License to sell : the legal trade of antiquities in Israel

Change log
Kersel, Morag Macdonald 

The objective of this study is to introduce reliable data to the protracted debate concerning whether or not legally sanctioned antiquities markets can succeed as a solution to the illicit trade in antiquities- a solution long proffered by the collecting and dealing communities. Using the legal market in Israel as the case study this work examines how this market developed, what effect its legal and illegal aspects have on archaeological site destruction in Israel, Jordan, and the PA, and how these circumstances impact archaeological practice. The current investigation is concemed principally with establishing a connection between demand (the purchase of archaeological a1tifacts) and the looting of archaeological sites. Employing a production - distribution - consumption model of trade, this thesis considers the competing stakeholders (archaeologists, collectors, dealers, government employees, and museum professionals) and their respective claims to the disposition of the cultural heritage. Based on this research, a relationship is established between the looting of sites, thefts from museums and private collections, and the demand for artifacts. Examples 'Such as the case study of a Bar Kokhba coin, and testimony from archaeologists, dealers, and government employees clearly illustrate the link between consumer demand for archaeological material and the supply chain supported through the looting of archaeological sites. Qualitative data gathered during the course of this project indicates that with stricter laws, greater oversight, closer scrutiny of dealer inventories and registers, policing of archaeological sites under threat, more control at border crossings, a more ethical consumer base- one that refuses to purchase unprovenienced artifacts- and a steady influx of chance finds and deacessioned material, a fully monitored legal market may have the potential to succeed as a deterrent to looting. Whether or not such utopian conditions could really exist remains to be examined in future research. Collectors and dealers in ancient antiquities favour a legally sanctioned antiquities market as a remedy that will satisfy all parties invested in cultural heritage protection. This proposed solution from the primary focus of this research project.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge