Scholarly skullduggery in the sale of Asian antiquities?

The sale of looted artifacts has long been a detriment to archaeological research, as important archaeological sites are systematically destroyed in the pursuit of objects that will fetch a large amount of money on the international art market. In recent decades, however, authorities have attempted to curtail the art market by placing restrictions on the sale of objects obtained (that is, presumably looted) from archaeological sites. While determining when an object was unearthed can be nearly impossible, archaeology and art scholars have assisted these efforts by conducting and publishing extensive research on art objects in different parts of the world. In many cases, certain styles—of pottery or statuary, for example—were not known until relatively recent archaeological excavations. Thus, objects on the art market of these styles may reasonably be considered to have been looted--that is, unearthed after restrictive laws were put into place. A recent case in New York, however, raises the possibility of scholarly malfeasance.

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Expert Opinion or Elaborate Ruse? Scrutiny for Scholars’ Role in Art Sales

By Ralph Blumenberg and Tom Mashberg

The New York Times

March 30, 2017

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