How Serious a Threat is Looting?
Looting Case Overstated?http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2013/10/looting-case-overstated.html
by Peter Tompa
The World Monuments Fund has listed its top five threats to cultural heritage. But "looting" does not rate any mention except when it is associated with war. Is it possible then that members of the archaeological community have overstated their case just to further their anti-collecting agenda?
Peter Tompa raises a salient point here.
All parties on both sides of the conflict between archaeology and collecting condemn looting, and would like to see looters (and those subsequently involved in illicitly acquiring looted artifacts and smuggling them across source state borders) severely dealt with.
The point in question is whether the threat of looting, other than that which takes place in the uncontrollable conditions of war, is so significant as to justify restrictive measures such as those being imposed by the U.S. State Department under provisions of the 1983 CCPIA which implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention in the USA.
The perspective of this observer (and the ACCG) is that the measures imposed are in large part unjustified, and that they have been adopted through unscrupulous manipulation of the 1983 CCPIA so as to negate and evade the checks and balances, and transparency provisions intended by Congress.
The perspective of this observer is that the archaeologist directing this manipulation and her staff are covert allies of the archaeology lobby, sharing in and endorsing its anticollecting agenda.
The 1983 CCPIA provided import restrictions only as a last resort, to be imposed as emergency measures when all less drastic alternatives had failed and a serious situation or threat of rampant looting and pillaging existed. Any reasonable and impartial observer would have to conclude that import restrictions are now being imposed whenever a foreign signatory to the 1970 UNESCO Convention asks for them, without anything more than minimal pro forma ritualistic sham investigations intended to satisfy the letter of the law, so that the searching, unbiased and even-handed appraisal intended by Congress is evaded and disregarded.
Clearly this sort of deceptive bureaucratic maladministration can only occur when those responsible for directing and overseeing the activities in question believe that there is a "higher cause" which supersedes their obligations to follow the intent of Congress, and to provide evenhanded, impartial administration of the law in a manner respecting the rights of all American citizens including collectors, giving those rights equal weight compared to the interests of foreign governments.
Thus we return to the question of the threat posed by looting. Very significant damage is being done to the interests of U.S. antiquities collectors, specifically collectors of ancient coins, by import restrictions imposed by unelected bureaucrats whose administration of the 1983 CCPIA is strongly biased against collecting and in favor of the archaeology lobby. Just how significant and important is the threat "justifying" these restrictions?
It is time for an impartial examination of that threat, which does not depend upon the opinions of the archaeology lobby and which is not managed by the U.S. State Department.