Monday, January 12, 2009

The 110th AIA/APA Joint Annual Meeting Concludes: A Personal Reflection

Yesterday afternoon I returned from 2009 Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Philadelphia. Although a bit chaotic, the meeting was very productive. The chaotic bit refers to the fact that the AIA extended its academic program to three paper sessions per day rather than the normal two, and so there were many more sessions and lectures to choose from. The down side of this was that the sessions were scheduled tightly together with no great length of time between sessions and events. This also meant that lunch time committee meetings were not possible and thus committees were scheduled for early morning and evenings. Although the daily program was densely packed, the natural plus side was a greater variety of papers and speakers to hear from. Since this is the first time the AIA has experimented with extending its daily program, I expect there will be some fine tuning in future meetings.

My own experience at the AIA meeting bears no particular significance, but I will summarize it anyway for any readers who have never attended these meetings or who are unfamiliar with the myriad activities at the Annual Meeting.

Thursday, January 9, 2009.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and checked into the conference hotel. As is typical at these incredibly large conferences (last year's meeting in Chicago saw over 3,000 participants including 1,100 active AIA members), I began recognizing colleagues from around the globe immediately. As I passed the bar on the way to the room with my garment case I saw several fellow doctoral candidates and M.A. students from the University of Missouri. It was good to see them since I have been away for the University for some time on account of my work in Frankfurt and I was pleasantly surprised to see others who had not initially planned on attending since they had also been conducting research abroad.

After settling in, I went upstairs to register and receive my name badge, AIA program, and AIA abstract book. Just behind registration was the exhibit hall, hosting dozens upon dozens of important academic presses, organizations, and other groups. Over the past several years that I have been going to these meetings, there has always been a good crowd around the Journal of Roman Archaeology's small booth and so I had never really stopped before. Additionally, I have subscribed to the journal since 2002 or 2003 and keep a close eye on their monograph series and so I keep up with what they produce. This year, however, there was no one standing at the booth (perhaps it was still early enough and a number of conference attendees had not yet arrived), located next to the exhibit hall's entrance and so I stopped. Dr. Laura Humphrey was operating the booth while Dr. John Humphrey was engaged in conversation nearby. It was a pleasure to meet and talk for a moment with Laura Humphrey, who recognized my name having sent my JRAs to the University of Missouri while I pay from Germany (I try to cut down on the weight I have to transport back and forth over the Atlantic). I expect that my JRA 2008 is in the department in Missouri somewhere and so I got to page through a copy of the one at the booth. It will probably be some time before Frankfurt University's JRA 2008 is accessioned and put on the shelf in the library.

I then proceeded towards the back of the exhibit hall while noting the location various academic presses that were exhibiting recent archaeological and historical monographs. I came to the booth by Strati-Concept and saw many of the field tools they had available. Field archaeologists go crazy seeing high quality forged trowels and spatulae, dental probes, and brushes; these are the tools of the trade. Of course, I already have some good basic tools for my own fieldwork (trowel, measuring sticks, brushes, etc.), but I was really drawn to their toolsets which include precision instruments such as small spatulae, dental instruments, and fine brushes, particularly their "Premium Vintage" precision archaeological toolset. At the past couple of sites I have worked, such precision instruments were not available or were in high demand, meaning that when they were needed we often had to improvise with things like wooden skewers. It would be useful to pick up a set like this for future work. However, I just recently finished working with the excavations at Yotvata as the staff numismatist and we are now preparing for the final publication and so I am not affiliated with another excavation at present. It would probably be wise to get the publications for Yotvata out of the way first and to finish off the Ph.D. before joining another excavation campaign. As the staff numismatist, I spent much/most of my time identifying the coins at the site 'laboratory,' but I did spend a good amount of time excavating in the field - some seasons I processed the coin finds too quickly! In 2005 when a hoard of Late Roman bronze coins was found in a stratified context I was on site and was able assist in the removal of the coins from the earth. Fortunately, we were able to wrangle dental tools away from another excavator for this. One of these sets would be useful for my future fieldwork, and hopefully future excavation of coin hoards, but in the end it was not sensible to buy one of these high quality sets right now.

I then walked along the back wall and came to the SAFE booth. I saw several familiar faces including that of Cindy Ho, Paul Kunkel, and Sarah Pickman. It had been a year since I had seen them, the last AIA meeting in Chicago, and it was good to catch up. Prof. Renfrew (link to Wikipedia article - caveat emptor) was also at the booth at this time and it was good to meet him and to speak to him for a few minutes. I had seen him before and heard his inspiring talk "The Dimensions of Prehistory," which he delivered at the Natural History Museum in Frankfurt on February 20, 2008. Many individuals focus on his work relevant to the antiquities trade, but aside from that Prof. Renfrew is a great theoretician and is a visionary in regard to archaeological method and theory and the role archaeology plays in society and understanding the past. His lecture in Frankfurt focused on prehistory, but certainly his observations had implications for the entire discipline.

After speaking with everyone at the SAFE booth, I went back down to the bar (always a hot spot at the meetings!) and joined my colleagues from the University of Missouri. My colleague from Frankfurt and the co-organizer of the colloquium to be held on Saturday, Stefan Krmnicek, was in Philadelphia staying with friends and so I called him to let him know where I was at so we could meet up. While I was there with my cohorts from Missouri, Fleur Kemmers from the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (our colloquium discussant) saw me and came over and shortly thereafter some of the other panelists followed: Nanouschka Myrberg (Stockholm), Ragnar Hedlund (Uppsala), and Georges Depeyrot (Paris). Georges, Fleur, Nanouschka, and Ragnar had already been in Philadelphia for a couple of days to see the sights and it seemed that they had an excellent and enjoyable time. I had learned from Nanouschka and Ragnar that it was their first time to visit the United States and so it was interesting to hear about their experiences and how certain things correlated with particular presuppositions they had about the United States from television and movies. It was interesting that Nanouschka commented on how the telephone and sirens sounded just like they did in movies and shows she had seen; I remember thinking the exact same thing when I traveled to Europe for the first time. I was pleased to hear that they found people in the United States, at least thus far, incredibly friendly. Of course they were astonished, but maybe a little intrigued, by some of our excesses such as 24-hour fast food restaurants, free refills, and the very large portions served at restaurants! Stefan soon joined us and we began making plans to take trollies over to the Opening Night Reception at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

While boarding the trollies I spotted Philip Kiernan, a numismatist whom I had met (and later drank with) at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC) in Amsterdam in April 2008. At the time he was working in Heidelberg, Germany. Once we arrived at the museum, I was amazed by the extensive collection that the University of Pennsylvania had. The reception was held in the galleries and so it was nice for conference participants to have this opportunity to view the collection in such a relaxed atmosphere, though it was somewhat crowded. Although we all entered as a group with Philip, we soon broke apart to mingle as we began recognizing and seeing other colleagues. We had one ticket for any free drink, after that we had to pay. In the true spirit of the occasion, one of Stefan's colleagues, whom he had met while studying in Cambridge, recommended we use the ticket for a cocktail since that would be the most expensive drink. Sensible enough, though I must say it was a much stronger drink than I would have expected from a catered reception. The buffet was excellent as well: there was a bit of a middle eastern flair with hummus and falafel in addition to an impressive array of fresh vegetables and fruit. At the reception I also had the opportunity to talk to Sebastian Heath (American Numismatic Society, New York) and introduce him some of my European colleagues who had come over for the meeting. I first came to know Sebastian when I was at the ANS seminar in 2004. I had seen Sebastian busily darting about the conference hotel in the hours before the reception - as an Academic Trustee and also the new Vice President of Professional Responsibilities for the AIA, he stayed very busy at the meeting.

It was not too late after the reception, but I was exhausted and had go over an agenda for a 7:00 AM committee meeting the next day, and many of my European colleagues were still suffering from jetlag, and so we decided to call it a night.

Friday, January 10, 2009

Originally, I had booked a hotel room for myself. In previous years I had done the typical 'graduate student thing' whereby we share and split room costs four or five ways. This is very useful since we graduate students do not have any real money, just lots of debt and sometimes some credit. I decided to book my own room this time since I am usually rather busy (at least presenting a paper) and have found sharing a room often chaotic as night time festivities go into the wee hours of the night. I do not think I am prudish, I just cannot function on less than seven hours of sleep, let alone just three or four. However, my financial situation always seems to deteriorate towards the end of the fall semester and towards the end of the spring semester as student loan money runs out and so I opened up my reservation to two fellow graduate students from the University of Missouri, Tristan Barnes and Doug Underwood. We had a good time rooming together during the conference and did not really disturb each other coming and going, but I do hope that my alarm going off at 5:30 AM on Friday for the committee meeting did not jar them too much!

At 7:00 AM I had the AIA's Cultural Heritage Policy Committee meeting. Afterwards I made my way to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. I was happy to have had a brief moment to speak to Brian Rose again, who is naturally incredibly busy at these meetings as the AIA President.

Where I come from (West Texas), $10 to $20 is a lot of money for breakfast, but I had a full agenda for the day and did not want to brave the cold to find a local place. My cafe latté at the Marriot hotel restaurant cost about $5. They had an impressive breakfast buffet, but the price was around $20 and so I opted out. I saw eggs Benedict on the menu, a dish I first had in Columbia, Missouri at a restaurant that offered high quality and natural fresh foods (free trade and the like), and so I tried it. It was excellent, worth $12.50 for a little indulgence I must say.

Over breakfast, I read through my presentation which I was going to be giving for SAFE and made sure I had it all worked out. After breakfast I went to the exhibit hall and began going more systematically through the academic presses taking note of books I might wish to buy or see if we have them at the library in Frankfurt.

Shortly before 10:00 AM I ventured over to the SAFE booth to make sure everything was in order for my presentation. I gave a lecture entitled "The Ancient Coin Trade in the USA: Scale and Structure." That talk was based on a series of lectures I have been giving in Frankfurt and throughout Germany in the past year. As Paul Barford has already noted, the Hellenic Society for Law and Archaeology has put an English version of my German lectures online in addition to my peer-reviewed article in Frankfurter elektronische Rundschau zur Altertumskunde on "A Survey of the Material and Intellectual Consequences of Trading in Undocumented Ancient Coins: A Case Study on the North American Trade;" the latter is meant to serve as an introduction to the issues and as a starting point for future and forthcoming research on the coin trade while the lecture focused on how big the trade is and how it is supplied. The version of the text that is now on the Hellenic Society for Law and Archaeology's website is nearly identical to the presentation I made on Friday with only some minor changes, but that text is not accompanied by images. In the coming weeks my lecture will be put on SAFE's website along with the PowerPoint presentation.

In the small crowd around the booth, I saw Richard Buxton, another one of our panel participants, who was unable to meet with the rest of us the night before, and I met him immediately after the presentation and spoke with others who were interested in the issues and problems raised in the talk. One attendee explained to me a view of the trade from Canada and how she believes some masses of material are being imported directly into Canada and then spirited across the border into the United States, something worth looking into more. Accordingly, from her explanation it seems there may be more loopholes in Canadian law with regard to the protection of cultural heritage and archaeological goods than in the United States. After the presentation, I had arranged some meetings with colleagues that occupied me until the early afternoon.

I was able to catch the end of Blythe Bowman's organized session on "Crimes Against Culture: Perspectives on Archaeological Site Looting and Illicit Antiquities Trade." The room was packed - I had to stand in the back. I recognized a number of important personalities in the field in the front rows and also saw a few of our panel participants attending the session. At the end of the session, Larry Rothfield and I glimpsed one another and exchanged greetings as he was on his way to another event or session. I went back to the exhibit hall to snoop around some more at the book stalls and then headed over to the SAFE booth to say hello to Blythe, who had just finished her session, and Jessica Dietzler whom I had seen with her.

Robert Wittman, recently retired from the FBI, then gave an illuminating presentation at the SAFE booth about some FBI operations and the law with regard to illicit antiquities. I spoke with him some afterward and there were some other students who spoke with him, interested in joining the FBI with the hopes of moving into the unit that works on art crimes. Apparently, the FBI is hiring some 850 agents and even more support staff this year.

I then went to Elizabeth Gilgan's organized session on "Selling Our Past to the Highest Bidder: A Global Snapshot of Antiquities in the Art Market" and saw the final four presentations. I particularly enjoyed Morag Kersel's "Destroying the Holy Land: Archaeological Site Destruction and the Lure of the Relic." Her presentation examined the "licit trade" in antiquities in Israel and its relationship to the illicit excavation of antiquities. Anyone interested in this will find a description of the current situation in her essay "From the Ground to the Buyer: A Market Analysis of the Trade in Antiquities," in N. Brodie, M.M. Kersel, C. Luke, and K.W. Tubb (eds.) Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade. (Gainesville 2006), 188-205. Essentially, only licensed dealers may sell antiquities in Israel and they may only sell antiquities that have been registered prior to 1978. Dealers provide buyers with a certificate of authenticity, but they are only obliged to offer an export permit if the buyer asks for it. If the buyer does so, a form with the registration number is faxed to the Israel Antiquities Authority who checks the registry number and then issues and export license. These registry numbers are therefore only used when an export license is issued and since buyers most often do not know they ought to ask for an export license, dealers regularly recycle registry numbers for similar objects since they are not routinely checked or policed. For example, a dealer might sell hundreds of Roman oil lamps using the same registry number over and over again until a buyer asks for an export license and that particular number cannot be used again. Antiquities are essentially laundered and given false provenances in Israel's "licit market." Morag documented this activity through observations and interviews in antiquities shops in Jerusalem. One of her case studies included following the activities of one shoe shiner who imports coins smuggled from the Palestinian territories and Jordan who sells these recently looted coins to tourists on the streets and who also supplies local dealers with higher quality coins. Morag's observations are a strong counterargument to those who tout the Israeli situation as a model.

At 5:00 PM my colleagues from the panel and I went to the Friends of Numismatics reception at the adjacent hotel and were reacquainted with the North American group of numismatists who frequent the AIA/APA meetings. Afterwards we met up with a group of Australian numismatists and archaeologists and all went to an excellent dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. After that many of us went to the hotel bar for a cocktail or two before bed. While leaving the table to search after a waitress, I ran into Cindy and Paul from SAFE and Donny George, the former director of the Iraq Museum. I first met Donny at the last AIA meeting when SAFE honored him and Neil Brodie with the 2008 SAFE Beacon Award and I was surprised he remembered me. I joined them for 10 or 15 minutes and then introduced them to the remaining panel participants at our table. It was very exciting to discuss the coin trade with Donny and to hear about his perspectives and experiences with coins in Iraq. He had some interesting stories about looting in Iraq as well as remarkable Islamic coin finds there.

Saturday, January 11, 2009

Famished I again ventured down to the overpriced hotel restaurant considering whether or not I would have the eggs Benedict again. Good food is something I sometimes enjoy too well. The waitress came over and immediately recommended the eggs Benedict. I told her I had it the morning before and really enjoyed it and was thinking about having it again, but then she pointed out to me that they had a crab cakes Benedict which substituted the English muffin component for crab cakes. It sounded good and was very good, but I think I prefer the traditional eggs Benedict. Over breakfast I went through my introductory comments for our session which would be that afternoon.

After that I went to the SAFE booth for Neil Brodie's talk on the market in Iraqi antiquities which he surveyed over the past 20 years. He focused on the internet trade in recently looted/surfaced Iraqi antiquities. It never ceases to amaze me how brazen certain antiquities dealers can be and how destructive their indiscriminate activities are. He showed a number of inscribed cuneiform bricks from a temple that had clearly been cut down by looters and exhibited marks from circular saw blades. Clearly they are easier to smuggle and easier to display when they are smaller.

Late that morning I went to the session on "Patrons and Building in the Roman Empire" (aside from numismatics, Roman topography and architecture as well imperial building programs are studies which interest me). I was especially interested in hearing Elisha Dumser's paper on "Diocletian and Maximian's Architectural Patronage in Rome." I first met Elisha when I was at the British School in Rome in the summer of 2003. She and her dissertation supervisor, Lothar Haselberger, came to Rome that summer for the book presentation for Mapping Augustan Rome which they gave at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Rome. Since then we have usually talked at AIA meetings and I have regularly attended her presentations. Her research has often centered around Maxentius' building program, which was the topic of her dissertation. Our scholarly convergence comes through our mutual interest in architectural coin types. My dissertation is on the semantic value and meaning of architectural coin types in the Roman world and she has focused her numismatic inquiries on Late Roman architectural coin types. One very good article of hers that I admire is E.A. Dumser, "The AETERNAE MEMORIAE coinage of Maxentius: an issue of symbolic intent," in L. Haselberger and J. Humphrey (eds.), Imaging Ancient Rome: Documentation - Visualization - Imagination (Portsmouth 2006, JRA Supplement 61), 106-119.

After the second paper in the session, I ducked out and went down to the Starbucks for an iced mocha and to go over my introductory comments one more time before our session. Shortly after I ordered and sat down I could tell that the midday sessions were over on account of the crowds swarming into the coffee shop. Georges Depeyrot came through and sat down and so we talked for a while before we had to go up to our session.

Our session, "Contextual Numismatics: New Perspectives and Interdisciplinary Methodologies," went very well. The only complaint I had was that during the second paper by Nanouschka, there was an incredible disturbing noise coming from an adjacent room where a theatrical session by the APA was evidently taking place. Overall I think the papers and approaches presented in the session were well received. There was some good discussion at the end of Richard Buxton's paper, which offered some very new interpretations on the meaning of chisel cuts on Athenian owls in the Near East. At the end of the colloquium Fleur Kemmers, our discussant, provided some very well articulated comments on the papers and the issues they brought up. She offered a penetrating vision of where numismatic studies needs to mature (that is my wording) as it continues to define itself as a discipline. I was very happy with our colloquium and our panelists and would like to thank all of them again for their work and for sharing their research with us at the AIA. Considering that our session was competing with hot topics like the "Archaeology of Battle" and "Houses of Ill Repute: The Archaeology of Brothels, Houses, and Taverns in the Greek World," we had a very good turnout of attendees. It was nice to know that, for some, numismatics still won out over sex and violence.

After our session I went to the exhibit hall and swung by the SAFE booth and helped them for a while until the booth shutdown and then I took some materials upstairs as they were preparing for the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award Reception for Prof. Colin Renfrew. Stefan, Fleur, and I attended the reception. The first half an hour or so was for drinks and mingling. I again talked some more with Donny until the introduction for Colin Renfrew began. Renfrew's talk, "Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: the 1970 Rule as a Turning Point (or How the Metropolitan Museum lags behind the Getty)" was a forceful indictment against unethical acquisitions policies by public institutions. Many times he pointed to the value and accomplishments of SAFE and the work of scholars who have brought the illicit antiquities trade to public scrutiny. The importance of Renfrew's advocacy and that of SAFE is highlighted by events surrounding the announcement of Renfrew's lecture. In days before his lecture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art finally decided to publicize its decision to abide by the recent policy of AAMD that it apparently made this summer. It will be interesting to see if the Met will use the strict 1970 Rule or if it will exploit the wiggle-room in the AAMD policy to continue buying looted art. I believe that SAFE will be putting a summary of Renfrew's lecture online in the near future. After his talk, Cindy Ho presented Colin Renfrew with the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award.

After the reception Stefan, Fleur, and I met up with our fellow panel participants, and our new Australian friends, at a local Thai restaurant for a celebratory dinner after our panel. I had the House Special Squid, which was excellent; I wish I could remember the name of the place. We then visited some of the different receptions that evening before heading off to bed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I got up early again on Sunday morning to stand in line for the opening of the exhibit hall. This is a tradition at the AIA/APA meetings since many of the exhibiting academic presses will drastically slash prices (50% or more) on the books they have brought with them. The line gets very long and when the doors open, graduate students and seasoned professors alike sprint towards the booths to get their hands on books they have staked out in the days before and save some money. Two of the biggest academic presses, Cambridge and Oxford, are often the most popular destinations.

In this free-for-all I managed to score six titles, probably spending more money than I should have:

G. S. Aldrete, Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome (Baltimore 2007) - while looking for other books, I saw the author whom I had recognized from a very intriguing lecture about the distribution of certain building types in relation to the regular area for the Tiber's flooding in the Campus Martius in Rome at an earlier AIA meeting. Remembering how innovative and interesting that paper was I asked him if he had published it as an article or anything and he told me that he actually had published a monograph about Tiber floods and directed me to the Johns Hopkins University Press booth to look at the book. It was discounted 50%.
O. Hekster, G. de Kleijn, and D. Slootjes (eds.), Crises and the Roman Empire. Proceedings of the Seventh Workshop of the International Network Impact of Empire (Nijmegen, June 20-24, 2006) (Leiden and Boston 2007, Impact of Empire 7) - discounted 50%; nevertheless, books from Brill academic press are still expensive. The discounted price was $89.50 and list price is $179.

N. Lenski (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine (Cambridge 2006) - all Cambridge hardcovers were discounted to $20 and paperbacks to $10.

F. Millar, The Crowd in the Rome in the Late Republic (Ann Arbor 2002) - discounted 50%.

D.S. Potter and D.J. Mattingly (eds.), Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire (Ann Arbor 1999) - discounted 50%.

C. Renfrew and P. Bahn (eds.), Archaeology: the Key Concepts (London and New York 2005) - this was discounted 20%. If I had paid greater attention earlier I would have realized that this was the same price throughout the conference; Routledge did not offer any drastic discounts on the last day.

After scoring some good deals and exceeding my book budget, I decided to spend the rest of the morning doing a bit of sight seeing since I really had not been able to leave the hotel for all of my other obligations. I went down to see the Liberty Bell first of all. The image at the top of this post is that of a blind man I saw who was allowed to go up and touch it; personally, I found this one of the most moving moments while being in Philadelphia. I then went to Independence Hall, the place where our nation was born.

After visiting these, I went back to the hotel and said goodbye to various colleagues before packing and going off to the airport. I did not have a Philly cheesesteak sandwich while in the city and so I tracked down a restaurant in the airport and had one; it was very good.

On the flight back to Texas I read a few essays in the book on the age of Constantine that I had purchased and worked my way through much of the book by Renfrew and Bahn that I had also bought. This particular volume is meant to summarize certain theories or concepts present in archaeology in a way that is accessible. Those who have studied archaeological theory know how difficult it can be. I found several of the entries to be rather interesting, especially those relating to Cognitive Archaeology and the recreation of the thought processes and mental patterns of ancient peoples. I think this means I am now going to have pick up C. Renfrew and P. Bahn (eds.), Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (London 2004, 4th edn.), which I have consulted before but not read in any great detail, and C. Renfrew, Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind (New York 2008). I just brought back a big stack of books from Germany to store in the U.S. and so I will have to be vigilant about what I take back with me to read since I should limit my weight lest it cost me severely to ship everything back when I leave Frankfurt.

I had a very good time at the AIA meeting and it was great to see so many colleagues and friends again and to meet new ones for the first time. If you have not attended an AIA meeting before and have read all the way through this, you will understand that the AIA meetings serve as more than a venue for academic papers and sessions - they are places where we get together socially with our colleagues, many of whom we can see only once a year. When I went to my first AIA meeting, my former M.A. supervisor at the University of Reading (UK), Janet Delaine (now at Oxford), told me that in Britain they seem take for granted that they see their colleagues rather frequently. All they must do is hop on a train for a short distance to see one another or attend a conference. In the United States we are much more spread out. I look forward to next year's meeting as I tentatively plan on attending.

(Photo by N. Elkins, A Blind Man Touching the Liberty Bell, Sunday, January 11, 2009).

7 comments:

Fleur Kemmers said...

Hi Nathan,
I didn't realize you had kept a diary during the conference :-) Being a first-time attendee, I enjoyed it very much, and had some interesting ethnographic experiences as well (quite a difference between the European conferences I usually attend and this one). I had good hunting at the book stalls too (the zippers at my suitcase broke off while trying to pack everything, so some improvisation was needed to travel home). I was looking for the 'Companion to the Age of constantine', but it had gone (now I know to whom) and settled for the one on Justinian instead.
Anyway, see you again soon,

Fleur

said...

Hi Fleur,

Yes, I'm afraid I picked up the last copy of The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, but I see that it is on www.abebooks.com for just a couple dollars more than I paid for it at the conference.

I'll see you at the conference in March!

Best,
Nathan

said...

Nathan, I just wish I could remember as much as you do from these days ;-)
Thank you for an outstandingly well-organized session!
Nanouschka

said...

Unfortunately, I missed the latest round of "discussions" over on Moneta-L, but I wondered if you had any comment on this opinion of Renfew as related on the Tompa blog:

"The talk was followed by Q&A, so, knowing that Renfrew had supported PAS when its funding was threatened, I took the opportunity to ask: "Do you think that if other source countries were to adopt similar schemes, that it would help to reduce looting ?". His answer was an unqualified yes ("brilliant scheme"), with none of the usual caveats about it not being our place to dictate antiquity policy to other nations. He did, however, express regret that about the increase in UK metal detecting, but says he considers it a lost cause."

What do you think about the expansion of such programs as a realistic means to bridge the gap between collectors and preservationists? Barford's position (in previous discussions) is that collectors should make do with what is already on the market. Without getting into whether that is fair/valid or not, I'll simply opine that it is not realistic and in any case it doesn't stop folks in source countries from digging stuff up (many do so out of sheer curiosity, just like those who go looking for Native Aerican artifacts in the US).

I'm frankly pleasantly surprised that Renfew seems to agree that instituting PAS type systems in other source countries would be a favorable development--maybe there is some common ground after all.

Voz Earl

said...

Hi Voz,

Thanks for the comment. I just had a couple of wisdom teeth pulled and I'm a bit loopy from the pain and pain killers. Give me a little time to get back to you, maybe tomorrow.

All best,
Nathan

said...

Hi Voz,

Thanks again for the comment. I now have some time and coherency to return to your question.

A short preamble: I must say I find it amusing that some people, especially certain un-named dealers, have often picked out certain archaeologists, like Renfrew, and labeled them as "radicals" and "anti-collecting" or "anti-PAS," etc. and yet if one actually reads or listens to what these people say these derogatory labels do not mesh with their views or positions. The point of contention rather usually lies on the indiscriminate market driving looting and so some tradesmen naturally like to draw attention away from that point by various unscrupulous means. This paints the illusion that there is no common ground to be found.

I think that as long as both "sides" can recognize that an indiscriminate market demand prompts looting, which is pretty clear, I think much common ground can be found and you'll find many more on the "archaeology side" who support PAS-like schemes.

Yes, I agree the PAS is a model scheme even though it admittedly has some flaws and has not remedied looting in Britain by any means, though there does seem to be some decrease that may be attributed to the scheme. Nighthawks still operate and sites are still plundered (illegally). Many still do not volunteer to report their finds. But the PAS has certainly helped educate many metal detectorists and much more is being reported than would be reported without such a scheme.

In many other source countries, PAS-like schemes may be a benefit and in the report on Organized Crime in Bulgaria: Markets and Trends a PAS-like scheme was suggested as a means of stemming illicit activity there - a major source country. Practically, the question is how would we as American politicians, archaeologists, collectors, tradesmen, etc. persuade foreign governments to adopt such a scheme?
Frankly, I do not know. I think it would be rather difficult for us to put pressure on foreign governments for something like this, but we could nevertheless advocate for it and I think such schemes, if ever adopted, might help.

However, we must recognize that as long as profit is to be made from people who do not value provenance or legal frameworks, illicit digging and prospecting will continue be a problem. People will still loot and metal detect on land that is not their own or on which they do not have permission to operate. They will still violate tombs and dig meter-deep craters in archaeological sites. The only way that this type of activity can be curbed is if the trade community (dealers especially) were to implement ethical guidelines whereby they would not be buying recently surfaced and future looted material from source countries and would not be conducting business with "wholesalers" and "suppliers" dealing in large quantities of material from source nations. No doubt much of the illicit detectoring and looting we see still in Britain, which has the PAS scheme, is driven by the indiscriminate market. There needs to be much greater due diligence.

PAS-like schemes would help in many ways, but they would only be effective in major source countries if the foreign trade community (e.g. America) can make some changes in the way it sources material and who it is sourced from.

All best,
Nathan

said...

Nathan, It was interesting to read about the AIA/APA conference.

I am an art professor, and my field doesn't have a similar technical book offering. Art History does, but those aren't necessarily useful to a practicing artist. I am talking about the books which are useful to your theory and field practice (Cognitive Archaeology and the recreation of the thought processes and mental patterns of ancient peoples- awesome!). Great stuff.