Antiquities as Natural Resources

Andrew P. Morriss (University of Illinois College of Law) has posted Politics & Property in Natural Resources on SSRN. Assuming Natural Resources are analogous to antiquities, he makes some interesting arguments. Here is the abstract:

Modern discussions of natural resources focus on increasing public control over extractive industries proposing measures that range from increasing the public’s share of the gain via royalties and taxes to regulating extractive activities to prevent environmental problems to outright expropriation of private investments. This Article argues that such efforts are counterproductive because the fundamental economic problem of natural resources is producing the knowledge necessary to locate and extract resource deposits. The public benefit comes from enabling the use of the resources and the increased economic activity their discovery produces rather than from royalties or expropriation. The key question in designing natural resource laws is thus their effects on the incentive to discover and manage resources. Private property rights in natural resources are the best way to provide such incentives. Fortunately, the combination of property rights and tort law principles (trespass and nuisance) enables property rights to solve environmental problems related to natural resource extraction as well.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

My Article on the Portable Antiquities Scheme

I’ve posted on SSRN my article from the August edition of the International Journal of Cultural Property, A Coordinated Legal and Policy Approach to Undiscovered Antiquities: Adapting the Cultural Heritage Policy of England and Wales to Other Nations of Origin 15 Int’l. J. Cult. Prop. 347 (2008). Here’s the abstract:

Blanket ownership laws, export restrictions, and the criminal law of market nations are the default legal strategies currently used by nations of origin to prevent the looting of archaeological sites. Although they have been remarkably successful at achieving the return of looted objects, they may not be the best strategies to maximize the recording and preservation of archaeological context. In England and Wales a more permissive legal regime broadly applied and adopted by the public at large has produced dramatically better results than the strong prescriptive regime of Scotland, which can be easily ignored.

This article attempts to clear up any misconceptions of the cultural policy framework in England and Wales. It accounts for the legal position accorded undiscovered portable antiquities, and describes how this legal framework is perfected by a voluntary program called the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). This approach stands in stark contrast to Scotland, which has used a legal strategy adopted by most other nations of origin.

The domestic legal framework for portable antiquities in England and Wales is unique and differs from the typical approach. Coupled with the PAS, this legal structure has resulted in a better cultural policy, which leads to less looting of important archaeological sites, allows for a tailored cultural policy, and has produced more data and contextual information with which to conduct historical and archaeological research on an unprecedented scale. Compensating finders of antiquities may even preclude an illicit market in antiquities so long as this compensation is substantially similar to the market price of the object and effectively excludes looters from this reward system. Although the precise number of found versus looted objects that appear on the market is open to much speculation, an effective recording system is essential to ensure that individuals who find objects are encouraged to report them.

I wanted to write what I hope is a thoughtful piece which describes in an objective way what the PAS does, and how it creates a pragmatic compromise. Many of the very best heritage scholars are still seemingly under a misimpression about what it does and does not do. It’s not a perfect system, but it has produced some dramatic results, and may change the way we conceptualize heritage and context. I hope those interested in the scheme and archaeology will do me and the employees of the PAS the courtesy of reading the piece before dismissing my position. Sadly I’m afraid some already have reacted, without even reading the piece.

I have no doubt that some of my assertions may prove controversial, and I’m happy to have a vigorous debate, but I think everyone interested in heritage issues needs to work harder to make sure they are leaving room for meaningful discourse and disagreement and that we’re respectful of differing views and positions.

Pictured here are a horse and rider found in Cambridgeshire which appeared in the 2007 PAS annual report, via the PAS flickr page.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Wang on the Waverley System for Art Export in the UK

Vivian Wang has written an article “Whose Responsibility? The Waverley System, Past and Present“($) in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Cultural Property:

This article explores the history and present operation of the Waverley system, the United Kingdom’s art export policy established in 1952. A key component of the article is its attempt to illuminate the little-known story surrounding the birth of the system, which has been pieced together using treasury and Board of Trade papers held in the National Archives. The article then examines, both qualitatively and quantitatively, how responsibility for the system has evolved. The main pattern that emerges is the progressive detachment of the treasury: Although it spearheaded the formation of the Waverley system in 1952, today it is much more removed, in terms of administration and attitude, from the system.
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Update on Wednesday’s Art Crime Panel

Wednesday’s panel at the British Society of Criminology was very engaging, and would have garnered a great deal of attention among cultural heritage scholars. But I’m sad to report that I’ve had considerably more folks email me to ask about the presentation than were actually present at the presentations.

Lucky for us, all of the papers we were discussing are published (or in my case will be soon).

My presentation was based on a forthcoming article in the International Journal of Cultural Property on the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I’ll shamelessly self-promote that when I have a copy available.

Simon Mackenzie‘s paper is: “Performative Regulation: A Case Study in How Powerful People avoid Criminal Labels” British Journal of Criminology 2008 48(2):138-153.

Carolyn Shelbourn’s presentation was based on a few articles:

Shelbourn, C “Time crime” – looting of archaeological resources and
the criminal law in England and the United States [2008] Criminal
Law Review, 204-213.

Shelbourn, C. Protecting Archaeological Resources In The United
States: Some Lessons For Law And Practice In England? [2007] Art
Antiquity and Law, 259-278.

Shelbourn C, Bringing The Skeletons Out Of The Closet? The Law and
Human Remains In Art, Archaeology and Museum Collections [2006] Art,
Antiquity and Law 179-198.

These two presentations were excellent and I enjoyed them a great deal. One problem with the current state of Heritage Law Scholarship, is that many of the best work is in specialty journals that can be hard to find. I think in particular a lot of the work by UK academics is underutilized by American authors because they don’t know about it. I’m working on a project which should help to correct a lot of those problems, and I’ll have a lot more to say about that in a few weeks hopefully.

Some of the journals, in particular Art, Antiquity and Law are not available electronically as far as I am aware. This is a real shame, and I think more authors should consider putting their work online so it can be accessed via sites like SSRN and others (or those journals need to consider putting stuff online). There are tradeoffs perhaps, and some Journals may not like stuff being given away, but I don’t see much point in writing articles if people are unaware of them or don’t read them.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

"European Environmental Human Rights and Environmental Rights: A Long Time Coming?"

Ole W. Pedersen, a colleague of mine here in Aberdeen has posted European Environmental Human Rights and Environmental Rights: A Long Time Coming?, forthcoming in the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review.

There is an interesting connection between on the one hand antiquities and material remains of our past and also the natural environment which gave rise to ancient cultures and civilizations. As such, there is a largely-untapped body of environmental jurisprudence which may prove of use for cultural heritage scholars. One approach may be to look to a kind of “right to culture”, however the difficulty scholars have had in creating a substantive right to the environment may pose some potential obstacles to such an approach.

Here is the abstract:

This paper deals with the area of rights and environmental law focusing on procedural environmental rights and substantive human rights to the environment in a European context. The paper asserts that while international developments in this area have generally ceased, two strong trends are emerging in Europe. First, a strong focus on procedural environmental rights (a right to access to environmental information, a right to public participation and a right to access to justice) is in place in Europe. This part of the paper is based on an analysis of a number of European legal instruments and regimes, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law from the European Court of Human Rights, the 1998 UNECE Aarhus Convention as well as environmental law and policy from the European Community. It is argued that the strong focus on these procedural rights in Europe have led to such norms reaching a level regional customary law with the potential to influence international legal developments. In relation to a substantive human right to the environment, which the paper argues is currently lacking on the international level, it is argued that recent tentative approaches on a European regional level to a substantive right may further add to the precarious status of a substantive right under international law. Here, European developments have the potential to add to other regional instruments in, for instance, Africa and Latin and Southern America. In addition, recent constitutional changes in domestic European law has led to a wide range of national constitutions containing provisions on a right to the environment, which again have the potential to add further weight to the development of an international right.


Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

"The Holocaust, Museum Ethics, and Legalism"

Jennifer Anglim Kreder has posted her forthcoming article The Holocaust, Museum Ethics, and Legalism, forthcoming from the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, Vol 18, 2008 on SSRN:

The Holocaust art movement has led to significant and controversial restitutions from museums. This article focuses on two emotionally driven claims to recover a suitcase stolen from a murdered man and watercolors a woman was forced to paint for Josef Mengele to document his pseudo-scientific theories of racial inferiority and his cruel medical experiments. Both claims are asserted against the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland, and the museum has refused to return the objects. These claims provide insightful case studies to examine the emotional and ethical aspects of such disputes. Drawing from a number of disciplines, this article demonstrates the inadequacy of the dominant frameworks influencing the cultural property field, which are grounded in property law, morality and utilitarianism, for evaluating the Holocaust-related claims. This article also demonstrates that the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics provides a useful construct for evaluating the claims. ICOM Principle 6.7, which calls on museums to promote well-being, should be the guiding light for museums deciding whether to return Holocaust-related objects. The article concludes that the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’s refusal to return the objects is faulty ethically, counter to its mission, and reflective of the inadequacy of Poland’s approach to post-war restitution.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Have American Museums Initiated "Real Change"?

Lee Rosenbaum has a very interesting post detailing her thoughts of the “Return of Cultural Objects” conference held in Athens this week. She participated in the panel titled “Museums, Sites and Cultural Context”, and described her own presentation as follows:

[I] lampooned (and occasionally praised) strategies used in labeling and installing antiquities by American museums, which often have scant information about the archaeological context of objects in their collections. I was struck by the contrast between American labels and those at Athens’ National Archaeological Museum, where almost every object is accompanied by information on where it was found.

I ended by championing the view that I share in common with my hosts, singling out two examples from U.S. museums that fit the Parthenon marbles theme—ancient objects that had been fragmented and should be reassembled through the amicable cooperation of the different owners.

However she expressed a more unpopular view when she argued, in sharp contrast to Ricardo Elia, that “there had been substantial recent changes in American museums’ antiquities-collecting policies, which had been implemented to varying degrees.” It’s great to get this kind of quick reaction to the discussion. As to the substance of the claim, whether there has been real change, I think Rosenbaum is probably right, but only for a limited number of museums. A couple institutions, the Getty and the Indianapolis Museum of Art have very strict acquisition policies that are the gold-standard. However these kinds of policies are still voluntary, and there are a number of other institutions who are still dragging their feet. Look to the recent raids in California of LACMA and other institutions for evidence of a failure to reform. Ultimately, both Elia and Rosenbaum are correct, depending on which institutions they might be discussing.

This calls to mind the recent string of repatriations from North American institutions, which can be seen as responses to earlier acquisition policies which may have been lacking. Stacey Falkoff, a third-year law student at Brooklyn Law School has published an interesting student note, Mutually-Beneficial Repatriation Agreements: Returning Cultural Patrimony, Perpetuating the Illicit Antiquities Market in 16 Brooklyn Journal of Law and Policy 265 (2007). She does a great job of describing and compiling the recent string of repatriations, and draws some conclusions. She argues two things essentially, that these Mutually Beneficial Repatriation Agreements (MBRAs) actually perpetuate the illicit trade by mitigating the damage which these institutions suffer when a repatriation takes place, thereby making it easier for museums to acquire potentially-looted objects, and second they hamper the formation of judicial precedent utilizing international conventions.

Certain aspects of these MBRAs may be questioned, however she doesn’t do a good enough job showing how the judicial interpretation may be needed, and she falls into the trap many student notes have of relying too much on secondary sources and other articles. I would give the piece high marks for thoroughly analyzing these recent agreements, and its well-researched as far as many of these secondary sources.

I’d argue the law may be complex in this area, but more judicial interpretation is not necessarily needed. I would come to a different conclusion. I think these repatriation agreements are a good thing, and I certainly think the Met will think twice before acquiring another “orphan” such as the Euphronios Krater, which was seen as suspicious when it was acquired.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

US Criminal Penalties and Antiquities


To a casual observer, the recent searches in California would perhaps indicate that American criminal prosecutions and investigations can have a substantial impact on the illicit trade in antiquities. I certainly think they are a welcome sign, and hope that more of them will be supported by investigators and prosecutors. However, that investigation took five years to materialize, and there is still no indication if there will be any arrests. It certainly seems likely, but even this dramatic show of force and investigative might will not, I think, end or even put a substantial dent in the illicit trade. The current regulatory framework in both nations of origin and in market states puts far too much pressure on customs agents, prosecutors, and investigators.

At least that’s what I argue in my now-available article in the Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal, WHY U.S. FEDERAL CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR DEALING IN ILLICIT CULTURAL PROPERTY ARE INEFFECTIVE, AND A PRAGMATIC ALTERNATIVE. 25 Cardozo Arts & Ent. L. J. 597-695 (2007)

The pragmatic alternative is the approach in England and Wales with its Treasure Act, Portable Antiquities Scheme, and limited export restrictions. This legal framework and attendant cultural policy is unique, in that it effectively incentivizes obeying the relevant cultural heritage laws. It adopts a carrot and stick approach, while many nations use too much of the stick. I argue that the criminal penalties can be brought to bear in cases of clear and egregious violations, or where there are a great deal of investigative resources available. Such was the case in the California searches, in which an undercover agent posed as a buyer. However, it took five years of investigations, and it’s still not clear what the result of these investigations are.

The image above is an Egyptian antiquity which Jonathan Tokeley-Parry bought and sold to Frederick Schultz, who later sold it for $1.2 million in 1993. It’s an image of 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III (ca. 1403-1354 B.C.). Tokeley dipped the sculpture in clear plastic and painted it to resemble a cheap tourist souvenir. I discuss prosecutions of both men, which took place in England and the US respectively in the article. A lot of articles discuss the Schultz prosecution, but surprisingly no articles have discussed in any real detail the corresponding prosecution of Tokeley-Parry in England, which I think is key to understanding the international nature of the illicit trade, and the kind of complex multinational criminal investigation which is difficult where criminal investigation and prosecution are time-consuming and expensive. Not to mention the substantial pressures of other and often more-pressing matters such as drugs, violent crime, terrorism and the like.

I would be quite eager to hear any comments or reactions to the piece at derek.fincham “@” gmail.com.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

A Call for Antiquities Leasing

Peter Wendel, a Law Professor at Perpperdine University has written an interesting new article in the most recent edition of the Fordham Law Review, Protecting Newly Discovered Antiquities: Thinking Outside the “Fee Simple” Box, 76 Ford. L. Rev. 1016 (2007). A .pdf version is available here. Here’s the abstract:

Newly discovered antiquities are “mixed goods.” They have a physical component (the object itself) and an intangible component (the archeological and historical information associated with the discovery). This dual nature justifies government intervention into the market, not to capture the positive externalities associated with the antiquity, but to minimize the negative externalities associated with the law of finders. When the typical finder excavates an antiquity, its historical and archeological information is severely damaged, if not destroyed. In response to this problem, source countries have enacted state ownership/retention statutes. These laws, however, have their own negative externalities. They create incentives for finders to turn to the black market to secure financial compensation and to destroy the historical and archeological information to make it more difficult to catch them. This raises the issue of which is worse: market failure or government intervention failure?

Source countries need to create a stronger incentive for finders to report their finds. In theory, this is easy: Pay the finders more. In practice, this is difficult because source countries tend to be antiquities-rich but revenue-poor. A possible solution is a “possessory estate and future interest approach” to newly discovered antiquities. If the finder reports the find, he receives a transferable term of years and the source country receives the future interest. A transferable term of years creates an incentive for the finder to go public with the find—the finder can profit from his or her discovery. The source country receives ultimate ownership of all newly discovered antiquities at minimal cost (Western museums will be the likely purchasers; they will pay for the cost of creating the incentive). A possessory estate and future interest approach could help end the current feud between source countries and Western museums, two entities that should work together to secure and protect newly discovered antiquities, not waste resources fighting each other.

It’s an interesting approach. Wendel justifies his claim by using a law and economics rationale. What he’s advocating is a kind of antiquities leasing, similar in concept to the practice in both England and Wales, and Scotland of rewarding finders. He starts from the position that the strong source regulation of nationalizing antiquities and prohibiting their export does not work. I think most can agree the current legal regime is not working. He then advocates giving finders a kind of limited temporary right, known in the Anglo-American legal system as a “possessory estate” and a “future estate” or ultimate vesting right would go to the source nation. That would allow finders of antiquities to profit off their discoveries, while allowing the source nation to ultimately receive ownership of the object.

In essence he’s making an interesting claim for the use of antiquities leasing and a renewal of the idea of partage, the traditional practice whereby foreign archaeologists would get to take a portion of the discovered objects back to their European or N. American institutions. It’s a pragmatic compromise, and one that may work well in practice. I envision substantial hesitation on the part of source nations to enacting such a system though.

I would welcome a discussion of the merits of this idea in the comments section.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Measuring the Size of the Illicit Antiquities Trade

There is more and more good empirical work being done to measure the size of the illicit trade in antiquities. The latest is a super paper by Raymond Fishman and Shang-Jin Wei, both of Columbia University (some users may need to pay to download if they don’t have an .edu or .gov ip).

They came up with a great idea to measure illicit antiquities entering the United States. They capitalize on the odd way the trade works. An object may be illegally exported from a source nation, but be imported and sold in a perfectly legal manner in the United States. The historic justification for this is the idea that nations will not enforce the public laws of another nation. However this policy has disastrous consequences for the antiquities trade. By focusing on this paperwork gap, they can estimate the nations with the biggest loss of antiquities. The biggest reporting gaps are in Syria, Iran, Egypt, Greece, Vietnam and Russia. As one would expect Canada, New Zealand, Britain and Hong Kong have low reporting gaps. Both Canada and Britain of course have limited export restrictions.

Here’s the abstract:

We empirically analyze the illicit trade in cultural property and antiques, taking advantage of different reporting incentives between source and destination countries. We thus generate a measure of illicit trafficking in these goods based on the difference between imports recorded in United States’ customs data and the (purportedly identical) trade as recorded by customs authorities in exporting countries. We find that this reporting gap is highly correlated with the corruption level of the exporting country as measured by commonly used survey-based indicies, and that this correlation is stronger for artifact-rich countries. As a placebo test, we do not observe any such pattern for U.S. imports of toys from these same exporters. We report similar results for four other Western country markets. Our analysis provides a useful framework for studying trade in illicit goods. Further, our results provide empirical confirmation that survey-based corruption indicies are informative, as they are correlated with an objective measure of illicit activity.

(Hat tip: Jay Hancock)

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com