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January 31, 2012

Stopping the illicit antiquities trade within Greece

Posted at 2:40 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

Times have changed a lot since the Seventh Earl of Elgin removed half the marble sculptures from the Parthenon, but looting of archaeological sites continues to be a problems for Greece, as it is in many other countries around the world. Looting is a problem that must be tackled in multiple ways, if it is to be prevented.

Protecting the sites of the looting is possible in some cases, but in somewhere such as Greece, there are vast tracts of land rich in buried relics, that have yet to be excavated. Underwater remains from shipwrecks & land areas that have become submerged presents an even trickier problem.

Blocking artefacts leaving the country is a second level of defence – but as with any type of defence against smuggling, where there are long land & sea borders, it is hard to guarantee that things do not slip through the net.

Many artefacts that are going to be traded on the international markets, tend to pass through other countries on the way to their eventual destination – the use of Geneva as a hub for trafficking in stolen artefacts is just one particularly notorious example.

Auction houses or private dealers represent the next step in the chain – the auction houses ought to be the easier of the two to stop, but recent cases show that they are often more concerned with making a sale than asking too many questions about the origins of what they are selling.

Finally, ultimate culpability rests with the buyers. If no one was willing to acquire unprovenanced artefacts, then the market would dry up – it is as simple as that. With no money in the system to drive the looting, those who are currently pilfering archaeological sites would find that there was no financial benefit in what they were doing. This is by far the most critical step & applies in equal measures to private collectors & museums. In the end, the individual that buys the artefact without asking an questions about where it came from is the only thing that creates a demand for looting around the world.

Kathimerini (English Edition)

Illicit antiquities trade continues to thrive in Greece
Short-staffed archaeological sites are easy targets
By Iota Sykka

The majority of visitors to state museums in Greece find the experience disappointing. There are various reasons for this, including closed halls due to staff shortages — a factor which also affects service — and impractical opening hours. However, what is a disappointing situation to many presents an ideal opportunity for a few.

The issue of museum security — particularly when it comes to safeguarding archaeological sites — is a constant headache for the Greek Ministry of Culture, which is struggling to cope with the limitations of being short-staffed.
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