Biblical Archaeology Review 23:6, November/December 1997

Leading Archaeologist Chastised for Publishing Artifacts in Private Collections

Debate over antiquities market continues

By Hershel Shanks

Cyprus’s most distinguished archaeologist, retired Antiquities Department director Vassos Karageorghis, has been harshly criticized for publishing privately owned artifacts obtained on the antiquities market and lacking known provenances in a catalogue of Cypriot terra-cotta figurines.

Karageorghis’s “inclusion of a large amount of material from private collections raises several difficult issues,” declares Ellen Herscher, chair of the Cultural Properties Legislation and Policy Committee of the powerful Archaeological Institute of America, in an extensive review of the Cypriot scholar’s catalogue in a recent issue of the prestigious Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR).1

Herscher deplores “the role of scholars in promoting the prestige that collectors continue to enjoy—despite their direct participation in a network involving criminals, smugglers and general sleaziness.” She continues, “[The monetary] value [of unprovenanced artifacts], enhanced by publication, will serve to stimulate the antiquities market in general and encourage further looting.”

“Publication [of unprovenanced pieces] will [also] inevitably serve to enhance the value of the pieces that subsequently come onto the antiquities market,” writes Herscher.

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