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Middlesex School '03 '07 BA
During my four years at Brown, I have had the opportunity to attend a variety of archaeology classes, addressing issues of Asian, Roman, Greek, Underwater and Byzantine cultures. Currently I am in the middle of applying to law school, intending to study cultural properties law. Favorite activites include turning water into wine, humming in elevators and thinking about penguins.
My first micro-project explores the relationship between the viewer and the viewed, as explored in our early readings. As an archaeology student in Rome in the summer of 2004, I was in an unusual position: I was seeing a large number of sites that I had only previously known through the photographs of others, as well as in text. As a result, I could index information that others could not, but at the same time I was also seeing them for the first time. Thus, the format of the pictures involved is a study of contrasts; using excerpts from the journal I kept that summer, I contrasted the information that I knew about a site or object with the actual image itself, which sometimes added a useful insight into the nature or context of it, but at other times jarred with it. I hope that this exploration between archaeologist and field, as well as student and information, is explored in a way that is interesting to others as well.
With juliana, i was involved in the creation of a documentary exploring the role and nature of archaeology on the Brown campus. Our goal was to interpret the role of the institute at Brown, as well as archaeology in general, from a variety of views expressed through interview and camera footage. Beginning with the interior view; the undergraduate, graduate and faculty members of the institute, we asked them what they thought archaeology was and why it was important. The response to this question was never exactly the same, but the overwhelming sense to it was that archaeology plays an important role in understanding human culture, and that they consider this to be an important contribution to Brown. Additionally, the sense that archaeology is not a single study of art history or anthropology, but rather a synthesis of multiple studies, including modern culture and media, computing, and others, arose, which we had not previously anticipated. As a contrast to this, we interviewed undergraduates and members of the Brown community outside of the institute to get a sense of how the exterior view of the institute was. For the most part, the people we interviewed had little idea about what archaeology was, or how it was important to them, as the institute remained largely an enigma from the outside. Ultimately, we hope that the contrast between the way a field of study and building is viewed from the interior and exterior was explored thoroughly in our documentary.
With the rise of the internet as the primary media for new information in the world, the interest in the repatriation of cultural property has experienced a paralell growth in significance. Issues concerning the return of cultural property primarily revolve around the legality concerning the import and export of cultural items, especially art objects, masterworks and antiquities. The major cases of the last fifteen years, the Sevso Treasure, the Lydian Hoard, US v. Schultz, and the extremely high-profile case of the Euphronios Krater all have a major loophole present in their defense: plausible deniability. Because the laws governing the import/export of antiquities are somewhat arcane, and deal in both civil and federal laws, many dealers in cultural property can claim ignorance of the law in the country of origin of a piece while still pursuing due diligence on the history of the object by examining the paper trail left behind by the object in different collections. A good-faith purchaser may also experience similar difficulty in performing due diligence simply through a lack of proper information.
The goal of the Online Database is to help a purchaser of a piece of cultural property perform due diligence in relation to the laws governing both the current import and original export of a piece: If a piece taken from Guatemala illegally is then legally purchased in the U.S. through a gallery, is he or she liable for criminal damages if the government of Guatemala is notified? What qualifies as protected cultural property, and what does not? Are there cases out there that effectively outline the rules governing the import of a piece into the U.S. and the current attitudes of the courts in their sentencing?
By focusing on the import and export of items from Guatemala, the U.S. and Greece, I hope to establish a prototype of a system that could eventually become an encyclopoaedic database of Cultural Property Laws concerned with patrimony issues. I will address the relationship of cases in the U.S. that have established precedents for the disposal of art objects with questionable pasts, as well as an FAQ aimed at helping a purchaser identify any problems a piece of art may pose if it lacks proper provenance or history.
Greece -> U.S. (kylix krater, 3rd Cen. BCE, "said to have come from outside of Athens")
ON PURCHASING: Before acquiring a piece, try to contact the previous owner. Beware mysterious collections! Many collections that either come from an unnamed seller or from some "old collection overseas" have been the downfall of a purchaser. The lack of proper identification can serve as a front for illicitly obtained goods.
LAWS: If the piece left Greece after 1812, lacks customs declarations upon its entry into the U.S., it is certainly illegal.
All cultural property within the borders of Greece were vested in the state upon the declaration of its independence. This means that according to the bilateral trade agreements between the U.S. and Greece, you may be liable for legal action if a piece you acquire was removed from the country without proper documentation after 1812.
CASES: Mediterranean Art- See Euphronios Krater
My final project is going to be an online database of cultural properties laws, including civil and common laws of the United States, Guatemala and Greece. This database is going to be a prototype for an international database that will allow for the pursuit of due diligence for art collectors. Many objects that come into the United States are allowed through the bilateral trade agreements that the U.S. has with the source countries.
These trade agreements represent the governments’ views on the nature of what “cultural” property is. Antiquities represent around 3% of the cultural material that moves across borders, but it also plays a huge role in the sense of legitimacy that a country maintains. Governed, in the main, by the 1970 UNESCO convention on the trafficking of antiquities, the transport of illicit materials across U.S. borders has been deemed illegal. In order to best fight the trafficking, the U.S. government has employed the 1943 Stolen Properties Act, the 1983 Implementation Act and the now-famous NAGPRA legislation. The goal of these acts is to both recognize the rights of the source countries to their artifacts and improve relationships with them in the interest of bettering the knowledge of the history of the world.
The wiki will be the best platform for the database because of the nature of the information. In this time, we are seeing major cases influencing the return of antiquities and setting precedents for the future. It is because of the mutability of the site that will allow for the input of many others that I have chosen to apply this database to the wiki.
SAFE PODCAST: with Peter Watson, Co-Writer of "The Medici Conspiracy", a new book with insight into the famous Euphronios Krater Case in the Met Museum in New York
CULTURE GRRRL BLOG: started April 2005, this blog explores many current issues and cultural properties cases
IRAQ WAR AND ARCHAEOLOGY BLOG: on indefinite hiatus as of April 2006
CULTURAL POLICY CENTER LISTSERV: newsletter and online archives for listserv concerning cultural policy
The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society Blog: newsletter and online archives for listserv concerning cultural policy
I found this blog while I was doing my readings for May 4. It's a society of people gathered to promote what they consider to be his ideals, and to pursue the study of the boundaries between the plausible and implausible. http://firstname.lastname@example.org/blog/
Posted at Feb 12/2007 10:28PM:
jules: Aaron turns water into wine like no other.
Posted at Mar 28/2007 09:41AM:
chris witmore: Hi Aaron, have you written your summary for the first micro-project? How is the second one progressing?
Posted at May 16/2007 04:57PM:
chris witmore: Hi Aaron. Glad to see the comments on the micro-projects up. Great summaries. The key thing here is also to reflect on how these various media transform the way you engage with archaeological questions and materials. This is something to address directly in these commentaries and it requires only a couple of sentences.
Check for typos as there are a few (e.g. “paralell”).
The final project is well done. But what other examples of such sites are out there? Why is a wiki/web 2.0 format more suitable to your endeavor?