Thursday, May 27, 2010

Barford: Prince of the Liars

Self styled "Archaeologist" Paul Barford is a liar. Not merely an occasional or accidental liar, but a chronic, habitual liar whose delusions and lack of respect for truth distinguish him as among the most prevaricating, untruthful, and unscrupulous individuals I have ever encountered. No one who reads anything Barford writes should be so foolish as to accept it as truth until it has been independently verified.

That's a significant indictment which no fair minded person should accept without evidence to back it up. Here is that evidence:

1) Barford has consistently and continually accused collectors of antiquities, and the trade that supplies them, of trafficking in "illicit" artifacts. He elaborates that accusation by asserting that artifacts are illicit unless their provenance documents clearly prove that they were not excavated or exported from the nation in which they were originally discovered contrary to its laws.

Lest anyone should think that collectors and the trade have any desire to be involved in anything that is actually illicit, here are the facts:

1) For many types of artifacts, in particular those which have relatively low values for individual specimens, there has historically been no economically valid reason to keep provenance records. Existing collections contain large numbers of such specimens, which in some cases have been held in collections for many centuries without documentation of provenance. This is especially true of ancient coins, which have been actively collected since the 14th century, with hundreds of millions of specimens presently residing in extant collections.

2) Collectors of and dealers in ancient artifacts are governed by laws of nations in which they reside and carry on their commercial and collecting activities. No one is morally justified in using the term "illicit" to describe commercial or collecting activities that are lawful in the nations in which they are conducted. Describing such activities as "illicit" because they do not conform to an ideal which the alleging party wishes were the law, but in actuality is not the law, is undeniably an untruth - in plain language, a lie.

3) In the case of the United States of America (which represents roughly half of the worldwide market for antiquities) an antiquity is not "illicit" if its provenance is unknown and cannot be determined. That is also the case in nations such as the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Commonwealth. Nations in which the majority of worldwide antiquities collectors reside do not accept a "guilty until proven innocent" licitness standard, which condemns everything that cannot be documented to the standards Mr. Barford desires to impose.

4) Despite the demonstrated fact that "licitness" is clearly not internationally recognized as being the same thing as "provenanced" according to Mr. Barford's desires, Mr. Barford has nevertheless publicly made a great many unjustifiable and utterly irresponsible allegations attacking collectors of and dealers in antiquities as being immoral, supporting "looting," and other iniquities, without ever mentioning the truth: that the individuals he was attacking had every right to do what they had done under the laws governing their activities. Such unjustifiable and utterly irresponsible allegations cannot be intelligently characterized as anything other than lies.

Having established (in a manner that I do not believe any fair minded individual can contest) that Mr. Barford is a liar, the question becomes what should be done about that.

In former (and possibly better) days, an individual who had given such affronts would receive an invitation to "take the Air in the Country," a meeting from which only one would return. These are not former days and such a resolution is no longer possible.

In fact we now suffer from an environment in which destructive, irresponsible pests such as Mr. Barford can say whatever they like without being liable to any sort of consequences or sanctions. Mr. Barford can publicly assert that black is white without anyone being able to call him to account for uttering such a lie, or for uttering the innumerable other lies which he has in fact voiced.

I really do not know what is to be done about this other than presenting the facts. Barford is a liar, and anyone who credulously believes what he has to say, without first carefully verifying all of the particulars, is a fool.

Dave Welsh
Unidroit-L Listowner


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