Monday, August 19, 2013

Neil Brodie Stirs the Pot

My friend Neil Brodie has responded to my previous post in a comment that, with his permission, I am pulling up here to give it equal visibility:

Knew you wouldn’t like it!!

I suppose I should clarify what I am and am not saying.

First, site protection in Iraq. I said “effort and resources”, and I believe that the effort of some very hard-working archaeologists, museum curators, police, military personnel and politicians, both Iraqi and Coalition, was not fully reflected in the realized material provision of site protection. Similarly, now, I see effort and resources being devoted – I might say diverted – to the question of site protection in Syria. I have long suspected, though nothing more, that UNSCR 1483 did more to protect sites in Iraq than anything on the ground. In other words, a demand-focused measure did more than site protection. The failure there is that UNSCR 1483 was targeted only at Iraq. I hear talk now about the desirability of a similar resolution aimed at Syria. I’m not sure how that would help the situation in Egypt, for example, and I’m not sure what learning I’ve missed in that regard. We need “trade regulation at the international level”. At a guess, there are millions of sites in the world, thousands of collectors and hundreds of dealers. At that very simple level, it seems to me to be a matter of practical common sense where regulatory effort should be expended.

Second, Saddam and Mubarek. I wouldn’t characterize site protection under Mubarek as a success, I would call it a failure. What protection is it offering to archaeological sites in Egypt now? None. Mubarek’s policy did nothing to protect sites in the next country along, nor did it do anything to protect sites in the next regime along. A demand-focused strategy might have achieved a more sustainable solution.

Third, I agree that the localized integration of sites into cultural and economic practices is something to be supported. No argument there.

Fourth, I agree that we need “linkage”, though to me it implies forefronting the trade, not the actual looting. It also highlights the need for more good quality research, a point on which I am pleased to see we both agree.

I believe the problems of looting caused by the antiquities trade are ultimately caused by those who do the buying in the so-called demand or destination countries, and it is there that the solution lies. Calls for site protection sound to me very much like the trade and its beneficiaries trying to shirk responsibility for the damage caused while at the same time relocating guilt and inhibiting the development of more effective demand-focused policies. They add insult to injury.

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