Antiquities, the Black Market, and Economists

A frieze from the Elgin MarblesSo, anyone else see this on Slate?

A quote:

“This trade is almost inevitable. In a poor country, such as Mali or Cambodia, foreigners are likely to be willing to pay more for artifacts than the locals would. The logic of the market would pull the choicest objects into foreign collections and foreign museums. Many see this as undesirable, and so most countries maintain some form of ban on trading antiquities.

But such bans have some unpleasant side effects. They replace the logic of the market with the logic of the black market, which means that smugglers would try to conceal the locations of new archaeological sites, to erase or forge the historical record surrounding objects, and to excavate and ship objects without the care that could be lavished on an operation that was legal. Beyond these purely archaeological considerations, illegal objects are less likely to end up in the top museums and may be relegated to purely private collections, which is in itself a shame. It’s enough to make an archaeologist weep—and an economist, too.

Michael Kremer, a Harvard economics professor with a track record of inventive ideas, and Tom Wilkening, a graduate student at MIT, published a possible solution earlier this year. Instead of flatly banning the export of antiquities, why not ban their sale but allow them to be rented?”


Anyone else wonder where the quotes from archaeologists are?

I got fifty bucks that says my day started differently than yours did…

It started pretty simple. I was driving to Palo Alto to work with another agency on a project, and when got off hwy 84 on to El Camino Real things got… odd.

I don’t why she was nude. I don’t know why she seemed to be running errands on El Camino Real at 9:15am. I most certainly do not know why she was compelled to combine nude with running errands, but apparently that seemed to be the rule of the day. She wasn’t running, was not waving her arms to call attention to herself. Just sauntering down the sidewalk past the shops headed someplace.

But it left me perplexed on several counts. Of course, that larger question “WHY?” does not escape me, but there are more subtle ones.
1) When I say nude, I mean nude… no glasses, no sneakers, socks, flip-flops, nothing. Just strolling barefoot down the sidewalk like it was a local nude beach. I don’t know where you live, but where I live, the sidewalks are certainly not barefoot friendly. Wasn’t she worried about things like broken glass and stuff? Her tetanus shots must have been fully up to date.
2) Was it some form of protest? PETA gone (even more) insane? To discourage the use of fur, forgo clothes entirely because its really all just a slippery slope?
3) If she was running errands… where was she keeping her ATM card, much less cash. She was on foot and didn’t seem to have keys or cash, so a cab or bus seemed to be out of the question.
4) No keys… maybe she was locked out. You know, slipped out to get the morning paper and the door locked behind her. But, it seemed a long walk just to get to the locksmith.

It was, odd…..

Anthropologists and the Military’s Human Terrain System

hts.jpgThe U.S. Army is moving forward with a program called the Human Terrain System. This program attaches anthropologists to operational units in Iraq to both learn about and help the military navigate the complex cultural issues they are encountering.

One anthropologist that is a member of the HTS project is Marcus Griffin, on a year long leave from his job teaching anthropology at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. Marcus has been blogging about his experience working with the army. It’s rare that anthropologists get this kind of insider look at what it’s like to work directly with the military. Surprise! Despite what all your teachers have told you, working with the military is NOT evil….


I am a bit speechless, but maybe I can express it in blogging (now that I have this outlet).

So the current issue of Anthropology News has an article about biological anthropologists being upset with the Leakey Foundation for having journalist Nicholas Wade as one of their speakers (get the scoop here: Nicholas Wade Speaks to Leakey Audience: Productive Dialogue or Dangerous Advocacy?

That is not what I’m upset about. I agree, biological determinism should be questioned, critiqued, put into context, as necessary. What I’m upset about is this bit, from our AAA president, who states that (here I’m quoting from the aforelinked article):

‘biology is, in many ways, “separated out from the corpus of anthropology.”

Goodman recognizes that this practice, in part, has created an environment in which Nicholas Wade declares that many social scientists feel they needn’t bother at all with evolution or genetics. “They are ignoring the theory that explains all of biology,” says Wade, “of which humans are definitely a part.”

Because anthropologists of various subfields may too often see the foundations of human behavior and diversity through the limited lens of their own discipline, Goodman thinks “we really need a new science in which we look at how all of those things are interrelated…a science of development, a science of intersecting processes.”’

End quote. Read that carefully, boys and girls. The president of AAA (a biological anthropologist in his own right) seems to be suggesting that we need a new approach, a holistic approach, even, to the human condition.

Forgive me, I thought that was Anthropology.

Welcome New Blogger, Donna Lanclos

We are just chock full of new bloggers this week. The latest addition to the ranks is Donna Lanclos. Donna currently lives in North Carolina. While she is a cultural anthropologist and folklorist by graduate training, she claims to be part archaeologist by marriage. She is the author of the book At Play in Belfast: Children’s Folklore and Identities in Northern Ireland (2003 Rutgers University Press).

Check out her first post The Sentimental Anthropologist.

Welcome, Donna!