Monday, February 13, 2012

Quis Custodiet

Italian Archaeologist Arrested for Fakery

by Peter Tompa

The Art Newspaper is reporting that prominent Italian archaeologist Edoardo David has been placed under arrest for suspicion of running a ring that has produced convincing forgeries of antiquities. Apparently, the ring duped an Italian count into trading real antiques for fakes. The Count had hoped to build a museum on the family estate.

It will be interesting to learn if this story gets any coverage whatsoever on the archaeological blogs that enjoy flogging collectors and museums over any sort of infraction, whether real or imagined.




"Quis Custodiet" has been a recurring (and very relevant) theme in my observations concerning those involved in the archaeology and cultural ministry establishments in "source countries," among which Italy has traditionally been thought of as being among the best regulated with respect to controlling criminal behavior and corruption among its officials.

Unfortunately, those involved in state custody of archaeological sites and artifacts and in state controlled access to this source material are subject to significant temptations, and the modest compensation they receive for their efforts does not help to control these temptations.

What would help to control such temptations would be very rigorous and effective policing of everyone involved in archaeology and institutional custody of artifacts in source states, with frequent audits and other verification measures to insure that those charged with cultural heritage protection carry out their responsibilities honestly and ethically, without abusing their authority and their access to publicly controlled assets.

A principal reason for the citizens of such source states violating their national antiquities laws is pervasive public distrust of the officials involved in enforcing antiquities laws and in custody of artifacts. All too often it is perceived that those involved are corrupt, and seek to use their positions for personal gain instead of the public interest.

It is certainly very questionable whether it is morally justifiable to impose drastic measures such as import restrictions upon law-abiding citizens of nations such as the United States, when those nations requesting such extraordinary measures are not taking obvious and necessary steps required to ensure that their public officials and archaeologists are honest, and able to command the respect and trust of their own citizens.

It is also very questionable whether the United States State Department should continue its present practice of uncritically and enthusiastically supporting requests for import restrictions from nations which lack effective and reliable controls over probity of the conduct of their own public officials and archaeologists.



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