Maxwell L. Anderson

Autonomy vs. Accountability in Art Museums

Legal and Practical Solutions for Unprovenanced Antiquities
New Cities Foundation

Maxwell Anderson is currently engaged in research for a book for Oxford University Press on the fate of looted, displaced, and yet-to-be discovered antiquities. The continuous terrestrial development and modernization of every nation reveals evidence of the remote past on a daily basis, much of it unreported and ending up in a black market. Modern-day iconoclasts including the Taliban and Islamic State are destroying monuments or selling objects on the same illicit market. They are but the latest entrants into an ignoble history of looters that stretches back to ancient Egypt and extends to the present day, including a range of humanity from farmers to unscrupulous excavation guards to members of syndicates and organized crime families.

Questions raised by chance discovery and intentional looting of the past are legion, as are questions about the policing of amateur exploration, the efficacy of scientific state-sponsored excavations, treasure laws rewarding metal-detector-bearing individuals, national laws forbidding export of ancient objects, and the creation and promulgation of public and private collections of such material.