Ownership of antiquities and the international art market…

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Photo by Herbert Knosowski/Associated Press.

Writes John Tierney in the 16 November 2009 New York Times:

Scientists and curators have generally supported the laws passed in recent decades giving countries ownership of ancient “cultural property” discovered within their borders. But these laws rest on a couple of highly debatable assumptions: that artifacts should remain in whatever country they were found, and that the best way to protect archaeological sites is to restrict the international trade in antiquities.

Tierney’s article is titled “A Case in Antiquities for ‘Finders Keepers’,” and discusses the ownership of artifacts traded on the international art market. Some of these items are very well known, for example, the bust of Nefertiti from what is now Egypt, presently kept in a Berlin Museum.

Obviously each nation involved may have laws that conflict, making the ownership of antiquities a complicated matter, with no obvious, undeniable solutions.

If you own a piece of land in the United States of America, do you own the antiquities on that land? Is the same true if that land is in England?