Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Repatriation in CS Monitor

An editorial in today's Christian Science Monitor discusses the 1970 UNESCO treaty and the rightful ownership of ancient artifacts. (Via Rogue Classicism, where the Rogue Classicist David Meadows expresses fear that trends towards repatriating antiquities and the smuggling crackdown leads to NOTHING being offered to museums and academics never seeing it.) He calls for a “portable antiquities scheme” — what we used to call “Treasure Trove”.

Even without a scheme a lot of coins get turned in. Turkish Daily News recently reported that museums house 1,658,275 coins.

Lack of portable antiquities does incent smugglers. But a lot of coins remain for academics. Richard Ashton has published 1,600 of these Turkish coins — 0.1%. (Studies in Ancient Coinage from Turkey) That leaves 99.9% unpublished.

Academics in the US won't see these coins, but Turkish ones will. I doubt either will publish. Only numismatists — mostly amateur — seem interested in the low-grade bronze. And low-grade bronze is the majority of ancient coins.

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