“Whatever is Greek, wherever in the world, we want back.”

by Walter Olson on May 27, 2008

Why does the idea of cultural property have so many advocates? “It seems to establish a bulwark against the plunder of antiquities.” And yet how quickly it’s turned into a way of looting premodern artifacts from Western owners whose claim of title is stronger than that of foreign governments or indigenous/Indian tribes. “But if cultural property really did exist, the Enlightenment museum would be an example of it: an institution that evolved, almost uniquely, out of Western civilization. And the cultural property movement could be seen as a persistent attempt to undermine it. And take illicit possession.” (Edward Rothstein, “Antiquities, the World Is Your Homeland”, New York Times, May 27).


1 mojo 05.28.08 at 12:59 pm

I got a week-old gyro here. You guys want that too?

2 teqjack 05.28.08 at 4:46 pm

Plundering by other means. E.g. the recent Spanish claim to an admittedly Spanish ship’s contents, found in waters off Portugal (not Spain), as being of heritage value[s] to Spain. The contents? Silver and gold looted from inhabitants of The New World, whom Spain would certainly fight if say, Peru, claimed it as having special historical value…

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