The trouble with “cultural patrimony”

One of the problems with shipping all great antiquities and works of historical significance back to their lands of origin, as some demand, is becoming clearer in the Middle East, as Islamic State authorities destroy the Assyrian heritage site at Nimrud along with thousands of rare texts from the Mosul library and seemingly whatever other remains of pre-Solomonic and religiously disapproved civilizations their bulldozers and torches can reach. [New York Times]


  • Our only fault with regard to the Treasures of Antiquity, is that we did not take more of them to safety.

  • And this is why the U.S. (Library of Congress) refuses to return these to Mexico.

  • would it be wise to give monkeys a collection of ancient Chinese porcelain to play with? yet another reason for a new Crusade.

  • Our own ISIS (aka the Army Corps of Engineers) bulldozed the priceless excavation site of Kennewick Man.

  • A related problem is that treasures may be asociated with a different culture than the one now in control of the area in which they are found. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written by Jews and are, in the first instance, part of Jewish heritage, were found in Judea, as a result of which both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have claimed ownership. I think they belong where they are, in Israel, but by a strict application of the principle that such materials belong to the state in which they were found, the State of Palestine, if and when such a thing exists, might have a valid claim. (Jordan probably could not get anywhere with its claim since its tenure in Judea is almost universally regarded as an illegal occupation.)

  • […] for Debate”, related Ku on Elgin Marbles; my take on the collectible-coin angle; earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, […]