More on the Current Market in Tribal Artifacts

Susan Montoya Bryan for the AP has a long piece on the current state of the market in tribal artifacts. She notes that collectors and dealers at the Whitehawk Antique Show seemed more cautions about buying objects, fearful perhaps of incurring criminal liability.

The piece offers a lot of reaction by the dealers at the show, but very little input from archaeologists or others who may have a very different—some might even say accurate—view of the laws many of these dealers are criticizing.  There is also very little discussion of how any buyer knows these objects are legitimate, or even whether individuals should be purchasing some of these objects at all:

The dealers at the Santa Fe show, many of whom have been collecting and selling Indian artifacts for more than two decades, said they were concerned about their reputations because of a growing public perception that anyone involved in the trade could be involved with the criminal element that’s being targeted by federal agents.
“Are there people doing bad things? Yes. And I’m sure the court system will give them what they deserve,” said Walter Knox, a dealer who runs an upscale gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz. “But since this started, I’m still getting checked a lot, and it’s getting kind of silly.”
Every week, Knox said he has to run someone out of his gallery for trying to sell him stolen pots.
“I post my rules so people know I’m not going to deal with anything shady,” said Knox, a retired police officer.
Knox shrugged off the concerns, saying the caliber of dealers at the show is such that they have nothing to worry about.
While they don’t condone looting or the trafficking of illegal artifacts, many dealers said the federal government has been liberal in its interpretation of archaeological resource protection laws and heavy-handed in its effort to crack down.
Mac Grimmer, a Santa Fe dealer who has helped assemble many antique Indian art collections, said there have been crackdowns in the past and the market eventually settles down. But this could be different, he said.
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