RT 13 [⊝ not streamed] FINDING COMMON GROUND IN THE CULTURAL PROPERTY DEBATE
- Nathan Elkins (American Numismatic Society)
- Ute Wartenberg (American Numismatic Society)
Org. and moderator: Nathan Elkins and Ute Wartenberg
The collecting and study of ancient coins originally went hand in hand, much like the procurement and study other ancient objects in the Renaissance through the nineteenth century. The late nineteenth century saw the establishment of the first antiquities laws, which over the course of the next century increased with many nations beginning to protect their cultural property. Such laws target looting, unlicensed digging, and smuggling, but also limit importation of unprovenanced material into other countries. Despite many laws in place, coin collecting has become much more popular. With the advent of modern technology, such as metal detectors and drones, looting and illegal excavations in many countries continue.
Numismatists and collectors have joined the discourse on cultural property and the ethics of trading in ancient coins without collecting histories. An indication of growing interest in this topic is evidenced by the fact that, for the first time, the editors of the Survey of Numismatic Research, published in conjunction with this International Numismatic Congress, commissioned a chapter on “Provenance and Legal Issues.”
The debate among archaeologists, numismatists, collectors, and dealers is frequently emotional and polarizing; participants are often characterized as holding extreme positions on one side or the other, whatever the reality is. This roundtable seeks to recalibrate the “cultural property debate” as it relates to ancient coins, in attempt to identify common ground and establish practical approaches that preserve knowledge, deter looting, and protect the interests of collectors and research. A polarized debate will never lead to pragmatic and workable solutions.
Participants will speak about ethical guidelines established by the American Journal of Numismatics (Elkins), the scale of the trade in ancient coins (Wartenberg), legislative approaches to metal detecting (Wigg-Wolf), the role of publications in protecting coins from pillage (Markou), and a call for a new legal and ethical framework (Wisniewski). The organizers will then moderate a collegial discussion among attendees and participants.
Nathan T. Elkins