Greek Culture Sector
by Paul Barford
US collectors are reportedly praying for the collapse of the cultural sectors of European countries like Greece which they perceive as an enemy to be opposed. It seems that their prayers are being answered all over the world, as archaeological units close in the UK and Greece has had to lay off 2000 cultural sector staff in recent years too. Where will this all end? In the triumph of no-questions-asked collecting of dugup ancient bric a brac? Or the defeat of all who truly care about culture?
The situation in Greece is described in a Reuters article by Gareth Jones ('Debt crisis strikes Greek monuments, irks tourists', Dec 6, 2011) ), which will no doubt have "cultural property observers" in US collecting circles rubbing their greedy hands in glee and trumpeting: "we told you the ["corrupt" and "irresponsible" sic] Greeks cannot look after their heritage, so give the best bits to us to look after". The rest of us can only shake our heads in disbelief at their blatantly self-centred philistinism and despair, for the cultural sector has always been poorly-resourced and
exposed to every twist and turn of the political situation and things do not seem set to improve in the near future.
> ... which will no doubt have "cultural property observers" in US collecting circles rubbing their greedy hands in glee and trumpeting: "we told you the ["corrupt" and "irresponsible" sic] Greeks cannot look after their heritage, so give the best bits to us to look after". The rest of us can only shake our heads in disbelief at their blatantly self-centred philistinism ...
Hmm. Now a realistic (and very sensible) appraisal of the crippling budgetary problems faced by an irresponsible source state that cannot take care of its existing responsibilities, and a very natural desire to defend one's longstanding and legitimate legal rights (which involve due respect for private property) are condemned by this bigoted, rabidly anticollecting archaeofanatic as "rubbing their greedy hands" and " blatantly self-centred philistinism."
We in the collecting community can only shake our heads in disbelief at the "blatantly self-centred philistinism" of this utter hypocrite and all the rest of the extremist archaeologists, whose real goal (which most of them will not honestly admit to) is to bring an end to private collecting of anything old that might possibly ever have been buried.
What is their motive? Pure and essentially amoral self-interest. They want control of the source material so that they can monopolize its study and publication of findings, to advance their own careers. That is what all of this dishonest and deceptive trumpeting about "protecting the archaeological record" and "protecting cultural heritage" distills down to. Archaeologists are every bit as greedy and self-centered as their most extreme and farfetched imaginings of what collectors are like (which in nearly all cases could not be farther from the actual truth).
If archaeoGoebbels and his ilk are actually representative of the archaeological community, then collectors would be very well justified in thinking of archaeology as a malignant cancer upon society, which for the public good ought to be suppressed. If they are not representative of the archaeological community, it would be wise for that community to denounce these irresponsible fanatics before more damage is done.