While archaeologists have sought to shed light on the relationship between the demands of indiscriminate trade activities and systematic looting through empirical studies and research, naysayers - with some exceptions - have a tendency to respond simply with vague ideological premises, deceptive factoids, or even derisive personal attacks.
I and others have made observations before on the role of disinformation and personal attacks coming from certain members of the trade lobby:
- e.g., N. Elkins, "Archaeologists Don't Care about Ancient Coins?" Cultural Heritage in Danger. 12 October 2007.
- e.g., N. Elkins, "Dilettanti and Shopmen: Divergent Interests in Looting and Cultural Heritage Issues." Numismatics and Archaeology. 7 May 2008.
- e.g., N. Elkins, "Archaeological 'Brown Shirts'." Numismatics and Archaeology. 10 November 2008.
- e.g., P. Barford, "An Example of US Numismophilic Erudition." Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues. 20 July 2008.
- e.g., D.W.J. Gill, "Respect for Colleagues." Looting Matters. 20 August 2008.
- e.g., D.W.J. Gill, "Cyprus Discussion: Etiquette?" Looting Matters. 21 August 2008.
In recent years many archaeologists, preservationists, and government officials have been personally targeted by certain leaders of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG), a lobby which opposes anything but a free-market in ancient coins and actively combats legislative measures designed to protect archaeological and cultural heritage when the unfettered trade in ancient coins might be hindered as a result of protective legislation. Among those that consistently have been the object of personal attacks launched by the ACCG's leaders is Maria Koroupas, the Executive Director of the U.S. State Department's Cultural Property Advisory Committee.
Maria Kouroupas has been vituperated by ACCG leaders a number of times since Cyprus' request for the inclusion of certain ancient coins of Cypriot type in the bilateral agreement on import restrictions was implemented in 2007, an event which angered ancient coin dealers in the U.S. Some of these dealers allege she worked in the shadows to undermine the "interests of collectors." Some of the most venomous attacks made against her include D. Welsh, "Stealth Unidroit: The State Department's War Against Collecting," Ancient Coins, 1 August 2007 and D. Welsh, "Maria's Fingerprints," Ancient Coins, 10 August 2007. In the latter Welsh quoted the late Steven Vincent, a journalist who was sympathetic to the American collector and dealer lobby, in calling Maria Kouroupas the "devil incarnate" to collectors and dealers. Dave Welsh is the chair of the ACCG's International Affairs Committee and an ancient coin dealer.
Today I read a post entitled "Leisure" on Wayne Sayles' blog. Sayles is the Executive Director and founder of the ACCG and also a long-time dealer in ancient coins. In the latest posting, "Leisure," Sayles directs vitriol again towards Maria Kouroupas:
"I just couldn't resist passing this one on. Condé Nast lists "Top Executive" profiles on their website Portfolio.com and among the elite profiled there one will find Maria Kouroupas, Executive Director, Cultural Property Advisory Committee,Apparently Sayles finds amusement or irony in the fact that a website aggregating information on various executives lists Kouroupas' industry as "leisure." Had he done some more research on the site he might have also found that Phillipe de Montebello, who many dealers and collectors would no doubt count as an "ally," is also classified under the industry label of "leisure."
. Condé Nast lists the Industry of Ms. Kouroupas as "Leisure". Washington, DC
Jane Waldbaum, the former president of the Archaeological Institute of America, is recorded as being in the "professional services" industry.
Eric McFadden of the North American ancient coin auction house, CNG, is listed as a retailer. Robert and Tory Freeman and David R. Sear of the auction house Freeman & Sear are also listed as working in "retail."
Portfolio.com's industry headings are certainly limited and inaccurate. It would appear anyone involved with cultural affairs is filed under "leisure" - I guess there is no "culture" industry. The label portfolio.com provides for the operators of CNG and Freeman & Sear would seem to imply their work relates to slapping stickers on cans of vegetables, but I am well aware their work goes well beyond that sort of activity. To say the least, the descriptions of "industries" covered by this online list are narrow and imprecise.
Mr. Sayles merely took the opportunity to launch another gratuitous and baseless insult. Is not such behavior rather childish and unbecoming of someone of certain age and alleged repute, and especially of one who is supposed to be the leading representative of ancient coin collector and dealer interests - the ACCG's Executive Director - an office which one might expect to necessitate a certain level of dignity and decorum?
Although I fully expect this critique to be countered with a further caustic personal attack on me, I ask once again: where is the erudition, intellectualism, and moderation in the discussion of these issues? Is the "other side" able to offer more than chicanery and insults? I know there are some out there who want to go beyond that, so why can we not discuss the issues in an adult manner?