by Paul Barford
"the most amoral and dangerous individuals in the world" is how a Californian dugup dealer characterises those who wish to impose restrictions on the import into the USA of archaeological and ethnographical artefacts without documentation of lawful export. In other words take away "from the longstanding and traditional rights of US collectors -- without any compensation whatsoever". Long-standing RIGHTS to import illicitly exported artefacts? Surely any such illusions ended when the USA became a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention back in 1983? What are these dealers thinking?
Peter Tompa continues his incessant moaning about how hard-done-by are US collectors (already in possession of a huge chunk of the above-ground resources of portable antiquities from all over the ancient world - but still want "more and more"). ...
"Winners" according to Tompa are:
The Greek Cultural Bureaucracy ("poorly managed" and "corrupt") The Greek Government ("poorly managed" and "corrupt") "The Obdurate State Department Cultural Bureaucracy" ("obdurate", "entrenched") "The AIA and its Archaeological Fanatics" ("anti-collecting", "fanatics") "Wealthy Greek Collectors".
One wonders just how long the buffoonery of pretending that the archaeologists (institutional or otherwise) are all "fanatics" (was "radicals") who are to a man rabidly "anti-collecting" can persist. The evidence is very clear that the AIA is not against collecting per se, but - in line with US legislation since the early 1980s - against collecting of ILLICITLY exported cultural artefacts. No more, no less - and it is all in black and white for any dealer, lawyer or collector with more brain cells than my cat to check. Of course such nonsense suits well the yapping dogs that try to frighten, huddle and herd as many ovicaprid collectors onto the barren thistle patches of indignant opposition as possible, but it is not the truth. But then what evidence has there been from the ongoing dialogue of the deaf that dealers' lobbyists or collectors are even a bit concerned about the truth?
According to Tompa:
These fanatics hold that the only legitimate exchange of archaeological artifacts is a museum loan.
As for those "Wealthy Greek Collectors" (where the adjective wealthy magically become pejorative...). Surely there is a huge faultline running through the ACCG logic here. The whole point the collectors opposed to import controls are making is that the vast majority of the artefacts affected are too cheap (on the US market) for it to be at all "economical" to get documentation of licit origins and transfer. So they are not the kind of things one has to be inordinately "wealthy" to buy.
How shocking to the American psyche that:
Greek collectors will gain a competitive advantage over their American counterparts who can no longer import undocumented cultural goods.
They will stay in Greece, rather the best items being constantly and illegally siphoned off to a voracious and well-financed foreign market. How curious though that an American collector (and Peter Tompa, who is if I am not mistaken of Hungarian Jewish stock, collects dugup ancient Greek coins) feels he has MORE right to Greek cultural property than the citizens of that country (even if these items are illicitly exported?) and considers it a matter of regret that fellow collectors (though of a different nationality) will be able more easily to collect items which reflect their own cultural heritage.
For Tompa, the "losers" are:
"Greece's Cultural Patrimony" [too much stuff to look after as it is], "The CPIA and the Process Congress Contemplated" back in 1983 (sic) "The Small Businesses of the Antiquities and Numismatic trade" [who are now going to have to document licit export to allow legal import into the US: "This is particularly a problem for the small businesses of the numismatic trade". This is because the objects available for import are typically lacking such documentation] "US Collectors" [who will be forced to buy material which has been licitly exported, rather than the other type that was on the market formerly].
"US Museums" who will not be able to carry on purchasing items without any kind of documentation of licit export [not, I think that they are likely to be wanting to in the coming years anyway].
"US Customs" [because they are going to have to do something connected with the fact that in 1983 the USA became a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, too bad, but the idyll of US hypocrisy in this regard could not go on for ever]
What is not explained is the manner in which having mainly material which has passed scrutiny with regard to licit export on the US market as a matter of course is allegedly a "bad" thing for collectors, museums, and responsible (responsible) dealers. What is clear that the persons who have lost (not mentioned for some reason by Tompa) are the smugglers (possibly related in some way to organized criminal groups) and looters, who will have their US markets fundamentally curtailed by these measures if they are applied effectively by all involved. ... What nasty company the no-questions-asked antiquity dealers keep.
As usual Mr. Barford simply cannot discuss anything relating to antiquities collecting without interjecting a plethora of pejorative nouns and adjectives, which prejudge the issues involved and denigrate collectors and the trade that supplies them. Such a practice is straight out of the propaganda manuals Josef Goebbels wrote for his henchmen to use, in misleading those who read their writings and heard their broadcasts.
Let's see, in this blog post archaeo-Goebbels resorted to the following egregious examples of this practice:
ovicaprid collectors [ovicaprid (plural ovicaprids): A domestic sheep or goat.]
no-questions-asked antiquity dealers
Perhaps Mr. Barford hopes by such egregious insults to "get the goat" of the collecting community. Nearly everyone in it, other than myself, has decided to ignore him on the grounds that he is a mere ranting fanatic, the like of which can be found standing upon soapboxes in the more disreputable public parks around the world, spewing delusionary babble.
Mr. Barford is appallingly ignorant about collecting in general and coin collecting in particular. What he has to say on any subject other than archaeology should always be taken with several cubic yards of salt, because not only does he not know what he is talking about regarding any subject other than archaeology, he does not care in the least about the practical difficulties the views he advocates would create were anyone so idiotic as to actually attempt to implement them.
When it comes to buffoonery, it seems to this observer [and many others, especially in the archaeological community] that Mr. Barford sets an example that would be hard to outdo.
Mr. Barford is naïve and foolish in imagining that " ... smugglers (possibly related in some way to organized criminal groups) and looters, ... will have their US markets fundamentally curtailed by these measures if they are applied effectively by all involved ..."
Smugglers and looters are not attempting to import artifacts into the USA nor to export them to the USA. They will not notice any effects at all from what US Customs does or does not do toward implementing these unjust, unwise and totally misguided restrictions. They will continue to bring their loot into EU nations from which it may be freely traded without hindrance regarding importation or export, to almost every nation in the world except the USA. Such nations include Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean islands and the Bermudas.
From any of these nearby islands, artifacts can be brought into the USA almost without risk in small boats. A typical innocent-appearing sailboat no larger than 30 feet overall length can carry an enormously valuable cargo of artifacts from any of these islands into a nearby US marina, without ever passing through Customs and without anyone in the US Government and its institutions and agencies ever having become aware that it had visited foreign territory. Visas and other documents are not involved in such yachting visits. I have made just such voyages on several occasions myself, of course without smuggling anything.
Both the Mexican and Canadian borders with the USA are very long and very porous. It is a ridiculous bit of folly to imagine that when the US Government cannot prevent millions of illegal aliens and thousands of tons of illegal drugs from crossing that border almost without risk, that disguised packages of valuable small portable antiquities would conceivably be detected. A Border Control agent would have no idea what they were. Coins, for example, could be carried in one's pockets and jewelry could be worn. There is an infinity of ways to evade detection in crossing these borders bringing artifacts into the USA.
There are roughly three hundred Indian Reservations in the United States. Referring to certain reservations which span the US border with Canada, "The Spotlight" observes that:
"They [smugglers and illegal immigrants] particularly utilize crossings afforded by the St. Regis or Akwesasne Mohawk Indian reservation near Massena in northern New York. According to SPOTLIGHT sources, the reservation is being used to smuggle aliens from Asian and Middle Eastern countries, as well as virtually every form of contraband, including firearms, laundered money and drugs.
The illegal aliens are interspersed among Canadians who cross the border to shop in the United States and to visit bingo parlors and gambling casinos operated by the American Indians. In St. Regis, aliens can cross the border on sovereign Indian land since the reservation spans the St. Lawrence, with large parts on both sides of the waterway. "
The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation is a Mohawk Indian reservation in Franklin County, New York, United States. It is also known by its Mohawk name, Akwesasne. The population was 2,699 at the 2000 census. The reservation is adjacent to the Akwesasne reserve in Ontario and Quebec. The Mohawk consider the entire community to be one unit. The reservation contains the villages of Hogansburg and St. Regis.
Under the terms of the Jay Treaty (1794), the Mohawk people may pass freely across the International Boundary. They do not have to pass through immigration or Customs in doing so, and in practice, the US government extends that same freedom to those who visit the reservation from US territory. The two parts of the reservation are separated by the St. Lawrence River and the 45th parallel.
The Mohawk are one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois, historically based in present-day New York, and the "Keepers of the Eastern Door". Today, the reservation is home to the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and the Mohawk Bingo Palace. The Mohawk Tribe views the reservation as a "sovereign nation," but shares jurisdiction with the State of New York, the United States, and the Town of Bombay, in which it is located.