Saturday, March 16, 2013

Newcastle Redux

On March 13-14, 2010 during a two-day conference organized by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS) Wayne Sayles presented a comprehensive review of the conflict between collecting and archaeology in a 61-page paper, “Coin Collectors and Cultural Property Nationalism:”

 Newcastle Paper (PDF)

This dissertation was recently summarized and has now been published in CBA's online journal, Internet Archaeology:

Readers interested in the intersection between collecting and archaeology would find this summary worth reading, and if further exploration is desired, could consult the original paper (co-authored y this observer). The commentary below emphasizes the importance of this conflict.


The 1970 UNESCO Convention has been used by radical archaeologists and their supporters in cultural bureaus and ministries as a vehicle to limit and suppress private collecting of antiquities, via import restrictions. The most significant restrictions have been issued by the US State Department.

The US Supreme Court will consider the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild's petition for a writ of certiorari at its March 22, 2013 conference.  This would compel judicial review of State Department actions in managing US implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has sought this review for years, believing that the State Department's repressive actions have been biased and unjustified. Lower courts have previously declined to hear the complex case on technical grounds.

This observer cannot understand  how continued judicial inaction in this matter can possibly be justified, given the many serious abuses of power involved, and the very dangerous implications of setting a precedent that the actions of State Department bureaucrats are "above the law," and will receive neither effective Congressional oversight nor judicial review.



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