Peter Aldrich refloats a proposal made some time ago for a series of steps he thinks would help curb antiquities looting.
The solution is unrealistic, and unnecessarily so. No country where looting is going on now is going to change its laws to make it even easier than it is now for foreigners to deplete the countries unexcavated sites. But with a little tweaking, parts of the plan would do a lot of good. So instead of asking the world to do what it clearly is not ready to, why not just get together now with other antiquities collectors and dealers here in the US and show the world what good could be done for them? Legislators could be told that collectors, museums, dealers and auction houses all want a registry established here that antiquities would have to pass through to be saleable (a fee would be charged to have their antiquities vetted to cover the cost of that, and to cover the costs of policing the industry to ensure compliance as well). Legislators would also be told that collectors, dealers, museums, and auction houses all want to see a tax on all antiquities purchases here –including purchases made overseas of items brought into the US -- but only if tax revenues are put into an anti-looting Superfund that would support more site guards and other anti-looting measures there in poor countries where looting is worst.
Yes, the US would be putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage in the short run for unprovenanced antiquities, but that would be more than compensated by the goodwill the collecting community would garner from countries of origin — goodwill that could be built on in lots of ways impossible now, given the animosity caused by perceived indifference towards the harm that the demand for antiquities is doing.
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