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Unburried treasure

geek
I don't think it's a coincidence that the antiquities curator at the Getty's trial starts for recieving stolen artifacts the same day that I start reading Elizabeth Peter's latest in the Amelia Peabody series.

Did ya'll know that I was an anthropology major for the first year of college because of this series (and Indiana Jones)? I badly, badly wanted to be the next Amelia Peabody. Or Vicky Bliss.

Now, I just want any of the Emerson men. I don't care which--Emerson, Ramses or Sethos--any one will do.

It's shameless how much I lust after fictional characters.

Ahem.

The Getty trial looks interesting. I know quite a number of art dealers and a few musuem curators. I imagine that they're all carefully watching this case as well, though most of them don't deal in excavated material.

Chain of custody in older art is somewhat difficult to establish, and with a lot of material coming from shady dealers and / or directly pilfered from excavations, I imagine it's very difficult to conclusively show that a particular piece was lawfully obtained. Most of what I know about the black market for antiquities comes from the Amelia Peabody novels, but MPM does hold a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago, so she does know what she's talking about. There was so much flooding the market back when the sites were unregulated in the late 19th century, that I'm sure it's almost impossible to tell where a particular artifact came from. That there will always be a market for black market antiquities doesn't help the matter much. Possession is nine tenths and all that. Looting during wartime, whether it be World War II in the '30s and '40s or in Baghdad in 2003, doesn't help matters much.

I remember once looking upon some gorgeous pre-Columbian gold figurines that a friend had in his collection. I didn't ask how he managed to purchase them and/or get them out of their home country, and at this point, I think it'd be nearly impossible to figure out which dig the pieces came from. Hell, they probably have changed hands a good dozen times before my friend got a hold of them. They probably should be in a museum, or at least properly documented for the record, instead of wherever my friend keeps them now. They probably actually belong to whatever country they were taken from originally, if anyone can figure that out. But I totally understand why he has them. They're beautiful.

The Amelia Peabody books talk about unscrupulous museum curators in the late 19th centruy who would acquire pieces by rather questionable means. There's still debate over the Elgin marbles. And Germany and Russia are still fighting over (Turkish and Greek) stuff that was looted out of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin during World War II.

This trial will be an interesting one, though I seriously doubt that it will settle these age-old conflicts regarding the proper ownership, though I'm thinking now that "possession" is a better word, of these old artifacts. These debates have been going on forever, and they will continue to go on as long as we value the things of the past.

Given the lust I feel for a variety of objects in musuems and other collections all over the world, I don't think that's happening any time soon.

And I think I may have to stop by the Menil Collection at some point in the next few days.

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Comments

( 7 comments — Say something )
mircalla35
Jul. 19th, 2005 11:03 pm (UTC)
Dude, Ramses Emerson. *swoon*
texaslawchick
Jul. 19th, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC)
This may possibly be my favorite comment of all time. :D
mircalla35
Jul. 19th, 2005 11:11 pm (UTC)
:)

I totally share your love for the Amelia Peabody books. I've read them all, several times. I've always wanted to go to Egypt, in large part because of those books, and, well, it'd be cool to be a modern-day Amelia. In my next life I completely plan on getting a degree in Egyptology. I should probably start saving for the tuition now. :)

And I love it when the Emersons get all riled up about unscrupulous persons stealing and selling illegally obtained artifacts. It's so sexy.
tourogal
Jul. 19th, 2005 11:42 pm (UTC)
i;m so glad i'm not the only one.
demrepic
Jul. 20th, 2005 03:29 am (UTC)
Right there with ya.
caellum
Jul. 20th, 2005 04:26 am (UTC)
I still have most of the collection from when I was in highschool. The Peabody's were definitely my favorite, followed by Vicky. Wasnt so much into the Jacqueline Kirby series.

-caellum

ps. Call me a girlie man for reading romance mysteries, I've been called worse.
texaslawchick
Jul. 20th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC)
I knew there was a reason I liked you....
( 7 comments — Say something )