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Looting archeological treasures, April 22

    Early last month, a Science magazine article raised an alarm about two TV programs that some say glamorize the looting of archaeological sites by amateur treasure hunters.
    Later this month, Wagner College will host a lecture by an international authority on archaeological looting — and the public is invited to attend.
    On Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m. in Spiro Hall 2, please join Wagner College’s Anthropology Department and the Archaeological Society of Staten Island for an illustrated lecture by Roger Bland, head of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum. His lecture is entitled, “A License to Loot.”
    Here is the question: If you were walking in the woods and came upon a relic from thousands of years ago, would you turn it in to a museum? Try and sell it for a profit? Or keep it in your own private collection of objects from antiquity?
    This is quite the problem for the field of archaeology.
    England and Wales passed two laws in 1996 designed to protect archaeological antiquities. Their goal was to ensure that those who found such treasures — usually amateurs armed with metal detectors — were not allowed to keep them, but that they still profited from turning the objects they had found over to the proper authorities. With 50 archaeologists working in a network to accept and record antiquities surrendered by the public, finds that were turned in went from 25 in 1997 to 854 in 2010. Even a hoard of 52,500 Roman coins found in one spot were turned in.
    But the sale of a Roman helmet at Christie’s in October 2010 had people wondering if the laws really worked or if they depended mostly on the conscience of good citizens for their enforcement.
    Roger Bland, the April 22 speaker, is the British official responsible for overseeing this program. His lecture will look at the problems with these issues and the concerns that many have about the future disposition of amateur antiquities finds unearthed around the globe.
    For more information about this lecture, contact Wagner College anthropology professor Celeste Gagnon (


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