Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Turkey Using Carrot and Stick in Archaeology

Turkey wages 'cultural war' in pursuit of its archaeological treasures | World news | guardian.co.uk:
According to cultural chiefs in Berlin, Paris and New York, Turkey has threatened to bar foreign archaeologists from excavation sites in the country by not renewing their digging permits if governments refuse to return artefacts that Ankara says were unlawfully removed from Turkish soil. It has also threatened to halt the lending of its treasures to foreign museums, they say.
Frankly I don't see what the issue is.

Turkey has been refusing to lend items for exhibitions at the Met, the V&A and the British Museum for a while because the museums have been refusing to deal with Turkey over looted antiquities. Someone at the Turkish Ministry of Culture asked my opinion about this policy when they were implementing it, and my opinion has not changed - I thought it was a brilliant move, and entirely within their rights. I explained and then suggested it to some Greek archaeologists this week. That's the stick.

We also discussed a carrot approach, ie lending works to those who willingly returned looted archaeological items.

Dallas is going to get increased loans from Turkey, because Dr Maxwell Anderson has led the way in resolving issues to do with unprovenanced antiquities; first he set up the AAMD Object Registry, a practical measure to list recently acquired objects so that people could spot dodgy ones, then he put his money where his mouth is and got in touch with the Turks to return the Orpheus Mosaic. Dr Anderson got in touch with the Turks before they got in touch with him, and resolved this smoothly and amicably. The Orpheus Mosaic had been up on the AAMD Object Registry, and on the Dallas Museum web site, showing this system works.

Although the guys behind Chasing Aphrodite, who will (might?) one day set up WikiLoot, put the image of the Orpheus Mosaic under March in their "Chasing Aphrodite 2012: The Year in Review" blog post with this misleading text:
Turkey’s claims: In March, we broke the news that Turkey was seeking the return of dozens of allegedly looted antiquities from American museums. ... Since then, the Dallas Museum of Art has already agreed to return a looted mosaic to Turkey ...
The text gives the impression that they had been involved in breaking the news of the mosaic and / or helping get it returned. Nope. The deal was done long before then. And no, they had not been aware of it. This first published account with a photograph was on the 23rd July 2012 on this Turkish site - http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/id/25368593/ - and the story was not picked up by bloggers or the English speaking press. In fact news really only broke right at the end of 2012 days before the press conference when the Turks collected the mosaic from Dallas museum. And no, they didn't get the photo earlier from the Turks, as they themselves had not been aware it was missing until the very day Dr Anderson got in touch with them about it in ... February. Whoops. Admittedly the journalists who write the Chasing Aphrodite blog don't specifically claim credit for it - they just use the photo in a very misleading way whilst reiterating their own praises ... and forgetting to praise Dr Maxwell Anderson, who is the man who deserves the credit for returning the mosaic to Turkey.

[I think as highly of the Chasing Aphrodite boys as I do of Mark Wilson Jones].

Turkey appreciates Dr Anderson's work, so whilst the Met and the BM got sticks (no loans), at Dallas he gets carrots (loans). Greece may well consider going down the same route.

Am I thrilled that Turkey flooded Zeugma and Allianoi? No, and neither are many Turkish archaeologists.

The Guardian report is confused - their sources seem to be angry Germans - as the no loans policy is already in place, and the no excavation permits policy is still being considered. If foreigners who excavate in Turkey as guests of the Turks fail to meet Turkish standards, why shouldn't they be told to stop digging?

Italy has already revoked all Danish archaeological permits because the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek continues to buy dodgy pieces on the art market, which the Italians believe were looted from Italy. Turkey has long refused to renew permits for those who dig but don't publish their finds promptly, a policy also implemented in Egypt by Zahi Hawass towards the end of his reign. German archaeologists who dug but failed to safeguard their finds in the local museum, and so were stolen, have already been prosecuted in Turkey. 

Stopping those who refused to work with Turkey over looting from digging in the country is the next logical step, and one I'm surprised they have taken so long to threaten let alone implement.

Yes, there are areas in Turkey, as in Greece and Italy and Lebanon, where one wishes one could preserve more of the archaeology - but there are also real live human beings trying to live in those same countries, and it is not practical to preserve everything that gets in the way of running a real country. No-one is seriously going to suggest destroying the Goldman Sachs building in New York because of the archaeology in the area, and it is Western arrogance telling the Greeks and the Turks what they can and cannot build.

So yes, poor Germany had to return a Sphinx to Turkey - a German archaeologist was allowed to borrow it for tests, didn't bother to return it, the Turks eventually got fed up and made threats - and the German archaeologists, rather more used to bossing others around, have now done a hatchet job on the Turks. I'm surprised The Guardian published it. This sort of an article is insulting.

What's next "Guardian Exclusive: Germans Prove Jews Gave Us Art them Gassed Themselves"?!?!?

1 comment:

kyri said...

i dont think this article is a hatchet job at all.their intransigent and bullying tactics are well known in the eastern med by their neighbours,now the western europeans are the target.
"ankara says that it only wants back what rightfully belongs to them"
in that case can i have my land back please,its about 160 acres in a small villiage [tymbou,now ercan] in northern cyprus,my father left it to me as his father left it to him and i would like to give it to my sons.
the hypocrisy of the turks never ceases to amaze me.

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