Thoughts From Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime Class

I am taking a course in Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime and we were asked to discuss some points about legislation in the US with regard to restricting the transport and shipment of artifacts from Mali.

We were asked to read the submitted comments to Congress by Dr. Hardy, which can be found here. And then we were given some questions to respond to….I think this is a topic which needs to be known on some level by everyone! So I am going to post the questions and my response to the questions below.

What do you think about the situation that Dr. Hardy presents in Looting, the subsistence digging economy in Mali; and stemming the flow of looted antiquities from Mali to the USA?
I think that it is sad; however, it is not uncommon, and will not be fixed overnight. There is a much larger problem that needs to be addressed and sorted in order to have measured success in stemming the flow of stolen artifacts from any insecure area. I do like that his opinion is supported by evidence that clearly implies the realness of the issue and the contributing factors of the issue. Americans have such a desire to just fix “the problem” instantly without looking for and addressing the underlying contributing factors that lead to “the problem”, not that Europe is much better in that regard either. There are NO easy fixes and there is NO 1 idea that will fix this either.
Why might someone choose to loot an archaeological site? Why might others oppose the looting? 
Looting can be carried out for a number of reasons; however, for this discussion let’s focus on subsistence diggers. They are usually poorly educated without marketable skills in remote, unstable, poor areas. They lack access to proper education or healthcare or skill training. They are in short hopeless. Yet, they have themselves and their families to provide for somehow. What options have they been given other than to loot? Especially if you also have the added instability of conflicts and natural disasters.
I would imagine, without insult, that among the societal group that we are focusing on there will not be many that would oppose the looting. However, I would surmise that it would be those that still held out strong belief in the old ways, such as the shamans and wise men and women of the tribes; for these special individuals would be the most knowledgeable about what the group was losing and the finality of that loss to the group and the future health and existence of that group….the easiest and surest way to eliminate a group from existence is to eliminate its history from existence.
Should looters in poor countries be punished for their crimes?
Yes, but, the punishment should be one that truly resolves the probability of future illegal actions by the looters. What does this mean? It means that either instead of jailing, or while they are ‘jailed’ for their crime, that they are properly educated; whether it is becoming literate and or learning a marketable skill and or a basic education, but it should be in regard to the heart of the culture of the group that the subsistence digger belongs to. Thus, do not educate in a manner that means he has to illegally immigrate to another country to find a job, nor that he is only literate in a language that is not of his culture. By doing either of the aforementioned you are actually re-enforcing the idea that his culture does not have value or a place and that looting the history of his culture was not wrong and thus his punishment was wrong and you have instead instilled bitterness to nurture the hopelessness that will foster animosity. Also, include in the punishment a means by which with respect and dignity the individual may restitute for his injury to the group, have him help protect the sites or help with the excavations in some way, he needs value, worth.
What are some ways that the looting of archaeological sites may be prevented in poor source countries?
The basis of any attempt to protect the archaeological sites must include the local societal group as a primary and valuable asset. They need to have reasons not to turn their backs on their own history. These sites need to be the heart of a whole new life for these peoples. I do know that funding is hard, but imagination and creativity should be able to incorporate the local group into the investigations and various aspects, directly and indirectly. I know that some archaeologists do try to make lasting positive relationships with the local group and help them as much as they can, but there needs to be a broader involvement of all the peoples that will benefit from this history that ensures that the locals have some level of improvement from their support of the investigations at the sites. It should not just be the governments and the officials that reap the rewards of the discoveries of the history that belongs to all!
Looting and the illegal trade of artifacts and art are as much a crime against humanity as genocide is, for one you are erasing the culture by erasing the living members of the culture and the other you are erasing them by erasing their history and thus their identity. And both should be treated the same way, those that are used by the powerful and rich for their own sorted goals, in this case the subsistence diggers, should not be held to the same standard as those that create, finance, facilitate, and, in some cases, legalize the crime!


If I were a garbage bin I would want to be that bin that sits in front of the Parliament.
I would get washed every day with prime liquids so I would always smell nice and look like a knight in shining armor.
If I happened to stand in the middle of some politicians drive way I would be wheeled back and forth by personal staff.
Lazy day I know…But I could afford it.

If I were a garbage bin I would want to be that bin that sits in front of the Parliament.
I would get fed every day with finest and freshest ingredients off the market.
Only at the Parliament cafeteria you can eat steak and shrimp for $3 dollars
then throw half of it just cause you couldn’t eat anymore.

If I were a garbage bin I would want to be that bin that sits in front of the Parliament.
I would have personal security 24/7. You’d never see graffiti on the outside.
If someone tried to vandalize me, I’d have SWAT squad at the snap of my lid.

If I were a garbage bin…
If I were…

I gotta go file my taxes. Someone’s gotta keep those garbage bins looking good.

Where did the American Dream go?

So scrolling through my Twitter feed, trying to get caught up with the important and relevant stuff by mining through the ‘silly’ stuff, I came across the following tweet;

Following ‘s debate with Thomas Piketty (), We’re asking “Does inequality matter?” 

I thought that is the wrong question, cause our definition of inequality is the root problem.

The ‘liberals’ or ‘do-gooders’ or ‘leftists’ give great speeches about bringing the poor out of poverty. And while that is a noble endeavor, their approach is wrong. Their definition of poverty is not accurate and thus their ‘solutions’ to the problem are not realistic. As with most of the core elements of society and culture the meaning or the method by which we define our existence has changed and not for the better. When we measure inequality what we measure now is are you materialistically equal to others, do you have equal money or equal ‘things’ and those are not the best judges of whether someone is equal.
We have so deluded the ‘American Dream’, though in reality it is simply man’s dream not American or Turkish or Russian, but all men, that we have forgotten what the original dream was. The original dream was freedom and independence and the opportunity to follow one’s own path. That dream does not exist anymore; it has been replaced with the dream of conforming, looking and acting like everyone else, doing and being like everyone else, and following the same path as everyone else. Society has allowed big business to remove the human nature from humanity. Creativity is ok as long as it is inside the lines; talent is fine as long as it conforms to the preset image. Motivation and innovation are acceptable as long as you are a company man. Intelligence and ingenuity are sought after as long as your soul is for sell. All these limits, leashes and cages on the human experience have crushed humanity.
However, we seem totally surprised that mental issues have risen, that drug use is at its highest, that violent crime is sky-rocketing. We seem ignorant to how business creating a consumer obsessed delighted work force has increased our diseases and decreased our happiness. We are animals, like it or not, and as such we were created to roam and explore and discover our world. Something that is severely limited under the subjugation of government control for the purpose of security and national identity. 
If we truly wanted to do away with inequality then we would increase the foundational opportunities for all peoples and refocus how we define equality. To make all equal then we need to create equal and quality and real education opportunities across the board. We need to meet the needs of the student instead of requiring the student to meet the needs of society. We need to acknowledge, accept and celebrate the fact that we need many levels and skills and talents in varied areas and of various aspects for society to move forward in a meaningful and truly humanly successful way. We need to judge the success of a person not by what place in society he holds but how well he holds his place. For in an equal society the garbage man is just a valuable as the lawyer. Don’t believe me, do not take out your trash for a week and see how well you like your house then.