The message below is reposted from the Yahoo Moneta-L list with the author's
permission. I'd be interested in what other archaeologists actually think
about these accusations and proposals.
The author (a dealer in ancient coins http://www.classicalcoins.com ) is not
a member of this list and you might like to forward a copy of any reply to
him as well as the list. He says "Nothing would please me more than an
incisive yet reasoned discussion of
1) Is archaeological scholarship "limited and utterly inadequate"?
2) Are archaeologists demanding "exclusive control" of artefacts?
3) Is most of "mankind's cultural heritage" locked away TO ROT in neglected
storerooms where it is of no practical value to anyone ?
4) Would selling off to collectors "millions of surplus antiquities in
public and institutional custody" be the answer to archaeology's problems?
Or is this argument just a smokescreen? And so on.
What do people think?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Welsh" <[log in to unmask]>
To: "'Paul Barford'" <[log in to unmask]>; <[log in to unmask]>
Cc: "CoinCom" <[log in to unmask]>; "[log in to unmask] com"
<[log in to unmask]>; "[log in to unmask] Com"
<[log in to unmask]>; "'Unidroit-L'"
<[log in to unmask]>; "'Ancientartifacts'"
<[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2008 9:18 AM
Subject: [Moneta-L] Archaeology's Limits [was Government intrusion and
Paul Barford's arguments regrettably ignore the key issue of the presently
limited and utterly inadequate output of archaeological scholarship.
While I have no intention of denigrating the impressive professional
achievements of individual archaeologists, there have never been enough of
them to do anything remotely resembling full justice to all that was created
by the past. That is an essential flaw in the demands for exclusive control
of artifacts presently made by anticollecting archaeologists: they are so
few in numbers that no matter how good they may be individually, as a group
they can't handle the task - nor do they seem to have any sort of practical
plan for effectively dealing with this problem. Barford's arguments instead
appear to be solely based upon unproven theoretical ideology, rather than
practical and constructive thinking about intelligently allocating and
sharing mankind's cultural heritage. Locking most of it away to rot in
neglected storerooms where it is of no practical value to anyone certainly
is not a viable or rational approach - but what else does Barford have to
If archaeologists took a rational approach, and recognized that gaining
effective influence over antiquities dispositions was worth making
reasonable concessions to practical realities, they would realize that the
millions of surplus antiquities in public and institutional custody could
pay for all the additional time and extra help required to assemble the
resources to really do it right. By agreeing to allow ethical private
collectors a fair chance to constructively share in the custody and study of
antiquities, they could get everything they really want (including
resources to bring looting under control) and also a host of enthusiastic
That however ultimately depends upon whether archaeologists are sensible
enough to place appropriate value on sharing resources with amateur
antiquarian studies. Thus far, their compulsive possessiveness for control
of source material suggests that we are still very far from the necessary
commitment to intelligent cooperation and sharing. Such self-interested and
often career-driven possessiveness actually seems far worse than the false
caricature of miserly collectors that anticollecting advocates tend to
portray to the public.
Perhaps if archaeologists, instead of complaining about and criticizing
collectors, would instead give them a chance to show what they could
contribute with the constructive leadership archaeology could provide,
Barford might have a different opinion about their potential contributions
to scholarship. In the acience of numismatics, nine tenths of the important
attribution references have been compiled by private collectors and coin
[log in to unmask]
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [log in to unmask] [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
> Of Paul Barford
> Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2008 10:36 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [Moneta-L] Re: Government intrusion and theft
> "ewcabcxyz" reckons:
>> Paul Barford seemed to take it for granted that
>> scholarship is the province of the professionals. <
> What actually, in what I actually WROTE, is the basis for this assertion?
> There is a lot of amateur scholarship in archaeology (as there is in many
> things, palaeontology, conchology, postal history and a whole load of
> "ologies"). What I think though is that such scholarship cannot be used as
> the excuse for willful destruction of potential evidence about the past or
> ignoring cultural property protection laws.
> Anyhow, there are (Wayne Sayles extimated) 50 000 collectors of ancient
> coins in the USA. If each of them buys just ten coins a year, over a
> that is 5 000 000 largely contextless ancient coins coming from
> and going into those collections in one country alone. Now how many
> monographs, how many scholarly (actually scholarly) articles specifically
> about ancient coins written by amateur collectors in peer reviewed
> journals has this resulted in over that same decade? It would be useful to
> 'the cause' if the ACCG (or some other body representing ancient coin
> collectors) could produce a bibliography to show the nature and extent of
> the advances that have been made by these collectors.
> Joseph on Whidbey Island Washington writes:
>> My view of the UN in general is not at all politically
>> correct. Case in point would be their collective view on
>> the private ownership of ancient coins <
> Could you reiterate where you found this? I can only find references to
> concerns over clandestinely excavated and illicitly exported ancient
> Is this what you are talking about? I don't think it is the "ownership"
> is the problem, but where they came from. These are two separate issues.
> Paul Barford