Saturday, August 4, 2012

African Antiquities and the Trade

There is a good piece in The New York Times about the threat to African archaeology caused by the market for the bits of it which can be considered "art". This leads to the digging up of durable and collectable objects such as terracottas and bronzes and the smuggling of them out of the country to foreign markets. This leads on the one hand to the destruction of the information which could be obtained by excavation of sites like Djenne-Djenno, but also the depletion of the cultural property which is available for appreciation by the inhabitants of the region. The article discusses among other things, the mess made at Djenne-Djenno since the 1970s by looters and the response of the international community (banning smuggled artefacts from sale, trying to reduce interest in the trade), and touches upon the Benin punitive Expedition loot question and the destruction of tombs and other objects in the ongoing conflict in Mali. Worth a read.

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