Sunday 2 August 2009

Ratiaria Appeal

The Bulgarian Archaeological Association has called attention to their appeal to save the site of the ancient city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria. The site has been subject to prolonged and extensive looting.

The campaign includes a petition and a request for donations (link at top left). Several archaeologists and historians (including here, here and here) have aleady highlighted this campaign but it cannot hurt to publicise it on as many blogs as possible.

This plea graphically illustrates why not just archaeologists and historians but anyone genuinely interested in history should be sickened by the wholesale destruction caused by an unrelenting and thoughtless demand for artefacts at any price.

It is important to realise that this is happening not only in Bulgaria but around the world - in Peru, Italy, Cambodia and so on. Here, for instance, is a taster of where most of those artefacts from Israel are coming from. They may be legally exported but is their ultimate source ethical?

Collecting and preserving pieces of the past is a natural and intelligent pursuit - and it is fortunate that we already have so many items to study and admire - but the ravenous hunger for yet more and more objects to be ripped from the ground is nowadays fueled by an increasing population, is aided by modern technology, and has escalated utterly out of control over the past two or three decades.

The importance of establishing and recording provenance to distinguish between the items already circulating years ago and those which have been dug up recently has become imperative if collectors wish to avoid contributing to the ongoing devastation of a fragile and finite resource. That resource is a heritage that in many ways belongs to all mankind and it can never be replaced.

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