Monday, July 23, 2012

Markets for Some Artifacts are Disappearing

The New York Times is reporting that an agreement by many museum directors to turn away antiquities without the proper provenance has made a stunning effect on the value of antiquities and their ability to be sold.

At SRAC,  I have always been against the buying and selling of artifacts and making what I believe to be scientific evidence a marketable item. I cannot count how many times someone has come in to SRAC with muddy hands looking for us to give them a price for their arrowheads or even more rare artifacts that they just found in our fields - and I cannot tell you the horrendous effect it has made on our understanding of the prehistory of our area. In fact, SRAC was made to save those collections that are out there when the collectors are ready to empty them out of their homes or family members are no longer interested in preserving them.

Tioga Point Museum Founder and my hero - Louise Welles Murray once said it best, "Archaeology has taken vast strides, and the search for Indian artifacts without making written records is considered vandalism. The skilled archaeologist deplores the fact that sites have been "dug to death" when they might have been "dug to life for the benefit of science." ("American Anthropologist": 1921) She also believed that "all Indian relics when disconnected from the place where they were found are more surely lost than if still buried in the earth." (“Old Tioga Point and Early Athens”:1908)

While we do have some people who go to auctions and try to buy artifacts to try to save them, the truth is that most of the rare artifacts have been bought up by individual collectors or museums that have huge cash flow and a heads up call from the auction house when the rare things are going on the block. Unfortunately, as a result there ends up being little or no concern for the artifacts actually being evidence of our past that can be used for research.

My hope is that by making the artifacts less likely to be sold, they might just have a better chance to be saved instead. If nothing else - it seems the best option out there at the moment to keep people from taking things from our fields and immediately selling them on eBay.

Read the full article here:

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