Artifact Retrieval

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Should artifacts be returned to their home countries?

Yes, under all circumstances.
2
13%
Yes, if the home country has the capability to house them in a safe manner.
9
60%
No, let them stay where they are.
1
7%
I have a different opinion.
3
20%
 
Total votes : 15

Artifact Retrieval

Postby cheetah » Tue Jul 11, 2006 11:51 am

I just wanted to comment on what Nicole Marie said about Greece and artifacts over the station break just now. I went to Greece for the second half of May with my professor for a seminar. It was absolutely amazing and I'd recommend it to anyone. (Just be careful of the smog in Athens, I had to see a doctor while I was there, it so adversely affected me).

As far as the artifacts go, it was very depressing to be at an on-site museum where the artifact was dug out of the ground and have the ID tag read "Copy, original in Berlin" or London, or the Louvre. The Athenians even built a museum on the Acropolis to house the artifacts and have set aside space for the Elgin marbles, currently in Britain. It is my understanding that the British agreed to give the marbles (which used to be on the Parthenon) back to Greece when they had a place to put them. Well they do now, and it bothers me that my friend who went to Britain got to see artifacts from the Parthenon, while I went to the actual place and got to see a stirpped site.

I don't mean to rant or offend anyone, but bring the art home! No matter where it came from, as long as it isn't a war zone where the artifacts are in immediate danger of being destroyed or stolen, let countries have their heritage back. I recently read about a British gentleman who sold some Revolutionary War flags back to an American because he felt they should go back to America, after his great, etc. uncle had captured them in the war.

I do understand that we should have a system that lets people on the other side of the world appreciate things from distant lands, but that's what tours and copies are for.

What does everybody think?
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Postby Nicole Marie » Tue Jul 11, 2006 12:17 pm

I agree! Many items were taken before many countries established rules and law on this. The 3000 year old mummy in "Name any place" probably was not given as a loan or gift from Egypt. Many cultures (just think about poor Iraq and the looting that has occurred) have been destroyed because home countries have had no say over their culture. At least give a country and museum the chance to work out an agreement and relationship. We'd hate it in the US if the Bill of Rights went to China! Another problem is the US just confiscated items from Iran that were in a US museum. What if a museum in Hong Kong took custody of a US artifact? I say return everything to the home country and develop relationships so this mess does not grow.
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Postby BigJon@Work » Tue Jul 11, 2006 12:22 pm

The paternalistic mode of operation was that the poor savages didn't have a clue at the treasure that was right under their feet, so we must take it home to study it and protect if from the ignorant and their abuses. I'd hope we are more enlightened now, but I still see a lot of paternalism in how we treat third-world countries.
Last edited by BigJon@Work on Tue Jul 11, 2006 1:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby cheetah » Tue Jul 11, 2006 12:46 pm

I'm glad to see some discussion on this! Iraq is why I'm concerned about a complete return of everything. I do feel that artifacts should be protected from wars. However the previous poster is right about how the idea of "The White Man's Burden" led to alot of artifacts being taken away. The Elgin marbles, I've been told, were sold to Lord Elgin by the Turks and his motivation was to protect them from the Turkish-Greek wars. All I know is that we can't have "World heritage" if we can't have national and local heritage first. Egypt and Greece and Italy, etc. are going to be much more prone to loaning things out or letting copies be made if they are given rights over the artifacts in the first place and respected as the source of those artifacts.
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Postby navneeth » Tue Jul 11, 2006 12:53 pm

We'd appreciate it if Lizzy would return the Kohinoor diamond. Recently, the the sword of Tipu had to be bought by an Indian bussiness tycoon from an auction in London.
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Postby cheetah » Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:26 pm

Please forgive my ignorance, what are those? The sword of Tipu and a diamond?
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Postby navneeth » Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:35 pm

cheetah wrote:Please forgive my ignorance, what are those? The sword of Tipu and a diamond?

Well, the sword is Tipu Sultan's sword. To know more about him, click the link and scroll up the page. I'm quite surprised that you haven't heard of the Kohinoor Diamond. Here's another link...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohinoor
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Postby Giant Communist Robot » Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:47 pm

In relation to the Elgin Marbles:
sold some Revolutionary War flags back to an American


Since Elgin had a firman from the ruling government and paid for them, shouldn't they be repurchased? What would they be worth? I'll be looking on ebay.

Its true the marbles have suffered some since the purchase, but its also likely we wouldn't even have them today if the British hadn't stuck them in a museum. They'd only be a vague memory, if that.
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Postby cheetah » Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:53 pm

To Navneeth, thanks for the information. To Giant, valid point, but wasn't the "ruling government" at the time controlled by Turks meaning that the Greeks themselves never authorizied the sale?
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Postby Giant Communist Robot » Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:56 pm

would return the Kohinoor diamond


I understood the Kohinoor was the 'eye' of the peacock on the Peacock Throne, which was looted by the crazed Iranian Nadir Shah. Why not ask for the return of the whole throne?


And so on
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Postby Giant Communist Robot » Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:01 pm

controlled by Turks


Yes it was the Turks. The Turks were the legitimate legal authority over the Ottoman Empire.


The evidence is that the Greeks had no concern for the Elgin Marbles until much later.
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Postby Giant Communist Robot » Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:13 pm

Coincidentally I had been reading recently about Melina Mercouri. She had alot to do with building the special facility to house the Elgin Marbles--repatriation was her cause.
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Postby cheetah » Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:15 pm

"The Greeks had no concern for the Elgin marbles." I find that hard to believe, but I'm willing to listen. Where did you hear about that? I'm perfectly willling to admit I don't know that much about more modern Greek history. The reason the sale of the marbles by the Turks rubs so many people the wrong way is because they were conquerors, like if France conquered Britain and sold off pieces of the British Crown jewels.

And Giant, what you said about getting the "entire throne" back. I assume you meant by the "and so on" that it would never end with nations trying to get back this that and the other. I agree, that is a definite problem, defining what is reasonable.
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Postby Giant Communist Robot » Tue Jul 11, 2006 4:24 pm

Here's what I said:
The evidence is that the Greeks had no concern for the Elgin Marbles until much later


By evidence of concern I mean 'an attempt to preserve', or restore, or protect from the elements. If we can believe Elgin, he claimed he was shocked at their state and his motive was to protect them from further harm. If we can't believe him, then at least the result was a well-meaning stewardship that surely rescued them from oblivion. When did the Greeks start asking for them?
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Postby cheetah » Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:37 pm

I definitely understand your point, if they weren't being preserved then I can understand Elgin's motives. I've never questioned his intentions. But wouldn't it be difficult for the Greeks to do anything, especially preserve their national heritage, if they were being ruled by a foreign power (the Turks)?

I'm not sure when they started asking, but I'd assume at least for the last few years because the museums built to house them had been open about a year when I was there in May (2006) and we know how long it takes to build anything or even get the ideas past committee.
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Postby shostakovich » Wed Jul 12, 2006 4:13 pm

I voted B above thinking only in terms of illegally obtained goods.

Our art museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum, had a large Italian painting of Bathsheba in Her Bath (by Zucchi, I think). It was purchased in good faith. The Italian government claimed it had been looted by the Nazis. After some checking, it turned out their claim was valid. It was returned in exchange for a temporary loan of several Caravaggios for an exhibition. The situation was win-win. Good will on both sides.

Yale University has (in its Peabody Museum, I believe) some Peruvian artifacts that Peru claims were stolen. Nothing has yet been resolved. If they were stolen, this is the kind of merchandise that should be returned. If not, then no return. I think the more artifacts shared around the world, the better. Many more of us could travel to New Haven than to Lima --- no passport needed. Besides, I'm only an hour away from NH. :wink:

Museums are great places to tour the world and time-travel. More people should take advantage. That goes for libraries, too. The internet still can't match the visual impact in a museum or the feel of a book.
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Postby barfle » Thu Jul 13, 2006 7:45 am

I think the real question here is one of "ownership." This can be a tough one to figure out. Is there a difference between something that was purchased with funds and something that was won in battle? If so, then does the lot my house stands on "belong" to the descendents of the natives it was taken from?
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Postby Giant Communist Robot » Thu Jul 13, 2006 9:15 am

I think the real question here is one of "ownership"


Of course the land under your house belongs to you. Is there any doubt? And this Elgin Marbles transaction, as unsavory as it seems by modern standards, met criteria to be legitmate in its own day--which actually preceeded the founding of the nation of Greece.

Here's the progression: Ancient Greece--Byzantine Empire--Ottoman Empire--Greece( in 1821). I don't want to invoke any analogies here, but surely everyone can see a problem with a nation disputing a transaction taking place before it existed.

And the Greek people themselves had the opportunity to counter-bribe the Turks, who were eagerly receptive to such practices. They could have ended it right there. I don't think Elgin imported workers from Great Britain saw off, crate up, and pack out those marbles. As a whole, the only Greek people who cared about this at the time were those who got paid to help remove them.
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Postby Marye » Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:19 am

shostakovich wrote: Many more of us could travel to New Haven than to Lima --- no passport needed.


I need a passport to travel to the U.S.
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Postby Shapley » Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:42 am

How do we determine the legitimacy of the government's claim to said artifacts? Does the mere fact that you are the lawful possesser the real estate on which a certain historical site resides give you claim to its relics? The French were the lawful goverment over French Indochina, having displaced the Chinese, until they were removed by the Japanese, who declared the area independent when it was obvious that they were also to be displaced. Did the lawful occupiers of the land have lawful claim to the relics discovered during their occupation? Is it lawful for the occupiers of a certain piece of real estate to dispose of relics in their possission in a manner they see fit? Are the current residents truly descendants of the cultures that built the sites? Are the relics found at a given site truly indigenous to that site, or are they plunder brought to that site by earlier occupants?

If I find an ancient tomb on my property, from a previously unknown culture, who has lawful claim to it? Me? The County I reside in? The State of Illinois? The Federal Government? Or some previously unknown group that claims descendancy from the recently discovered culture? If I establish ownership, am I not authorized to sell any artifacts thus found to the highest bidder? Does the lawful purchaser, if subsequent discoveries identify a bloodline to the ancient culture, incur an obligation to restore the relics? I think not. It creates an ex post facto law, which is unconstitutional in America, and should be elsewhere.

If the relics are obtained through theft, then the obligation to return them exists. If, however, they obtained lawfully under the rules and with the knowledge that exists at the time, then no ex post facto discovery nor subsequent establishment of law can undo that.

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