> ... on my children's first ever visit to the "British" museum, it was all
too obvious that most of the artefacts had been stolen from their original
Careful! "stolen" is a much abused word in this context. In criminal and
civil law, "stolen" refers to property that has been taken from an
individual or institution (including governments) without the knowledge and
consent of the owner.
Archaeologists such as Paul Barford tend to interpret "stolen" as also
meaning illegally excavated or illegally exported. That is not the case
under present law either in the UK or in the USA. Actually the term "stolen"
is used in that connotation in the 1995 Unidroit convention, however I am
not aware of any other example of its inclusion in cultural property law.
Neither the UK nor the USA, nor any other major collecting nation has
ratified the 1995 Unidroit Convention, so its provisions are not law for
most people including ourselves.
The artifacts you refer to were not "stolen."
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From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On Behalf Of Michael Haseler
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 1:05 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Archaeology's limits thread, etc
on my children's first ever visit to the "British" museum, it was all
too obvious that most of the artefacts had been stolen from their
original locations (many far closer). So it is very difficult to listen
to some archaeologists criticising others for what the archaeological
establishment has done wholesale.
Personally, as a user of archaeology rather than a finder, I am really
only interested in the information in the finds and the ease of access
to that information rather than the monetary value of the find.
Living in Scotland it is particularly ironic that I have more chance of
seeing a coin if it is held in a private collection (to be sold on ebay)
than if it is held by the "British" museum. And let me be quite honest,
there is no difference to me between an artefact in the British Museum
and one held by a private collector if that artefact cannot be seen by
me and has no publicly accessible information.
Dave Welsh wrote:
> 3) The original ownership of probably 98% of all ancient coins in
> dealer inventory and private collections has already been lost. Some
> of these coins have been in collections for more than five centuries.
> Whatever system eventually emerges will have to "grandfather" them.
> 4) In order to register an artifact, such as a coin, there must be a
> system of registry. There is presently no such system for coins.
Forgive my ignorance, I'd forgotten that most artefacts were stolen many
There is a very simple way to register all artefacts, and that is to
give those who register the artefact legal title to the objects in
return for the key information regarding the artefact .... up to a
particularly deadline date. After which, if an artefact is not
registered, then it will be considered to have been stolen ... whether
that artefact is in a British Museum or the coin collection of Shifty Joe.
If I ran such a system, I'd have an online registry which for a coin
would require not much more than a good back and front picture (with
size reference/ruler) and location and date of find and name/address of
Once the coin had been registered, it would be given a unique artefact
reference number. Once all the coins had been registered it would
provide a uniquely valuable resource second only to my proposed database
of NHS case notes**
**by which it would be possible to determine the statistical probability
of a particular outcome for an illness based on previous cases - vital
information the NHS already stores, but in a way that cannot be
retrieved and which clearly results in poor diagnosis and treatment
leading very often to death particularly in rare illnesses.