By Kiki Keane
As I have stated many, many times before, I am currently unemployed. You would think that I would use all this extra time in a productive way. Read more, perhaps. Study Arabic. Learn a little French. Maybe write a novel (why not, right?) or a short story or an essay. Sadly, I have not left my bed today except to make popcorn and get a cup of coffee. I watched CSI and then Bones and then Frasier and now Golden Girls. That is my life. One long parade of crime dramas and sitcoms.
Okay. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. I did do a little reading today. A few days ago I got a bee in my bonnet. The bee is stolen artifacts and archeological looting. I went to library and got a couple of books on the subject (Stealing History and Loot) as well as the memoir of Egyptologist, Donald P Ryan, Ph.D, called Beneath the Sands of Egypt.
I’ve only read about 30 pages of Stealing History, but I’ve already learned a lot, though most of it is depressing. As someone who values history and believes that the only way to understand who we are is to understand where we came from, I’m disgusted by the looting and damage done to historical sites, by those who buy and sell looted pieces and the governments and agencies who do little to stop it. However, I can kind of, sort of see why the looters do what they do. I mean, if I lived in a country in which the average person lives on less than a dollar a day and I saw how willing the wealthy are to pay thousands of dollars for a tiny statue I could dig out of the ground, I might risk being a grave robber too. Also, I find myself strangely drawn to the argument one seller made about how antiquities move those who collect them and are therefore better able to take care of them than the elitist archeologist who hoard them away where they collect dust. Don’t get me wrong. I will always be on the side of the archeologist, elitist hoarders or not. I’m just saying I understand the various reasons people have for looting antiquities. I can understand the need to feed one’s family and the pull of “easy” money ($50 for a days work in a place like Mali is an awful lot of money). I understand how a piece of history–of art–can move a person. When I was a History grad, my professor gave us photocopies of letters written by British writer Stella Benson. My knees went weak when I saw her actual hand writing. And that was over photocopies! I can only imagine what it would be like to actually possess a piece of the past, particularly the ancient past. But I’d rather have my history lesson. History belongs to everyone.
Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now.
I also started The Foreign Correspondent, which is a historical suspense novel by Alan Furst. The first few pages feature an affair and an assassination. Pretty exciting stuff.