Archaeological Looting And Legislation Presentation

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This is a presentation on the importance of archaeology to those who study ancient civilizations. The focus here, though, is on the looting of archaeological sites and its impact on scholars' ability to study ancient cultures.

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  • Nice presentation
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  • This was actually a presentation that I did as part of a scholarship requirement during my senior year of undergraduate study. I think the content is appropriate for high school students during the junior and senior years, but I would probably change my actual speech to better fit their background knowledge. For younger students I would have to create a new presentation with less information and more general overviews.

    -Kyle
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  • Nice pictures and information. Looting is so destructive. I'm sure the guy who sold the turtle shell for $10 had no idea what is was really worth. Never thought much about a code of ethics for museums, but it makes sense.
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  • I never thought about looters with artifacts like these. I wonder how many 'true' dates/stories etc we read about are actually falsified because of all of this.
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  • Good info. I've studied this quite a bit in art school. It's amazing how much work in respected museums has been obtained through shady means.
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Archaeological Looting And Legislation Presentation

  1. 1. ARCHAEOLOGY: ETHICS AND LEGALITIES A presentation on the looting, illicit trade, and destruction of artifacts. Kyle Lovett 23 February 2009
  2. 2. Why is archaeology important? <ul><li>It’s how we learn about peoples of the past. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s the main way to do so other than reading their literature or other written records. </li></ul><ul><li>Indeed, without it our knowledge of past civilizations, especially the ancients, would be vastly diminished and fragmented. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Material Culture <ul><li>Tools </li></ul><ul><li>Pottery </li></ul><ul><li>Buildings and monuments </li></ul><ul><li>Eating utensils </li></ul><ul><li>Weapons </li></ul><ul><li>Jewelry </li></ul><ul><li>Clothes </li></ul><ul><li>Ritual and cult implements </li></ul><ul><li>Toys </li></ul><ul><li>Art </li></ul><ul><li>Books </li></ul><ul><li>Fossils </li></ul><ul><li>Music </li></ul><ul><li>Food </li></ul><ul><li>Water </li></ul>
  4. 4. Looting <ul><li>Unfortunately, well-intending archaeologists and students are not the only ones interested in artifacts. </li></ul><ul><li>Since these artifacts are often very high in monetary value, thieves often steal them from sites and sell them at a very high profit margin. </li></ul><ul><li>This occurs even when the artifacts are sold well below their estimated values. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Who is looting? <ul><li>Individuals or groups looking to make large profits in little time. </li></ul><ul><li>Especially common in poor third-world countries where temptation to escape poverty forces one to trade in his history for money. </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly done by organized crime units, even some linked to terrorist organizations, with wide connections and ample resources. </li></ul><ul><li>Unfortunately, looting is also done by individual archaeologists and also by tourists who do not realize its negative effects. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Source: http://www.savingantiquities.org/images/big/Isin.waving-looters.jpg
  7. 7. Source: http://www.savingantiquities.org/images/big/Zabalam.jpg
  8. 8. What happens to the loot? <ul><li>Bought by antiquities dealers who, in-turn, resell the artifacts to museums and schools. Even bought directly by museums. </li></ul><ul><li>Sold to private collectors. </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation of the artifacts’ origins are falsified many times as artifacts go through several middlemen across multiple political borders. </li></ul><ul><li>Today it is even easier to sell loot because of internet auction sites, which are nearly impossible to govern. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Example <ul><li>‘ According to Stealing History: The Illicit Trade in Cultural Material, “a fossil turtle bought from its finder in Brazil for $10 fetched $16,000 in Europe.…Once commodified on the Western market, objects continue to circulate for years, perhaps centuries, generating money in transaction after transaction. None of this money goes to the original finders or owners or their descendants.…if culture is regarded as an economic resource, then selling it abroad is a poor strategy of exploitation. Cultural heritage is, after all, a non-renewable resource.” ’ – Savingantiquities.org </li></ul>
  10. 10. Why is looting a bad thing? <ul><li>Artifacts usually end up at schools or museums or in the hands of private collectors anyway, where they are often valued, stored, and protected, so what’s wrong with someone else removing it and selling it for the cost of their labor? </li></ul><ul><li>The artifacts can be studied better in a museum than in the ground, right? </li></ul><ul><li>Some have even created businesses around looting, hoping to legitimize it. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Context and Ethics <ul><li>An artifact standing alone provides no information for how, when, where, why, how often, or by whom it was used. </li></ul><ul><li>The archaeologist knows to study an object within its context to deduce as much information as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>Looting and improper excavation remove artifacts from their contexts. </li></ul><ul><li>Looting is wrong because it profits from what is owned by all mankind if one considers history to be owned by humanity itself as a whole. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Other impacts of looting <ul><li>Some point to the economic benefit of looting, however any benefit is only of rapid gain and is vastly outdone by the economic benefits that would accompany a true archaeological excavation </li></ul><ul><li>Theft of a people’s history </li></ul><ul><li>Violation of that which is sacred according to religious beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>Possible international disputes and conflicts </li></ul><ul><li>Possible funding of terrorist activity </li></ul>
  13. 13. What is being done to stop looting? <ul><li>UNESCO 1970: States are forbidden to illegally import “cultural property.” States can request assistance if they are at risk of being looted. States and dealers must keep thorough records of artifacts. </li></ul><ul><li>United States signs in 1983. Great Britain, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland have all joined since 2000. </li></ul><ul><li>Antiquities Act of 1906: Illegal to excavate, collect from, or damage any site on federal land without a permit. </li></ul><ul><li>Archaeological Resources Protection Act (1979) </li></ul><ul><li>Organizations try to promote awareness. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Museum Code of Ethics <ul><li>Recently, illegal museum acquisitions were brought to light in the case of Marion True, former curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum, charged with conspiracy to smuggle. </li></ul><ul><li>Also, major newspapers have exposed illegal and unethical practices of museums such as New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Princeton University Art Museum. </li></ul><ul><li>As a result many museums have a code of ethics or follow the international code set forth by the International Council of Museums. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Archaeologists’ responsibilities <ul><li>Recently the Society for American Archaeology appointed an ad-hoc committee for ethics to draft the Principles of Archaeological Ethics. </li></ul><ul><li>Principles: stewardship, accountability, commercialization, public education/outreach, intellectual property, public reporting, records/preservation, training/resources. </li></ul>

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