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June 25, 2014

Looting of Archeological Sites For Profit

Archeology and cultural heritage are the sources of pride and identity for every nation; at the same time it is also useful to gain information of the past that we have not seen. This importance of cultural heritage ignites the fire of conflict between archeologists and indigenous people which demand for the repatriation of materials of cultural heritage. The artifacts found on the archeological sites are helpful in multidisciplinary archeological projects. However, the looting of these artifacts is a serious concern. According to Interpol and Scotland Yard, the market [art stolen and looted antiquities] represents an annual turnover of several billion dollars and is the second largest source of organized crime after drug trafficking. Archeologists are supposed to sustain their rights and duties. This issue has raised the problem of ethics in archeological scientific research. The debate in past twenty years has brought forward the requirement that archeologist should revise their assumptions about the nature of research and obligations to erudition. The massive loss of cultural heritage has caused the government to enact laws and legislation that can prevent the dispute.
Arguments in favor of looting
Today, it is sometimes said that the movement of these objects has helped to strengthen the understanding of the cultural variety of the world and has helped to improve mutual respect and reducing chauvinism (Mac, 2004). That these arguments are valid or not, it remains that huge fortunes are made by depriving archaeologically rich regions of all that constituted their identity. In addition, in the construction or reconstruction of societies after wars and many other disasters in the twentieth century, the regions hardest hit have seen their most precious cultural heritage dispersed in private collections across the world and have been unable to make further efforts.
Transactions that are subject to heritage assets are a major threat to the integrity of collections and the principle that the archaeological heritage is in the public interest and not private. Trade in antiquities has a long and eventful history that went along with the development of archeology and antiquarian activity (Dynes & Quarantelli, 1970). There was a time when this was the norm rather than the exception to exploit the wealth for the benefit of private collections. Public institutions such as archaeological museums operated in the same way, by acquiring individual objects of dubious provenance. As a result, collections from the same site were dispersed among many different countries and information from the many pieces has disappeared.
At the national level, many countries have begun to protect their assets with archaeological legislation before the end of the colonial era. But on the international level, it was not until decolonization is well advanced for that action be taken to finally end the looting of archaeological sites, to restrict the trade in antiquities acquired through looting and initiatives hesitant to return countries of origin of certain objects from the most obvious theft and smuggling. Most of the objects concerned had initially originated in the regions colonized, occupied and underdeveloped, and addressed the people rich and prosperous regions occupying powers and colonizers.
Similarly, Taking advantage of the freedom of the high seas and the lack of legal protection of underwater cultural heritage, traders and auction houses have claimed that the looting of underwater sites was perfectly legal and moral.
Arguments against looting
Heritage should not be considered as an economic resource available, usable for trading or speculative purposes. After recovery, it should be treated that are preserved features - scientific and / or cultural - that give it its unique value to humanity. Heritage must remain in the public domain. All contents and elements hidden in an archaeological site is much more significant than those elements individually. Keep all objects, samples and information related to a site is essential and accidental spills should obviously be avoided.
 Commercial exploitation for trading or speculative purposes is incompatible with the protection and proper management of heritage. This does not mean heritage management and activities in the context of protection and good management cannot be subject to commercial principles. This does not mean that any transfer of property is unacceptable.
The artifacts acquired from an archeological site should be protected because all kinds of cultural and natural assets belongs to the historical, geological and cultural heritage of that particular area and reflects the social, cultural, technical and scientific level and characteristics of the era They belong to.
After considering the arguments of both sides it can easily be concluded that the looting of artifacts from an archeological site should be banned and prohibited because heritage cannot be commercially exploited for trading or speculative purposes and it should be kept as close as possible to the site where it was discovered.


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