The exact nature of the illicit antiquities trade from ground to market in Southeast Asia remains poorly known outside of Thailand and Cambodia, where most research has been focused. This paper helps to address this imbalance by documenting and contextualizing looting activities at the Bronze and Iron Age site of Vườn Chuối, located within urban Hanoi. A brief excavation history is provided so as to place recent looting into archaeological context. The methods used to document the recent and on-going looting observed are then discussed, followed by the nature of the current threat to Vườn Chuôi and a summation of what little is known about the Vietnamese antiquities trade in general and its relationship to regional antiquities trafficking. Finally, we discuss the current regulatory landscape in terms of constitutional, ownership, penal and international law, difficulties with enforcement and prosecution, and what course of action is needed not only to protect Vườn Chuôi and similar sites in and around Hanoi, but also to continue to raise public awareness of the archaeological repercussions of the trade itself.
I’ve posted a draft of a forthcoming work on art authentication on SSRN. The piece is scheduled for publication in the Mississippi Law Journal in the fall. I probably enjoyed writing this piece more than I should have. Our appetite for stories about art forgery and art authentication are indeed boundless, and in researching the piece, they’ve been boundless for a long time. Criminologists were studying art forgery as early as the 1960s. From the abstract:
The determination of a work of art as authentic (or not) makes a tremendous difference in the value of a work of art. Owing to the millions of dollars which can be added, or subtracted, to a work of art when an authentication opinion is made, lawsuits will often be the last resort of those unhappy with an authentication. Determining with absolute certainty, the authenticity of a work of art takes the combined expertise of art historians, scientists, and art connoisseurs. Previous examinations of the problem of art fraud and counterfeit art have focused on criminal offenses, pointed to market failures, and even argued that we should not care too much about fake art at all if nobody notices. These examinations all fail to give sufficient weight to the sheer difficulty of the task. It takes tremendous expertise required to correctly determine the artist who created a work of art, and the period in which the object was fashioned. The pages which follow argue art authentication and the experts who make them have gotten a bad reputation. Instead, their analysis should be properly valued as expert testimony in court in art authentication disputes, and should be protected from vexatious litigation.