Scourge of Looters of Antiquities Honoured with Award; 'INDIANA JONES IN REVERSE' SEES SITES BEING 'DECIMATED'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 18, 2011 | Go to article overview

Scourge of Looters of Antiquities Honoured with Award; 'INDIANA JONES IN REVERSE' SEES SITES BEING 'DECIMATED'


Byline: ROBIN TURNER

VALUABLE archaeological sites are being "decimated" to service a full-scale industry in selling human history, according to the man dubbed "Indiana Jones in reverse".

Swansea University archaeologist Dr David Gill said many fortune hunters are abandoning all care in recovering artefacts and resorting instead to means, like mechanical diggers, that produce quick results.

The 48-year-old from Sketty, Swansea, has now been given one of the highest honours in the rarified world of antiquities for his work in getting artefacts returned to their countries of origin.

The reader in Mediterranean archaeology has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America's (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award.

Claiming pounds 300m worth of antiquities have been sold at just two major auction houses in the past 12 years, Dr Gill said: "The looting of human history has become a full-scale industry.

"In some countries, like Italy, some are literally using mechanical diggers on historical sites to rip up artefacts for sale.

"These have tended to reach auction rooms in places like New York and London via Switzerland, though the Swiss are now trying to tighten controls.

"Archaeological sites are being decimated and the few treasures taken away for financial gain lose their context.

"Strip them from that context and we lose dating, related objects and information about who used them.

"Presenting a looted object means that we value the object as a beautiful thing but we do not care about the society and culture that created it. And that is an uncivilised view."

Dr Gill became known as "Indiana Jones in reverse" because while, like his movie counterpart, he delights in getting his hands on precious antiquities, Dr Gill sends the relics back to where they came from.

He works across the world persuading museums to return ancient artefacts to Egypt, Italy, Greece and other countries suffering looting.

Last year, Dr Gill, worked with two other experts to persuade London fine art dealers Bonhams to withdraw four Roman sculptures from auction amid claims they were stolen from archaeological sites overseas. …

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