Saturday, May 22, 2010

So the Leon Levy Foundation holds a meeting aimed at figuring out how to get archaeologists to publish their sites. But not all sites -- only sites excavated under partage agreements (i.e., long-ago digs). How curious! Why the restriction, since surely there are many many sites that have been excavated but not published? Is the exclusive focus on partaged material meant to generate good will from countries of origin for the Levy Foundation (since the publications will certainly be of value to them)? That hardly seems likely to succeed. Or is it to show these countries, and the press, the untapped virtues of partage? That seems equally unlikely to succeed (though one can never underestimate the gullibility or sycophantism of some journalists). A third possibility seems most likely: to remind the world that partage once was practiced, and therefore might be practiced again some happy day.

Just to be clear: unlike some purist archaeologists, I have no beef whatsoever with the Levy Foundation's support for publishing digs; the backlog of unpublished information would be considered a scandal in any other discipline, archaeologists do need major help in bringing their findings into print, and if the Levy Foundation can supply that help, god love 'em. But mixing this up with the issue of restoring partage makes no sense. As the discussion at CUNY made clear (see below), it is time to give up on trying to get the countries of origin to see the virtues of partage. That is a non-starter. One can only hope that Brian Rose and Philippe de Montebello are speaking with Shelby White about other more viable policy options for protecting sites, sharing heritage, and cleaning up the antiquities trade, that she and her foundation could promote.

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