Thursday, March 15, 2012

Unprovenanced Documents

Questions About Provenance of WikiLoot Documents “Silly”?

by Peter Tompa

“Chasing Aphrodite” author Jason Felch has called my questions about the provenance of the source documents for his “WikiLoot” project “silly.” But are they?

Specifically, I asked Mr. Felch on his “Chasing Aphrodite” blog:

“What is the source of these documents? Were they released legally or leaked unofficially? There would be some considerable irony if you are going to hunt looted material with “looted” documents. If the latter, shouldn't the NSPA apply?”

He responded:

“Your crack about nspa and "looted" documents is silly. I know you're used to fighting for your cause in the trenches, but hope you have more constructive thoughts to contribute about WikiLoot soon. We're open to them.”


Yet, Mr. Felch strongly made the point at a recent talk in Washington, D.C., that museums holding artifacts illicitly excavated under Italian or Greek law were holding stolen goods and were subject to potential prosecution by the US Department of Justice under the National Stolen Property Act.


Moreover, the “Chasing Aphrodite” blog has discussed Professor Urice’s article on the subject.


Why wouldn’t the same analysis apply to illicitly obtained Italian and Greek government documents?

WikiLoot is a serious project that deserves some serious questions asked about it. To ask such questions, particularly at the invitation of WikiLoot itself, is not silly.




Peter Tompa's questions are not silly -- they are very pertinent and very important.

As Tompa noted in his reply to a comment regarding this post, his blog includes in its focus the ethics (or lack thereof) revealed by "end justifies the means thinking."

Concerning matters relating to the interests of archaeology and individual/institutional possession of ancient artifacts, Jason Felch appears (to this observer) to have an ethical perspective dominated by such thinking. The same can be said for many archaeologists -- including those who appear before the Cultural Heritage Center's CPAC committee to voice their support for import restrictions.



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