Friday, July 29, 2016

Archaeologists Unethically Pursue Their Anticollecting Vendetta

In a comment to this post in his highly regarded blog, ,

Peter Tompa said:

"Archaeologists pleading the case of countries like Bulgaria may claim recent finds from there are "illicit," but what does that really mean in practice if Bulgarian authorities still allow small items like coins to be sold openly in markets throughout the country."

 In that comment, he raised a key issue which, to my mind, is central to the entire discussion of looting and smuggling of looted objects. Bulgarian authorities seem to have a different understanding of what is "lawful" than we do, and their actions indicate that this understanding is not well aligned with the doctrinal mantra chanted by anticollecting archaeologists. Practical considerations, and common sense, seem to influence their decisions. Perhaps their decisions are based upon their view of what is best for Bulgaria and Bulgarians, rather than archaeological doctrine.

Please note that I do NOT subscribe to using the term "illicit" in this discussion.

Referring to , the primary definition of "illicit" is 'not allowed by law : unlawful or illegal.' A secondary definition is 'involving activities that are not considered morally acceptable.'

The manner in which archaeologists use the word "illicit" trades upon that secondary definition in a manner which in my opinion amounts to doublespeak: "language that can be understood in more than one way and that is used to trick or deceive people."

The manner in which archaeologists use the word "illicit" and many other similarly deceptive words in their writings is definitely, and intentionally, "doublespeak." I do not believe that those who seek to defend collectors' rights should ever accept, or contribute to, the propagation of such "doublespeak," but instead should point out that in using such deceptive terminology in an attempt to prejudge the discussion of looted and smuggled artifacts through slyly framing it in "loaded language," and by deliberately and intentionally engaging in "doublespeak" to pursue their vendetta against collectors, archaeologists who use such terminology violate OUR standards of ethics, which I believe are also those which prevail among the general population.

Collectors of antiquities and ancient coins, and we who seek to defend their interests, should seek appropriate ways of highlighting that ethics violation, and of pointing out that archaeologists, who so loudly and frequently complain about the "unethical" behavior of those who collect and trade in antiquities including ancient coins, are in a broader sense (as the general public understands ethics) presenting their irrational case against collecting in an unethical and deliberately deceptive manner.

Anyone who desires to find clear examples of this ethics violation, of slyly using "loaded languageto deceptively and misleadingly pursue the vendetta against collectors, can find an inexhaustible supply of egregious examples here:

It's a rather dangerous place to go, where deception, doublespeak, fantasy and misrepresentation reign supreme -- judged by a perspective founded upon intellectual integrity and respect for the truth. The author of that blog, to begin with, is not an archaeologist and despite his pretensions, never really was an archaeologist, in the sense of going out in the field and carrying out surveys, excavations and other work central to the practice of archaeology. 

He is in reality a language teacher with an interest in archaeology, who has in the past written one book, one monograph published by an archaeological society, and a number of journal articles on the subject. His qualification as a writer on the subject is a M.A. in archaeology, which he studied at University College London, a highly respected institution. But he did not defend his M.A. thesis, nor did he continue his studies to receive the doctorate regarded as an essential qualification for a practicing professional archaeologist.

He has never published a curriculum vitae or resumé of actual qualifications to be considered an expert commentator on archaeology, antiquities collecting and metal detecting, which are principal subjects of his blog.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Rigged Cultural Heritage System

TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2016
by Peter Tompa

Hacked emails have confirmed the suspicions of Senator Bernie Sanders' followers that the powers that be in the Democratic National Committee-- who are supposed to be neutral-- in fact sought to rig the system against him and his campaign.

Collectors, both here and in Germany, already know that feeling.  In the US, the State Department-- which is supposed to be neutral when it comes to deciding whether foreign requests for MOUs meet the criteria in the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act-- has never rejected one. Even worse, when a last minute effort to engineer import restrictions on Cypriot coins was turned down by the State Department's own Cultural Property Advisory Committee, the State Department's Bureau of Educational Affairs imposed them anyway and then went so far as to mislead the public and Congress about CPAC's true recommendations.  That, of course, gave the State Department bureaucrats license to do the same with other coins from Bulgaria, China, Greece, and Italy, citing the Cyprus decision as "precedent."

The situation is even worse in Germany.  There almost 50,000 collectors and dealers made their valid concerns known about a draconian new law, but CDU Culture Minister Monika Grutters rammed it through anyway, cheered on only by a small group of mostly authoritarian cultural nationalist countries and the German Archaeological Institute, which is part of Germany's Foreign Ministry.  Again, the desires of connected insiders associated with the archaeological lobby and the bureaucracy seemed to take precedence over the concerns of ordinary people and small businesses. 


THE RIGGED SYSTEM has been a subject very much in the news lately, during the contentious US Presidential primary season and the tense RNC and DNC political conventions that followed.

Republican nominee Donald Trump began using that term during the primaries in April 2016, and in a June 22 speech in New York City, he set forth this political manifesto:

We’ll will never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who have rigged it in the first place. The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money. That’s why we’re asking Bernie Sanders’ voters to join our movement: so together we can fix the system for all Americans. So important. This includes fixing all of our many disastrous trade deals. … Because it’s not just the political system that’s rigged, it’s the whole economy. It’s rigged by big donors who want to keep wages down. It’s rigged by big businesses who want to leave our country, fire our workers, and sell their products back into the United States with absolutely no consequences for them. It’s rigged by bureaucrats who are trapping kids in failing schools. It’s rigged against you, the American people.

Mr. Trump has made it clear that he wants to be regarded as the candidate who speaks for vast numbers of Americans who have been forgotten, neglected and victimized by THE RIGGED SYSTEM:

“Every day I wake up determined to deliver a better life for the people all across this nation that have been ignored, neglected and abandoned. I have visited the laid-off factory workers,” he continued, “and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals.”

“These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a


“I am your voice.”

There is another group of "forgotten Americans" who have been neglected, discriminated against and outrageously victimized by THE RIGGED SYSTEM: American collectors of antiquities and ancient coins. This is a long, sad story of how carefully crafted, well-intentioned legislation intended to even-handedly "protect cultural heritage" was unethically hijacked and ruthlessly twisted into a vehicle for embedding the archaeology lobby's anticollecting "crusade" in US Customs regulations by bureaucratic fiat. 

The villain in all this cultural evildoing is an unelected, "faceless" bureaucrat and sometime archaeologist: Maria P. Kouroupas, who has headed the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center and its predecessors for more than thirty years, and has formed that malevolent bureaucracy in her own ruthless and unscrupulous anticollecting image.

Admittedly, collecting antiquities and ancient coins is a small stage by comparison to national politics. The fate of nations isn't at stake in a large sense. But the fate of hundreds of thousands of good, upstanding citizens is very much at stake, at least to the extent of their pursuit of happiness

The ethical sins committed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her political gang, who cynically sought to "rig" the Democratic presidential primary and Convention against Bernie Sanders and his idealistic followers, is being justly reviled now that it has finally been exposed.  The seriousness of these ethical sins is amplified to a very great magnitude by what was at stake: nothing short of the Presidency of the United States of America.

It is reasonable to think that had the political playing field been genuinely level and fair, Mr. Sanders might well have emerged as the Democratic nominee.

The ethical sins committed by Maria P. Kouroupas and her bureaucratic gang, who cynically and very successfully sought to "rig" the US Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act against US collectors of antiquities and ancient coins, despite intense and well managed efforts by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild,  still remain to be exposed.  That has to date been successfully "stonewalled" by tenacious State Department legal resistance, based upon specious assertions of secrecy supposedly required by "national security interests."

In reality, the reason for all this compulsive secrecy, which contravenes the Freedom of Information Act and every ethical principle of transparency in government operations, is that the machinations and behind-the-scenes rigging of the system by Kouroupas and her bureaucratic gang absolutely cannot stand the light of day. If what really happened is ever made public, their downfall would be as certain and drastic as that of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her political gang.

The seriousness of the ethical sins of Maria P. Kouroupas and her malevolent bureaucratic gang is compounded and amplified to a very great magnitude by what was at stake: nothing short of the good faith and honesty of the US State Department. Every US citizen should have the right to feel that the State Department fairly, even-handedly and honestly represents his or her interests in its necessary dealings with foreign governments and their interests. Kouroupas and her gang have made a disreputable mockery of this essential principle of our government, for no better reason than to advance the private agenda of the archaeology lobby, to which they are ideologically committed .

The exposure of THE RIGGED SYSTEM and the dishonorable dealings of the reeking rat's nest of ideological corruption in the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center would have political importance in the state of Wisconsin, where on May 21, 2006 the Wisconsin Republican Party, in assembly at its annual state convention, passed this landmark resolution supported by Congressmen Paul Ryan, Tom Petri and Mark Green by a voice vote of some 75% of delegates present:


WHEREAS, we believe that the U.S. Constitution, not the United Nations should be, where appropriate, the guide for the regulation of business and trade; 

WHEREAS, we also believe that a government that wishes to regulate the collecting hobbies of private citizens on behalf of foreign powers, especially if it involves the seizure or reclamation of property purchased in good faith has overstepped both the spirit and letter of the 4th, 5th and 11th Amendments of the Constitution; 

RECOGNIZING that the numismatic trade provides many fine families with their means of income, and also creates numerous jobs in support industries, key to states such as Wisconsin where companies publish books, manufacture coin and stamp holders, binders, software and other supplies that support the collectibles hobby; 

WHEREAS, we believe that import restrictions and cultural property laws may have the unintended consequences of driving hundreds of family businesses into ruin and also criminalize the hobbies and educational activities of numerous law abiding citizens; 

WHEREAS, we support reasonable efforts to protect archaeological sites and public and private collections, we oppose the claims of those who say: (a) Anything “old” should be considered state property; (b) Anything without a detailed ownership history should be deemed stolen; and (c) Only foreign states and their favored academics should have the right to preserve, protect and study the past. 

THEREFORE we reject recent efforts to restrict the collecting of art, books, coins, pottery, stamps, weapons and other common antique collectibles over 100 years old; 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in convention assembled, asks lawmakers to oppose any import restrictions or other constraints on the collecting of art, books, coins, militaria, pottery, stamps, weapons and other common antique collectibles as a waste of valuable government resources. 

BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in convention assembled, asks lawmakers to pass a bill exempting art, books, coins, militaria, pottery, stamps, weapons and other common antique collectibles for consideration from future import restriction and cultural property laws and treaties.


Paul Ryan receives Friend of the ACCG Award in 2006


Wisconsin is an important state in contention for the 2016 Presidential election, which is presently viewed as leaning Democratic, but could possibly be won by the Republicans with a strong, well targeted campaign effort.

The struggling small businesses of Wisconsin include Krause Publications, publisher of Numismatic News, World Coin News, and Coins Magazine, plus many important guides and catalogs for collectors.


Candidate Donald Trump has a great many vital things to deal with in his attempt to win this election, and the interests of US antiquities collectors and ancient coin collectors, in a quantitative sense, aren't yet clearly apparent on the political "radar screen." If the decisions of his campaign are based strictly upon quantifiable "vote math," it will be hard to justify taking a stand on ideological corruption in the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center.

Mr. Trump has, however, made it clear that he is very much a man of principle and ideals. Perhaps his principles and ideals may be offended by the reeking rat's nest of bureaucratic corruption in the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center. 

There may not be enough of immediate political importance here to turn this into a campaign issue. But despite that, perhaps there is room for hope: the hope that a Trump administration will wield a vigorous "new broom," dedicated to thoroughly sweeping out all the rancid little corners in our government such as this, where rampant system rigging and unethical private bureaucratic agendas presently deprive worthy American citizens of fair, honest and honorable treatment by their government.