(Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz, Germany)
The ongoing looting and destruction of archaeological sites in Iraq, caused by the insatiable demand of a voracious antiquities market, lends a dramatic relevance to this initiative. After Britain and Switzerland ratified the UNESCO Convention of 1970 last year, Germany remains torn between hopes of ridding itself of its own Paria-status, and fears that a tighter antiquities law might affect jobs in a sector of the economy that contributes considerably to the German GNP. Germany is one of the last countries that has not ratified this convention and thus, by default, is actually supporting a systematic destruction of our shared archaeological heritage.
This initiative’s success is far from certain. However, even if Germany does ratify the Convention, an effective protection of the cultural memory of mankind will require a complete ban on any trade in excavated objects, i.e. items, for which there is good reason to believe they were obtained by the wilful destruction of archaeological context.
keywords: antiquities law, antiquities market, UNESCO Convention 1970, looting, Iraq