never extends to pratical considerations of what would
happen after such aims would be achieved. It does not take a genius
to understand that the numbers of coins and antiquities far exceeds
the abilities of the archaologists and museum staff to properly
record, publish and study them.

It is becoming a moral issue and there is an asumption that their
moarlity is a universal morality. They do not see an opposing moralty
that would say that Nationalistic claims on what should be considered
the heritage of the human species is wrong. Their definitions of
culture are archaic. As I have said before, cultures consists of
parties interested in various themes and Roman numismatists should
have a greater claim to Roman coins than the average modern Italian
as a Roman coin means more to the numismatist than it does to the
average modern Italian. The former would also be far more likely to
contribute to the world's knowledge about such objects. Intellectual
pursuits are given a distant second place to nationalistic
acquisitiveness.

The fanaticism is now even starting to attack the sources of funding
for their own supporters. We might hope that they will continue to
devour themselves until they vanish completely and allow us all to
get on with our work. On a happier note, the more they try to stop
looting, the more inventive and organized the looters become and we
all see much more available for study than we used to before these
laws came into place. Those who make these things available are just
a lot more intelligent than those who try to stop it. This will
continue. It is a shame, though, that knowledge of provenances and
associated finds are being destroyed along with this. The British
system is far more workable, but the pro Unidroit fanatics can never
understand this because they are, well, unthinking fantics and
deprogramming would be the only solution.

Cheers,

John Hooker

I collect swords and bayonets dated WWI back to the Bronze Age from the US and Europe and ancient swords and other weapons from Eurasia. I participate in many historical forums for the study of ancient history and weapons. I am happy to share what expertise I have. John Piscopo
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean if I may refer you back to something in my original post its ALREADY illegal to all over the globe to steal from protected archelogical sites or knowingly deal in stolen antiquities . An avalanche of new legislation or regulation
does not solve the problem of why catching the people who do it it merely creates redundacy ( sp) . If something
is already illegal comming up with exciting new ways to say its illegal again through some more laws while certainly
creating a beaurocracy and giving a few folks the feeling of being "benignly" smarter than the rest of us oh and wasting money that might be better spent enfocing existant laws doesn't really do much to take care of the problem . Laws don't
fix things when people are willing to break them , at that point enforcenment of those laws is neccesary to take care of the issue .
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Björn Hellqvist
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If the post is intended as a comment to my post on the US antique arms dealer who offered stolen Viking artifacts, please post in that thread if you think it is OK to plunder other countries.
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John Piscopo




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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 11:15 am    Post subject: UNIDROIT         Reply with quote

Björn Hellqvist wrote:
If the post is intended as a comment to my post on the US antique arms dealer who offered stolen Viking artifacts, please post in that thread if you think it is OK to plunder other countries.


Dear Bjorn,

I personally oppose the plunder and looting of archaeological sites and hope that those who indulge in such illegal activities are captured, brought to trial and severely punished.

It should not be taken as a given that those of us who oppose UNIDROIT are in favor of looting historic sites in order to increase the supply of antiquities at lower prices for our collection. I favor the imprisonment of dealers who facilitate such transaction, such as Frederick Schultz who was involved in smuggling Egyptian artifacts.

Artifacts in the public marketplace are sufficient for all uf us collectores.

I collect swords and bayonets dated WWI back to the Bronze Age from the US and Europe and ancient swords and other weapons from Eurasia. I participate in many historical forums for the study of ancient history and weapons. I am happy to share what expertise I have. John Piscopo
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Everybody complains about beurocracy and registration and regulations until its THEIR collection that's stolen and turns up at auction. Then they'll be demanding that the dealer produce ownership records, provenance, export licenses... Again, its just like the guy who buys the hot TV. If somebody steals HIS property, and it later turns up at a local pawn shop, he isn't going to say "oh, well, finders/keepers. The pawn shop owner didn't steal it." No, he's going to demand the return of his property and, most likely, involve regulatory authorities (police) to recover it. Ethically, he's in the right, and it would be nice if the law agreed. So how is that different from the government of Greece seeing at Sotheby's an artifact believed to have been stolen from a Greek archaeological site, and then involving Interpol, FBI, etc. to regain its property? Would anybody here argue that Greece has no claim to its stolen cultural property once it's out of the country? And if it DOES have a legitimate claim, who's going to assist in the recovery of the property? For that, we need an intermediary and some uniformly accepted way to document legal ownership. That means a treaty establishing an internationally recognized beurocracy funded by the signatory nations. That means collectors' tax dollars will fund efforts to stop illegal antiquities traffic. So? The thief who stole my TV or the guy who fenced it may pay taxes too, and may go on the thieves forum and rant about how unfair it is that their taxes are funding the system intended to catch them and put them in jail, but I bet nobody here is going to think they have a credible complaint.

One collector above is actually cheering on the looters while lamenting the loss of the archaeological record and blaming that loss on the people trying to prevent it! Now that's chutzpah! It's not really wrong if you don't get caught, I guess. Some will say that it's not fair to judge all collectors by such perverse, self-serving logic. I'd agree and point out that it's unfair to dismiss as "freaks," "zealots" and leftist ideologues everybody concerned about cultural property and the destruction of human history to satisfy the whims of collectors. This clearly is an agree-to-disagree issue, but I'm amazed by how much support there is here for the notion that stealing or buying stolen goods is OK if it's something you REALLY want and can appeciate, and if somebody might deprive you of it by acquiring it legally.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 11:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Björn Hellqvist wrote:
If the post is intended as a comment to my post on the US antique arms dealer who offered stolen Viking artifacts, please post in that thread if you think it is OK to plunder other countries.


I am not sure which post you are trying to respond to.

Plunderers and thieves should be punished. But that does not mean that everyone else should be punished instead, if the thieves and plunderers cannot be identified.

Opposition to horse theft does not require that we hang everyone riding a horse without possessing a bill of sale. Just because you have something that might be worth stealing, is not proof that it was in fact stolen. Any law which treats everyone who has something that could once have been stolen as if it was in fact stolen, is clearly unjust. It is customary to demonstrate that your property has been stolen before accusing someone else of stealing it, or buying stolen goods.

The problem with stolen archaeological artifacts is that they were probably taken without anyone besides the thief even knowing that they exist. So proof that an excavated item really has been stolen can be hard to produce.

Let us assume that there is a dealer outside Sweden who claims to possess artifacts that were excavated in Sweden and removed to the USA. If the laws of Sweden allow no possibility that these items were lawfully removed, then the question becomes only one of methods of enforcing existing laws. An American court would recognize the status of the items as stolen, the seller's ads would be used against him as an admission of guilt, and the goods would be returned to the Swedish government. No new law would be needed.

But what happens if the goods are not sold publicly, or are not described by the seller as having come from Sweden? How does the government of Sweden prove that the items were unlawfully taken from your country? Such proof is essentially impossible unless we just assume that the opinions of archaeologists would be enough to support the conclusion that the items look like they came from Sweden, and therefore must have come from Sweden in fact. Perhaps a criminal forensic expert could match the traces of soil left on an item back to a specific site, but without such scientific proof of source we are left to guess or assume that whatever might be from Sweden, really is from Sweden.

If a law were passed that required the dealer to prove where the items actually came from, or forfeit them to their apparent country of origin, that law would simply be assuming that every excavated item was stolen from the country that claimed to own it, without imposing any obligation to prove where the item actually came from.

A law could be enacted that allowed an American court to infer that an item that looks Swedish probably came from Sweden, but the issue of ownership would still be decided by a jury. Any treaty that completely dispensed with the current owner's right to contest the true source of the item and have a jury decide whether it was in fact stolen would violate our Bill of Rights, which guarantees our right to have juries decide civil disputes as well as criminal charges.
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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
Would anybody here argue that Greece has no claim to its stolen cultural property once it's out of the country? And if it DOES have a legitimate claim, who's going to assist in the recovery of the property? For that, we need an intermediary and some uniformly accepted way to document legal ownership. That means a treaty establishing an internationally recognized beurocracy funded by the signatory nations.


There have been many objections voiced to the return of all antiquities to their country of origin, even where the origin is clearly established. Most of the people who object to the return of antiquities to their country of origin are not private collectors, but the museums and governments who possess the best known examples of misappropriated items. If you had a choice between sending a priceless antiquity back to a country ruled by a government that would destroy it, like the Taliban, or leaving it in the hands of a professional museum staff interested in preserving it forever, which choice would you make?

World government is no more required to prevent theft of cultural artifacts than it is to prevent any other kind of crime. We do not need any 'uniformly accepted way to document legal ownership', an oxymoron for an unacceptable loss of American constitutional rights. In the USA it is uniformly acceptable to go to court and prove that you own something that you claim was stolen from you, while in other countries it may be acceptable to let a bureaucrat take your property without any right to object. Foreign governments and private citizens have as much right to pursue a remedy in the courts as American citizens do. If other countries wish to adopt the American rule they are free to do so, but a constitutional amendment would be required to employ the bureaucratic solution in the USA.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 14 May, 2004 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the case of the Taliban scenario, I'd recognize that the lesser of two evils is to leave the looted artifacts in, say, the British Museum (I cite the BM guardedly, because they have admitted gross mishandling of the Elgin Marbles). But by the same logic, one could argue that the BM or Met or Philly Museum of Art are better able to care for antiquities than most private collectors, and therefore there should be no private collections. So that line of reasoning is a dead end for both sides of this issue.

As for the US not being subject to international law-that means the US should not negotiate or sign any international treaties. I think that position is untenable.

As distasteful as a truce may be, I'd like to call for one here. Politics has ruined many a forum. Nobody posting in this thread is going to be swayed by opposing arguments, so let's agree to resolve this issue through the ballot boxes in our respective countries and return to the discussion of the objects themselves.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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