Comment on ‘Irreconcilable Differences?

Brodie, N. (2007), ‘Comment on ‘Irreconcilable Differences?’, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 18, 12-15.

The issue of provenance (ownership history) is central to Kathy Tubb’s paper. She points out that absence of provenance means that it is easy to trade illegally-acquired artefacts, and difficult to prosecute the wrongdoers. She could have added that absence of provenance also makes it difficult to know what social harm is being caused by the artefacts trade. The trade in illegally-acquired artefacts is after all a criminal one, and its criminal relations are surely a matter of general public concern, and thus of academic interest. Unfortunately, the possible adverse social consequences of the artefacts trade will remain obscure until the provenances of ‘unprovenanced’ artefacts are routinely researched, not least by those scholars who participate in the acquisition or publication of such material.