Saturday, December 19, 2009

Indiana Jones, but in reverse - The National Newspaper

Indiana Jones, but in reverse - The National Newspaper

Another profile of Zahi Hawass. Not much new here, but Matt Bradley mentions, as has already been reported by an Australian paper, that

Buoyed by his recent successes, Mr Hawass has called for an international conference next March for countries who are seeking the return of ancient objects. Greece, Italy, China and Mexico will be among about 12 nations he expects to attend.

This sounds a lot like the first real step towards the creation of an antiquities cartel, a strategy that Richard Leventhal has suggested would enable countries of origin to pool their bargaining power to extract more from wealthy collecting nations. The only question is whether the bargaining will remain, as it has, on the plane of restitution and loan agreements, which in themselves do nothing to address the problem of contemporary looting and other threats to heritage, or whether countries of origin will take the opportunity to press collecting institutions to materially assist in anti-looting initiatives. Museums could, for example, be told that no country will agree to loans unless the museums first persuade their donors to contribute voluntarily (or their governments to contribute via dedicated taxes on sales of antiquities) to an international fund. One already exists, established by UNESCO several years ago, but it has failed to attract any donations.

The key is to move beyond restitution to the real issue, which is what can be done to protect archaeological sites.

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