Friday 20 June 2014

Old chestnuts from ACCG - only fit for roasting

Do you ever experience a weird moment as if you were in some kind of supernatural time warp, a place forever suspended in another era? I had such an experience today while reading a blog post by Derek Fincham ("On chasing the looting/terror connection", 19 June 2014).

No, not the post itself. I largely agree with Fincham's point that the part played by antiquities looting in funding terrorism may be exaggerated - and the credibility of those who sensationalise the connection could be damaged. It was the comment below the post that caused the eerie experience of motionless déjà vu as if caught in a warped space-time continuum - a comment made by Wayne Sayles, Executive Director of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (a deceptively-named lobby group for American coin dealers) .

In his comment, Sayles mentioned: "The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has extended a standing offer to engage in serious discussions with archaeological community decision makers with an aim toward establishing manageable parameters in the legitimate trade. The hoped for response has not been forthcoming."

Now where have I heard that before? Ah yes, it was over four years ago (and I suspect the tired claim is far older than that - frozen somewhere in the Jurassic). It was all about the ACCG "reaching out" to the main archaeological groups. That all sounds fine but the stunningly uninformed proposals made by the ACCG in their sham attempt at "serious discussions" are so laughable that the lack of response by those members of the archaeological profession who managed to keep a straight face was probably just as well. Perhaps the ACCG should count itself lucky.

Apparently hurt by rejection, Sayles looks back wistfully at the days when academia and coin collectors "once enjoyed a symbiotic relationship" (perhaps an unfortunate choice of phrase since it very often refers to a host exploited by a parasite). I have great respect for Wayne Sayles as a numismatic author but he really has got to accept not only that times have changed but understand the reasons WHY they have changed.

Among the more obvious of those reasons are the vastly increased risk to heritage caused by modern technological advances such as detecting machinery and global internet marketing, and a rational shift in emphasis of archaeological methodology. It's the 21st century now. Many people, including a lot of those dratted academics, are far more aware of issues that were not fully recognised decades ago. For one thing, we are now aware of the massive danger that collecting coins and other antiquities poses to archaeology unless carried out with a bit more care than the feeble advice given by the archaic ACCG.

It's no good repeating outdated arguments that may have seemed valid in a less enlightened era. The generation of today simply won't fall for them. The ACCG logic is still mired in a fantasy vision of the distant past - while the rest of the world, Toto included, has long realised that we're not in Kansas anymore.

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