Looting Matters: Sales of Antiquities on a Downturn


While much of the debate regarding patrimony and heritage has been held on a theoretical level with archaeologists and anthropologists encouraging the nationalistic demands for the return of cultural property, this article suggests firm factual evidence that the academics’ prediction that the increased pressure for the return of looted objects would decrease the demand and thereby diminish the black market incentive to destroy archaeological sites.  Perhaps the museums fear of acquiring any ‘dirty’ antiquities with questionable backgrounds has in fact done what was hoped and killed the market my killing the demand.  This evidence would also suggest that public museums’ distancing from such objects also has affected private tastes.  Although this data is to be celebrated it brings into question a larger issue which James Cuno would raise regarding who is really winning in the long run.  With all ancient objects returned to their countries and no new antiquities leaving those countries who benefits?

“The timing of Dr. Hawass’s current offensive, as my colleague Michael Kimmelman reported, makes it look like retribution against the Westerners who helped prevent an Egyptian from becoming the leader of Unesco, the United Nation’s cultural agency. But ‘whatever the particular motivation, there is no doubt that the cultural-property laws have turned archeological discoveries into political weapons.” (‘A Case in Antiquities for ‘Finders Keepers’)


About projectpatrimonio

Helena Boyden Lamb, born 1985 in New York, has studied and worked in Politics, Heritage Ethics and Politics, and Opera Singing. Most recently, she is working in Brussels where she started in a European Think Tank and is now the Executive Office of a NGO which facilitates Youth Politics across the EU. She has a Bachelor with Honors from Stanford University, California in Classics: Politics and Heritage and a Masters with Honors from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK in European Identity. She has conducted academic or independent grant-funded research in the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, and Albania. She was, previously, an archaeologist and an opera singer. Cynthia Querio is a Museum Educator currently living and working in Los Angeles. She is interested in heritage and identity politics and the role of museum education departments in the trajectory of this debate. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a 9 month graduate internship at the Getty Villa's education department and has continued to work in many museums in Los Angeles including LACMA and the Autry National Center. Her academic background is in the Classics, which was her major at Stanford University and which she continued to pursue with a Masters in the History of Classical Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
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