Re: Archaeology's forgotten debt
Re: Archaeology's forgotten debt -- CoinCoin Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Karlis Post Reply
08/09/2017, 14:39:27

I and many archaeologists have nothing against people collecting beads nor do we want to take every ancient bead and lock it away in a museum vault where no one can see it. What we DO deplore is the plundering of irreplaceable archaeological sites to supply the collector market... not just beads but all classes of artifacts including seals, figurines, jewelry, glassware, ceramics, etc., etc. The turmoil in the Middle East has brought the destruction of archaeological sites and the looting of museum collections there to an all-time high, and many of these items have made it to Europe, the US, and elsewhere. In essence, if you buy looted objects, you are buying stolen property. I don’t think a collector would be very happy if someone broke into their home and ran off with several bags of rare beads. Yet that is exactly how archaeologists and persons interested in preserving their cultural heritage in Iraq, Egypt, India, Thailand, Peru, and even the US feel when their sites or museums are ravaged.

The damage is not a hole here or there but the equivalent of city blocks destroyed. I attach images of the damage done at Antinopolis, Egypt, by looters in search of small finds, such as coins and beads. The other image shows unsaleable ceramics tossed aside by the looters in their quest for valuable items. A Google search for “looting archaeological sites” will reveal thousands of items related to this topic.

How does one distinguish between looted beads and those acquired by legal means? That is just about impossible to do. So the best policy is not to buy ancient beads that are of dubious origin and only buy from reputable dealers.

Collectors have added much to our fund of bead knowledge, but most dealing with old beads have had to rely at least a little bit on information provided by the archaeological record. Without that information, there can only guesses and assumptions.

Looting_Antinopolis.jpg (228.0 KB)  Looting_Antinopolis_B.jpg (177.9 KB)  

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