Student Note on Pre-Columbian Antiquities

Pre-Columbian antiquities from the Rufino Tamayo Museum in Oaxaca
Pre-Columbian antiquities from the Rufino Tamayo Museum in Oaxaca

The Texas Law Review has published a student note by Ryan Phelps titled  Protecting North America’s Past: The Current (and Ineffective) Laws Preventing the Illicit Trade of Mexican Pre-Columbian Antiquities and How We Can Improve Them, 94 Tex. L. Rev. 785 (2016).

The piece is noteworthy mainly due to the prestige of the Journal, as the comment largely consolidates the arguments for advocating for more policing of the antiquities trade at the source and educating the buyers of illicit material at the market end.

From the Introduction:

With the problem at hand, this Note suggests that the current laws and recourses available that protect and deter the theft of Mexican pre-Columbian antiquities and these artifacts’ illegal import into the United States are ineffective at their goal of reducing these types of crime. Instead, a new policy is recommended that focuses on the active preservation of these antiquities before they are looted in the first place. This policy will rely primarily on educating the people of Mexico and the United States about the damage that this illicit trade causes and the penalties for those involved in this destruction. Specific groups of people will be targeted for this education, including people living in rural areas who may find or help transport stolen antiquities, border agents and tourists who may discover the antiquities as they are smuggled, museums and dealers who often serve as intentional or unintentional fences for these artifacts, and people involved in international transportation who may witness or take part in the trade.

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