There is a nice story breaking today about the return of looted archaeological artifacts by a “New York Art Dealer.”
Previous attempts to get looted artifacts back have been successful only with museums.
The ancient treasures, including a Roman statue, bronze figurines, and exquisitely painted vases, were worth more than half a million dollars and were bought at auctions by New York dealer Jerome Eisenberg, Italian officials said.
Dr Eisenberg is evidently an appraiser for The Antiques Road Show on the US PBS network as well as “Founder, Editor-In-Chief & Publisher” of Minerva, an arts and archaeology magazine that has a good net presence.
In any case, I say good for Eisengerg. Good for Italy. I hope this starts an avalanche of artifact returns. Without context, an artifact loses its meaning. It becomes just a thing with exaggerated monetary value. We have too many of those in the US—like houses and wine.
When I worked on an excavation in Sardinia, we unearthed some of the molds that were used to make the famous bronzetti of Sardinia. This was a very significant discovery, since not one of the over 400 bronzetti you can see in museums, as far as I know, was ever recovered in context—which could tell us something about the significance of these small, bronze statues.
Please don’t steal someone else’s cultural heritage. It’s funny that I have heard many people say that they’ve returned from a place with a piece of pottery or a coin. They wouldn’t be caught dead stealing a piece of bread—and would call for the prosecution of anyone who would commit such a heinous crime—but they eagerly show their stolen pieces of someone else’s history to everyone who might be interested. That’s kinda nuts.