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Monday, 7 June 2010

Technical question about NomCom and Bulletin

Technical question about NomCom and Bulletin

Monday, June 7, 2010 1:07 AM
Michael Blood wrote:

"Whether or not said information does or does
not "contribute" Or "support" illegal activity seams
clear to me.... But perhaps I Am missing something...
How can mere information be an act That involves
the Meteoritical society "contributing" to "illegal
Acts?" Information is information. It neither contributes
nor Prevents acts legal or illegal.

If I write an article verifying a gold artifact was found
in The tomb of thus & such a pharaoh in Egypt, am I
somehow "contributing to" the act of someone stealing
it, if, in fact, someone Did steal it?"

Some researchers argue that authenticating and publishing
about stolen artifacts and fossils definitely increases their
commercial value and, thus, rewards illegal activity. They
would argue that this also encourages the demand and trade
in stolen artifacts and ultimately results in more artifacts
being looted. One web page that takes this point of view is
"This is not the “Antiques Roadshow”" at:

Of course, meteorites lack many of the attributes that
artifacts have. They are more equivalent to fossils in
the ethical problems that they pose.

Archaeologists and paleontologists have been having
extremely heated and often very contentious debates over
this issue for the last 30 to 40 years without any real consensus
being reached about whether studying and publishing on
stolen (looted) items increases their value and encourages
the illegal trade in them, which results in more artifacts or
fossils being looted. Much ink has been spilled and trees
sacrificed in debating this issue among archaeologists and
paleontologists without any real resolution. Some argue that
authenticating either looted or illegally exported fossils and
artifacts by studying and publishing on them increases their
value and makes them more sellable as commodities and in the
long run encourages the looting of more fossils and artifacts.
Other researchers argue that the gain in scientific knowledge that
would otherwise be lost outweighs these concerns. Some
journals will not publish any paper based on the study of
either artifacts or fossils that have been either looted, illegally
exported, or of uncertain provenience (also called provenance).
Other journals will publish papers based on the study of
either artifacts and fossils that have been either looted, illegally
exported, or of uncertain provenience. Also, when the looting /
export occurred relative to various laws being passed also
influences what is considered either ethical or unethical.
Among archaeologists and paleontologists, which side of
this issue is taken and too what degree, has become a personal
judgment call of either the individual researcher conducting
the research, people in charge of a specific organization, or
members of the editorial board of a specific journal. There is
no solid consensus and very diverse and often contentious
differences of opinions exist about this issue.

Of course, as I noted above meteorites differ significantly
from artifacts in the ethical and scientific issues that are

There are many papers and books that have been written
on this topic, which take very different positions concerning
this controversy. For example:

Brodie, N., 2005, The circumstances and consequences
of the British Library’s 1994 acquisition of some
Kharosthi manuscript fragments. Cultural Without
Context. no. 17 (Autumn).

Matsuda, D., 1998, The ethics of archaeology, subsistence
digging, and artifact looting in Latin America: point muted
counterpoint. International Journal of Cultural Property.
vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 87-97

Scarre, C., and G. Scarre, 2006, The ethics of archaeology:
philosophical perspectives on archaeological practice
Cambridge University Press, Chicago, Illinois.

Vitelli, K. D., and C. Colwell-Chanthaphon, 2006, Archaeological
ethics. Rowman Altamira.

Zimmerman, L. J., K. D. Vitelli, and J. Hollowell-Zimmer
Ethical issues in archaeology. Society for American
Archaeology Series. Rowman Altamira, 2003

The legal travels of fossils meteorites, rocks, minerals
(palaeo-or geo-specimen) by ICOM-NATHIST

Some meteorite hunters might like the below papers.

Krowitz, E., 2003, The Battle for the Past. Cultural Without
Context. no. 13 (Autumn).

Krowitz, E., 2001, Could sale of fossils be the key to ending
theft? Nature. vol. 414, p. 485.


Paul H.

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