“When cultural artifacts are illegally ripped out of context and sold, it is impossible for archaeologists even to begin the painstaking process of reconstructing something about the cultural meaning of these things and the cultural memory that attended to them. In many cases, material remains are our only source of information about the past, and looting, theft, and international sale of these artifacts radically diminishes their value as historical records.
“Proper, scientific excavation and documentation are key to preserving the archaeological record; so are international agreements that discourage the pillaging of tombs and other historic sites by strictly regulating the sale of cultural property. The Bryn Mawr archaeology department and its graduates have been leaders in both regards, virtually from the origins of the discipline in the United States up to the present day. This steadfast devotion to the highest standards of professional ethics plays an important role in maintaining warm international relations between the United States and the countries where we do research.”
Note: In 1993, Jim Wright recognized a collection of Mycenaean Bronze Age jewelry offered for sale at a New York gallery as likely the product of graves that had been robbed in 1976 in what is now Greece. His support of a suit by the Hellenic Republic was critical to the eventual repatriation of the objects to Greece in 1996. He recently testified at the U.S. Department of State before a hearing of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee in support of an international agreement on the importation of cultural property from Greece.