Qimmik wrote:I'm not unconcerned about the widespread looting of items of cultural heritage, but I simply thought it was premature to become vexed over the provenance of this particular piece of mummy cartonage. Some of the antiquities on the market today have legal provenance, as Dr. Obbink asserts this one does--leaving aside whether it was ethical to unearth and export these items before legislation prohibited the practice.
But of course no one thought in terms of the ethical component of archeology until very recently. If they had, the museums of London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles etc. would be empty of antiquities today; the great university collections of papyri would be bare; and Bacchylides, Menander, the Partheneion of Alcman, poems of Sappho, Archilochus, Steisichorus--the list goes on and on--would remain unread.
I suspect we are disagreeing because we are using the internet rather than talking face to face.
Many of the founders of of archaeology did things that would be shocking today but maybe they had to learn by their mistakes. However there is a world of difference between archaeologists going to sites without any official permit at a time when there were really no responsible authorities to give permission and the situation now where legal and responsible authorities exist. By responsible authorities I mean those in charge of antiquities not the government or to be precise the army.
Illegal digging in Egypt today is simply extremely destructive souvenir hunting.
Ethics is an issue in all this but there is also the simple pragmatic issue of how much actual history can be recovered from sites. However gray early archaeology may have been, anything illegal today is entirely black.
Maybe for us living outside Egypt there is little we can do beyond giving morale support to those Egyptians trying to preserve the sites. But that little is still worth doing.