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August 9, 2010

The politics of where artefacts belong

Posted at 9:33 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Many who are against the restitution of various artefacts to their countries of origin, argue that the countries today are completely different ones (in many cases with different names) to those from which the artefacts originated. To argue this though it to lose track of the geographical connection itself – artefacts are a product of a time & place. Even if the times have changed, the place is still where it always was.

Egypt Today

May 2010
Whose Heritage?
Repatriating ancient treasures seems like a noble cause, but history might end up the loser
By Michael Kaput

Forget bailouts. Part of the possible solution to Greece’s economic woes is 2,500 years old and sits in the British Museum.

It makes sense to Daniel Korski, who wrote a March 4 article, “Why we should give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece,” in the British magazine The Spectator. Korski was referring to the sculptures and friezes originally mounted on the Parthenon, which were removed from Ottoman-administered Greece by Lord Thomas Elgin from 1801 to 1812. Currently in the British Museum, the marbles have been a long-standing slight to Greek national pride. Finally returning them, suggests Korski, could give Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou the political capital he needs to sustain unpopular economic reforms in his bankrupt country.

The suggestion is not as crazy as you might think. Antiquities are an effective weapon in any country’s political arsenal. But the furor generated over who owns which antiquities is swiftly superseding the appreciation of their cultural and historical value.
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