Home Forums Who owns the past? Who owns the past?

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    • #5766
      jlchamberlain
      Keymaster

      The questions of ‘who owns the past?’ and ‘can the past be owned?’ have resulted in many battles over art in modern times. Some people claim that an artifact should belong to the person who found it, or the nation that funded the excavation. Others argue that the artifact should belong to the person/nation on whose land it was found. Still others believe it should belong to the culture that made it. But what if that culture no longer exists? Nothing is black and white in this argument and there are many shades of gray. Weigh in on this discussion and use examples from Greek culture and other cultures that we are studying.

    • #6662
      Laura Barber
      Participant

      Due to the complexity of this matter, many factors should be considered. Giving art to the culture that created it helps to foster a sense of pride for one’s community and history. It is also the natural decision, since they were the ones who created the given artwork. However, the fact that different cultures’ artwork is so mixed around the world exposes people to a diverse collection of art from cultures both similar and wholly different from their own. For instance, the Greek Altar of Pergamon from the Hellenistic Period is currently in a German museum.

      Unfortunately, much artwork held in countries that they did not originate from is not because of cultural diversity. Rather, the artwork was seized by a conquering culture and never returned. This does not foster a global world. Instead, it limits relationships between countries and hinders international peace. Seized artwork should be returned to the home of the artwork if that is what the country wants.

      There are some cultures that are now extinct. They could be assigned to the people who live in the same geographical area as them, but this is not always the fair choice. The cave paintings in France and Spain were not created by people from the modern French and Spanish culture, but they were geographically located in France and Spain. Should they, and whatever profits they generate, belong to whoever owned the land or to the government? Such questions almost always depend upon each individual situation.

      • #6675
        Valene
        Participant

        This is a complicated subject as I could see any of these sides of the argument having a legitimate reason to be right. In another class I am in, we are discussing Alaskan Native History and there is this similar topic being discussed on Alaska Native Art and their elders not feeling it is right to display these very personal artifacts for anyone to see. In some Alaskan Native cultures, a piece could be used for a specific celebration or spiritual event and they believe the spirit of the event is in that art piece. Still other Alaskan cultures feel a specific clan has the rights over any art produced by its peoples. How then can someone just find one of these arts pieces and make claim to it and ignore the cultural reference? In this class there is similar situations of people like last weeks Sir Arthur Evans and his incorrectly reconstructing The Palace Complex at Knossos. It is sad that the Minoan’s culture was represented incorrectly. It seems like many of these finds have been claimed by the finder and not by the culture who originally made the item. I certainly don’t have an answer to who should get the right to the item but I would hope that most people who find ancient artifacts would want them appreciated by all and allow their cultural ties to be acknowledged.

        • #6681
          Miranda Johansson
          Participant

          Valene – thank you for the examples of Alaska Native art. At the same time that I appreciate museums, I do find it a strange concept, especially when it is not an ancient culture but a living culture. It’s almost like a zoo for cultures. I feel like for examples with Alaska Native arts, where there are still tribal entities who can voice the concern of the people, that it becomes more controversial to take and display finds without consulting the tribe that owns the lands where the artifact was found.

          • #6761
            Valene
            Participant

            Re: Miranda
            That is such an interesting comparison to a living zoo. I never thought of it that way, but your right. I agree that these Alaskan tribes that are still in existence should have some kind of say in discoveries from their tribe.

        • #6682
          Laura Barber
          Participant

          Re: Valene
          I loved your Alaska example! It’s interesting to view the issue from a local culture’s perspective. I agree with you – it’s hard to assign art to a particular group when their are so many variables surrounding the ownership.

        • #6689
          ckocsis
          Participant

          Valene- I like that you brought up how some elders don’t think it’s right to display personal artifacts. I was pretty set in my opinion that the past should be accessible to everyone, but that is a very good point, and now I’m even less sure of what to do with artifacts than I was. Great point.

        • #6715
          rdnelson4
          Participant

          I really appreciated your examples of Alaskan Native culture. It made me realize I had only used the mindset of ancient art and artifacts in my discussion question answer. It shouldn’t even be a question who should have the rights to artifacts if people of that culture still exist! That would be like someone taking something off your lawn and asking who it belongs to!

          • #6764
            Valene
            Participant

            Re: rdnelson4,
            I also used to only think of these topics in relation to ancient cultures. It was ironic to me that my Alaskan Native course is also taking about rights to cultural art.
            I love your comment on the lawn and who it belongs to. That is exactly right!

        • #6749
          Aubri Stogsdill
          Participant

          RE Valene

          Wow, that example about the Alaska Native artifacts is so close to home. I feel like that makes sense. Especially because the Alaska Native culture is still prominent and is so deeply valued by the people. Allowing those artifacts to go to the tribe seems completely fair to me! Cultural context and ties really help us to better understand the past, so removing those artifact from their proper place within culture could diminish their value.

      • #6680
        Miranda Johansson
        Participant

        Laura – “the artwork was seized by a conquering culture and never returned.” I completely agree with this statement! This seems like such an ironic notion, that a country goes into a different country and brings something home. Like a child that is showing off a shiny find. It seems that this would be disrespectful toward the culture that lost a piece of their own heritage.

        • #6721
          Dean Riley
          Participant

          Using an example from modern times, when Germany was invading neighboring countries during Hitler’s reign, they would “confiscate” many great works of art. Much of this art has been recovered, but much more has been lost and it’s whereabouts are still unknown. Much of that art held great cultural significance to the owner.

    • #6683
      Miranda Johansson
      Participant

      When it comes to the question of who owns the past, in a sense, I feel like we all do. Not to completely globalize every historical event, but most historical events and ideas have affected many of our societies in one way or an other. However, when it comes to artifacts that are found and displaying them in museums – I feel conflicted. For example, many of the artifacts that we have seen are excavated from ancient cultures and moved to completely different geographical locations for display. The Funerary Krater that was found in the Dipylon Cemetery in Athens is on display in New York. The White-Ground Ceramic Painting is in Scotland. There are other artifacts that were found in Italy and Greece that are displayed in museums there, which seems more appropriate. Or if we look at the gold mask of Tutankhamun that is not displayed in Egypt, while the Palette of King Narmer was not allowed to leave Egypt. This seems more culturally sensitive that the culture that owns the artifact is consulted before it leaves their country.
      Now, it is not always possible to consult the culture, especially if we are looking at ancient cultures that are not existent anymore. But have these cultures really past? Did they not influence cultures that do still exist today? Would this not be their heritage and therefore knowledge that they have a right to? I think that it is important to maintain cultural sensitivity and relevance when looking at art, instead of a finders keepers attitude, we need to understand and be sensitive to the importance that an artifact may have to a current culture.

    • #6685
      Allie Eby
      Participant

      This is an incredibly complicated question, with equally complicated answers, but I will do my best to reasonably summarize my thoughts on the matter. I <i>personally</i> believe that cultural ‘ownership’ is inherently a flawed idea, and historical artifacts should not really “belong’ to any one person except either the artist, or the person for whom the art was made (or perhaps their living descendants, if such a thing could even be verified). However, that’s not really how these things seems to work in my experience, and ideas of the property management of artifacts are both historically and modernly debated. Artifacts found in Iran might very well ‘belong’ to the Iranian people, as the cultural descendants of the Persian empire. I think that the most moral thing to do would be to let the artifacts belong to the closest modern descendants of the culture that made them, but this isn’t very logistically practical, and I also see the value in placing things left behind by extinct cultures with no remaining descendants in museums for the greater education of the human populace. Much can be learned about all of the cultures we have studied from the art they have made, including groups with a very short history such as the Mycenaeans, and inspiring future generations to learn about these periods in the world’s history is valuable. However, the monetization and past exploitation of cultural pieces (such as the infamous “Mask of Agamemnon” being named and likely heavily modified for personal fame) and the prestige gained by organizations by more or less hoarding artifacts from all over the world (such as the large collection of pieces found in museums all over Europe, many worth millions of dollars) means that there is no truly “good’ way to go about determining who owns an artifact.

      • #6696
        Bob Hook
        Participant

        Allie, you raise some great points and this is a very complex issue. Times and cultures change and appreciation of culture can also change. Much of the art we look at was preserved by people and cultures different than those who created it. What if the cultures no longer wish to be associated with their past? I can’t help but be saddened by the destruction done to the Statues of Buddha, Bamyan Afganistan by the Taliban. All done in an attempt to religiously purify their heritage from outside influence.

      • #7067
        Gabe
        Participant

        I generally agree with what you are saying. It’s hard to define ‘cultural descendants’ in a meaningful way that is open to factors like immigration. You see that now politically where the question ‘What makes someone an American?’ or ‘What makes someone a European?’ I wouldn’t want to say that a South American immigrant to the USA doesn’t have any ‘ownership’ over the USA’s founding documents for instance. I’d want to say ‘Sure, they belong to you as much as anyone!’ However the opposite end of the stick is cultural appropriation, where I wouldn’t want to start disrespectfully mimicking some South American ritual practices. You can see how the two concepts are related though. I think an attitude of respect, curiosity, openness, and sharing is best.

    • #6688
      ckocsis
      Participant

      This is a difficult question. Personally, I don’t think anyone should “own” the past. I think these things should be accessible to everyone with no specific owner, because I feel like everyone benefits from being able to see these artifacts. However, I don’t really think it’s possible for no one to own these items, and I also think it’s important that they are preserved, which requires someone to preserve them. I understand every angle of this issue. I can understand the idea that the person who found it should own it, because we wouldn’t have the artifact if it hadn’t been found. But I also completely understand that the culture that made the item should own it, because it is directly tied to their history. As for being found on a person’s land, I understand that they would want to keep it, but I think, unless it’s a family heirloom or specifically related to that persons history, it shouldn’t really be theirs. I think everyone should have access to these items, and I think it’s important to have things from different cultures represented in all cultures, like the Kore in Berlin. I think having items from different cultures represented everywhere creates interest in cultures other than our own, And I think that’s very important.

      • #6737
        Lacey Miller
        Participant

        Good point on the fact that the artifacts should be accessible to all. I was of a different mind, but i can see it both ways.

    • #6692
      Maggie May
      Participant

      I have to admit that it always catches me off guard when Dr. Jones is describing a work and then states that it’s now in a place far, far from that origin. For example, in this unit she mentioned several pieces from Ancient Greece are now located in Munich, Germany.
      It’s such a complex issue. I understand removing pieces from areas near their origin when those areas are immersed in conflict and battle, as discussed in previous units, but I maintain that it is paramount to the holistic integrity of those pieces that we do the best we can to fully understand the culture that they came from and continue to appreciate them through that lens. The context which the piece was created in is nearly as important as the piece itself when studying and attempting to understand a work,and it can be difficult to fully comprehend those details when a piece is so detached from it’s origin.
      It’s a fine balance between removing art to preserve it and leaving it in place to understand it.
      I think if possible, we must allow art to remain in it’s area and culture of origin. It is highly unethical to remove and retain art from a society or culture without the continued permission of that society or culture. Of course, this is a complex matter of international politics.
      While I don’t believe that modern descendants far, far detached from the origin of a piece (like say, if we were to give the rights to an ancient Greek piece to a modern descendant) should have legal or financial rights to determine if the piece is displayed or not, I believe that we should allow art to remain in context and in culture when possible. After a certain amount of time, art should become public property (with appropriate credit and understanding given) and be displayed for all to learn from. We must study the art of other cultures in full and rich context in order to fully understand them, and to do that we must first have access to that art when appropriate.

      • #6724
        Dean Riley
        Participant

        Maggie, I agree that art is meant to be enjoyed and protecting that art from being destroyed because of conflict is important. Heaven only knows how much priceless art has been destroyed because it demonstrated the wrong culture or religion. But every effort needs to be made to return that artifact back to its place of origin when it is safe to do so. Other cultures should be allowed to “borrow” artifacts to display though.

      • #6754
        Raven Shaw
        Participant

        You bring up an interesting point in mentioning that art may need to be removed from an area that is experiencing conflict that may destroy the art. Should this become part of a global agreement when joining the UN? If the artifacts are part of our human heritage as a whole, are we all more responsible for protecting them than for claiming them?

        I also agree that artifacts should stay with the descendants as much as possible, it is generally rude to take things from people. But I don’t know about handing them back to people who have moved away from the land they left stuff on… But yes, always be polite.

    • #6697
      Bob Hook
      Participant

      This is a very complex issue that gets to the very nature of humans. I think it is important to construct this discussion around the concept that art belongs to everyone it influences. Copyright laws in America provide for actual ownership rights in our society and for a modern artist. Currently, there is much concern over cultural appropriation among different cultures within our society. I think this has always occurred. We learn of other human activities and we adopt what we like and disregard other aspects we find less desirable. It just happens faster now. We see something we admire and within days it goes viral.
      Much of the art we view in this class is disassociated from the culture who created it. Our art history has been ravaged by conquers seeking gold and jewels, by destruction in war and by time itself. The conquers have always taken the spoils and this will continue as long as we have inequities in society.
      Rights of ownership will always be challenged. What I do know is that no one or group has the right to destroy or damage art to fit their own cultural biases or beliefs. Maybe in the future, all art will be available digitally or holographically where it can be viewed and understood for eternity without the threat of being owned by a particular group.

      • #6735
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Bob, I like the idea of art becoming digital or holographic in the future, but I feel like that could make some pieces really start to lose their touch. With all the technology being developed, I’m sure we’ll find better ways to be able to preserve them or recreate pieces so we can have them accessible in more places around the world. Maybe one day we’ll be able to develop something that’ll tell us the colors that were originally painted on some of the statues and structures found, to digitally recreate everything. Or, maybe we can learn to put some of these structures in virtual reality and offer that at some museums to take a virtual tour around the lands.

    • #6703
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      This question incites a lot of passion in me. I am married to an Indigenous man (Navajo, Mandan, and Hidatsa) and lived on the Navajo reservation for four years. It is a constant battle getting their sacred artifacts back from museums and people that have taken it from their land so long ago. I firmly believe that found artifacts should return to the nation that they belonged to, as long as they have the means to do so. People should not have the right to take the ancient artifacts from the land and claim it as their own, let alone sell it for auction. I understand the need for education, but that can also be achieved by giving it back to the nations and handing over the narrative for them to tell, if they so choose to do so. As for a culture that doesn’t exist anymore, I still retain that argument, that the land/nation should keep the artifacts and help further educate people on their past as a land and as a country. The Aphrodite of Melos is in the Louvre, for example, was presented and given to Louis XVII by The Marquis de Rivière in 1820. Did he have a right to do so? Has the island of Milos attempted or consented to this? More research would need to be done, but it it something to think about.

      • #6736
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Jessi, I can see how that would be a long and tough battle for any sacred artifacts. In cases like these, I feel like the artifacts should be returned to their homes, and if the people choose to, they can display it in their own ways so the world can still have access to viewing them and learning about it. The newer culture would likely have a better idea of the meaning behind the artifacts anyways, so they would be able to present it in a way that might have more information than it would in a museum.

      • #7031
        Allie Eby
        Participant

        Jessi, you make excellent points. I was really trying to consider indigenous peoples’ viewpoints when I wrote my response, but as you might expect, I don’t have as close of a connection to the issue as you, or to members of those groups. I think that THEIR opinions matter more on this subject than anyone else’s.

    • #6704
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: Bob Hook
      If there’s one thing I can agree on, is that no one has the right to destroy or damage the historical artworks, as you said. That’s a great idea for the future, that way the pieces can be returned to their original lands/museums and people around the world can still be educated about it.

    • #6705
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: ckocsis
      It’s true that when museums hold items from cultures everywhere, it creates an awareness and interest in different histories in the people that view them. I think this is where I feel most divided; some artifacts should be returned to their rightful culture/lands such as sacred cultural items (such as ones in the native american communities), while other artifacts should be protected in a museum if the land or culture is unable to protect them (such as warzones).

    • #6713
      rdnelson4
      Participant

      Perhaps a different take than most, I believe artifacts shouldn’t belong to anyone. I think their storage/display to the world is the responsibility of the country/agency who is best equipped to preserve and show the artifacts to the rest of the world. Many beautiful and historically important artifacts and buildings have been lost to war and invasion. Perhaps the Statue of Athena that was once within the Parthenon would still be around today if it had been kept in a safer place. Though time will always wear down, places like museums that specialize in the preservation and restoration of beloved artifacts can keep them unchanged so they might teach and inspire generations to come.

      • #6718
        Aalieyah Creach
        Participant

        RDNELSON4:

        I completely agree with the fact that it is the responsibility of the country or agency to preserve the artifacts in order for the world to see them. They are often a few piece of art work as you stated that just end up damaged or destroyed because people aren’t taking the proper measurements to make sure they artifacts are preserved in the state they were originally found in. So the world loses beautiful pieces because of someones lack for knowledge.

      • #6843
        Celina Batchelder
        Participant

        Perhaps artifacts shouldn’t belong to anyone. In many cases, the credit is given to the person who found it as the discoverer, not the owner. I agree that there is a responsibility for those who find it to showcase it in a way that relays its message and cultural enrichment to others so that the culture it originates from can be appreciated. Having the opportunity to be immersed in other cultures by viewing their works of art can be one way to healthily expand knowledge cross-culturally, especially if the culture that the piece originates from no longer exists.

    • #6717
      Aalieyah Creach
      Participant

      I personally believe that artifacts shouldn’t belong to anyone, rather they should stay in the country or region that they were found in or be sent to where it had originated if known. That way the art piece gets to stay within the area of which it was made. It is a whole different story if the artist sold their art piece and it ends up wherever it goes, then that person owns it in the sense of a possession. For example vase of Exekias Amphora with Ajax and Achilles playing a games is placed in a museum where it is being preserved, however, they managed to obtain the artifact doesn’t mean they own the past or the creation of it. They own it as a piece they get to show off to the individuals who want to gaze at Ancient Greece masterpieces. As they gaze they know in their minds that the artifact isn’t something that can be claimed as the museums own. They have it to show the world where it originated and who possibly created it.

      • #6743
        csayreswoody
        Participant

        Aalieyah Creach,

        Great points, I too believe that these artifacts should stay where they are originated from or to be sent back to where they originated from. I don’t understand how people can just take another man/woman art and pride it around in their museums as if they where the ones that discovered it. Also how can they take away from the people that still lived in Greece or other places. I feel they should have their own original artifacts to be able to show their children’s children about their history.

    • #6719
      Jess
      Participant

      I believe in the conservation of historical artifacts and conservation. Interestingly here in the USA more specifically in the southwest continental area, it can be illegal to pick up Native American artifacts and pottery shards. There are millions of shards laying on the ground that are slowly deteriorating cause of the natural elements. I believe sacred sites and specific areas that have meaning to Native Americans should belong to them and all the artifacts that reside there. That being said I don’t think it’s right to completely say one culture owns everything just because it was their ancestors. We are all humans on this planet and I believe the individual who goes out looking for artifacts and puts in the time and money should be rewarded for that. There are thousands of acres of pottery shards and to say you can’t touch or pick up pottery even if it’s on your land is ludicrous. Therefore it is very interesting to me that The Kouros figures from Attica Greece are on display in the Metropolitan museum of Art in New York. As well as the Assurnasirpal II Killing Lions is from Kalhu, also known as present-day Nimrud, Iraq, is on display in the British Museum in London. So long as the history of the artifact is correct and that the location of its origin is always known, I do not see why we cannot share what we have found with others or let those who find the objects have ownership.

    • #6722
      Dean Riley
      Participant

      I do not think that there is a cut and dry answer as to who should own artifacts from the past. When the find is a building such as the Akropolis or the Parthenon, there is no questions that the find belongs to the city and country that it is in. It should not be dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere. When the find is mobile is when the answer becomes a little less easy to find. I would tend to lean towards the same rules that determine mineral rights. Whoever owns the land where the artifact is found, should be the owner of it. If the owner agreed to have a third party come into their land to look for artifacts, then whatever agreement was made by the land owner should be honored. When the land is not owned by anyone, such as international water, then the ownership is whoever makes the find. I do however believe that in instances where the owner and who discovers it is different, the discoverer should be acknowledged by having it named after them such as the Funerary Krater belonging to the Hirschfeld Workshop.

      • #6765
        Valene
        Participant

        Re Dean:
        I like your idea of who to give ownership and discovery to with found objects, it is definitely a sticky situations in terms of mobile objects and cultures who are very possessive of their own arts rights. No one answer is perfect but your idea does seem to be fair.

    • #6729
      Tamara Toy
      Participant

      This is a very complex issue that has a lot of different angles that need to be taken into consideration. First of all, I feel is the art in question is a culture that is still in existence, their wishes should be taken into consideration. So much art and personal effects were lost when the relocations took place in the U.S., some of which is still being fought over in the courts. I feel if more respect for their wishes had been used in recent years, some people may be more open to pieces being on loan to a museum. Much of what we deem art can end up being religious or sacred artifacts and I feel this should be returned if it is requested.
      When it comes to art that is from a culture that is not still in existence, I feel that this is a greyer area. Yes, the country or area that it was recovered from, like the art of Babylonia, there should some consideration to the wishes and traditions of the modern country or culture. However, if for example, Iraq does not want these pieces preserved, I feel there is a need to override their wishes to keep the art for future generations. Again, there is a fine line here that is difficult for me to decide on. Each culture brings up different issues to be addressed.
      The one thing is that we live in an age of technology. The things we can do with imagery and 3-d printing is amazing. While I understand that it is not the same seeing a reproduction of the Mona Lisa as it is seeing the real thing, I feel that sometimes this may be a compromise to honor these ancient cultures and still benefit from what they can teach us.

    • #6733
      Lacey Miller
      Participant

      I very much believe that artifacts found, belong to the culture that they came from. If this is undefinable or the culture has dissipated, it belongs to the property owner, where the site was located. I don’t really believe it should go to the one that finds it unless there is an agreement with the property owner. I suppose it is also dependent who funds the dig… but it does get rather sticky.

    • #6734
      tmbergan
      Participant

      I don’t necessarily think anyone can “own’ the past, or should be entitled to owning the artifacts found from the past. While I do understand the mindset of “I found it first, therefore I should be the one to keep it or have a say in where it goes,’ I don’t entirely agree with it. What if the person that found it gets greedy and wants to make a huge profit from it? It would make more sense to leave it to the nation/person that’s now living on the lands on which it was found, but it is nice to have the pieces on display to help us learn about the past cultures. If the culture that made it no longer exists, the artifacts should be passed off to the culture that is currently there or the closest relative to the older civilization. From there, they should be the ones that are to determine where it’ll go. If it were like this, maybe there would be more museums in these countries that would increase the number of tourists to the bigger towns, though that could have some downsides as well if it’s overflowing and makes the town a lot more expensive than it already was for the people already living there. It’s a tricky topic because it is a grey area. Everyone would have different opinions on this topic and there’s really no right or wrong answer.

    • #6738
      csayreswoody
      Participant

      When it comes to “who owns the past” there are several great points form both sides. For example the “Olympia” c750 BCE museum of art is displayed in the museum of art in New York. How or better yet why is it being displayed half way around the world. Some could argue it should have remained in its city or origin while others argue it should be on display for the US to be exposed to. In the argument of who owns the past, In my opinion the art should remain where it was discovered. There is history behind it that needs to or sometimes can’t be explained. To discover fine art and claim it is just not right to me. Art isn’t something you can call dibs on. If you take a trip to the Metropolitan museum of art you can see artwork of Greek artist from 500 years prior. Why is that acceptable. People should allow art to remain part of the culture it was created in. That was a part of a era that made a impact and continues to make impressions on people around the world. But it should remain where it was discovered. There is no rights to be declared when it comes to artwork. There could be spiritual means behind the art work. It’s kind of like someone 200 years from now excavating a close family member and moving there body’s half way around the world because they find the coffins remarkable. To excavate artifacts is one thing but to put them on display no where near where they were discovered just does not sit right with me. There are no rights to be owned by the past in my opinion. Whatever is discovered in this day and age should remain on the homeland it was discovered on end of story. To stake claim in something so beautiful as the bronze statues or the beauty found on simple things such as urns is just not right to me.

    • #6748
      Aubri Stogsdill
      Participant

      This argument is pretty complex. I can totally see how any of these perspectives could be taken and defended. Personally, I believe these artifacts belong to humanity as a whole, and yet each situation is so different. There are plenty of artifacts that no one is pining to ‘retrieve’ in order to hold onto their culture, and at the same time I am sure there are plenty of people groups who want their ancient artifacts to be given back in order to hold their historical culture sacred. To be so cut and dry about ‘who’ deserves to keep every item that is found seems pretty narrow minded. We all own the past, and for each piece that is found, a different discussion needs to be had in order to properly assign where the piece should live. I do think there are individuals who have selfish motives behind finding artifacts (ie. making a ton of money off of them). Being aware of the need to value and preserve the past and respect the ancestors of those who are living today, and making a conscious effort to celebrate and uncover the past at the same time is so important. Each situation is different, so we must approach them differently.

    • #6752
      Raven Shaw
      Participant

      Greek art was influenced by the Near East in their early period, the Minoans and Mycenaeans shared art through trade, and the Egyptian artists were influenced by whoever invaded their culture. The Greeks exported a lot of pots to surrounding nations such as the Etruscans in Italy, so we’ve found a great deal of Greek pottery buried far outside Greece. The Romans loved Greek art, so reproduced it in marble. It’s hard to answer the question of who owns what, if the basis is ancestry or location. If the art belongs to the nation that lives on the land now, it’s not very fair to the nation they displaced. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer, so what may be fairest (but potentially unpopular) is to agree that art belongs to human kind.

      The image of the Gorgon may have been adopted by the Greeks from the Phoenicians, and may have taken the image of Aphrodite and her associated symbols as well. Ancient peoples shared and borrowed art and ideas just like modern people do. Ganguro girls in Japan make themselves up to look like Californian Barbies, while shy boys in American high schools adopt Japanese dress and behavior from watching anime.

      It seems to me that if we all came from walking apes in Africa, and are naturally inclined to share and mimic art and ideas, then art belongs to everyone — including ancient artifacts. We should be working on making it easier to share, and make it easier for the descendants of the ancient artisans to visit their art — or help them create museum spaces to keep the art close to home and generate revenue. It is also more possible to create reproductions of art, due to 3d scanning and printing, so it should become easier to share the experience globally.

      I think we should think more about what the original artists would feel — such as joy that their work is still being enjoyed thousands of years later — and act less like children fighting over their grandfather’s will.

    • #6767
      Sam Saccomen
      Participant

      I think this is a tricky question about who should claim certain artifacts. I know many problems arise when talking who should claim an artifact, however sometimes I believe who ever the artifact is owned by shouldn’t matter but the purpose for the artifact which is to teach the world about our ancestors is most important. It is hard for everyone to learn about their culture if the culture who owns the artifact is claimed by a culture who can’t easily explain the meaning of the artifact. I believe the culture should work with other cultures to help the world fully understand these cultures however, it is hard to work with other cultures because of the cultural barriers. I believe that if a culture no longer exist it is very important that a decision is made quickly on who will ultimately claim the artifact so the world can get a broader image of this culture so the culture isn’t forgotten.

      • #6774
        Kaylyn Kelly
        Participant

        RE: sjsaccomen
        Hey sjsaccomen,
        I like the view that you had on artifacts and who should claim them. You stated that it was okay for artifacts to be owned by anyone and the sole purpose should only be to educate others. I agree with this statement and it opened up my mind to how I thought about this question. I said that no one should be able to say they own a piece of artwork that isn’t theirs only because they could then do whatever they wanted with it whether it be good or bad.

    • #6768
      Kaitlyn
      Participant

      This is a very hard question and I don’t believe there is one single correct answer. For example, it said hitler had purchased the statue, PRAXITELES’ APHRODITE OF KNIDOS is now located in Germany, along with a few other pieces of art. There were also pieces in Rome, and Italy. In my own opinion, I think ownership should belong to the culture, or country the piece of art originated from. In some cases these pieces of artwork are key artifacts in preserving history, the Egyptian art works would be a good example, or the Aegean. The ownership should belong in the hands of a museum or something similar so the art that is discovered cane studied and observed, after all it is one of the only ways to be able to connect with the past. So I think art should be available for all people to observe, enjoy, appreciate, and learn from. I think the best way to accomplish this is for the art to remain in its original culture, or country. Of course there are exceptions, like when pieces are being shown at different museums around the world, which sometimes helps to better educate people. This is definitely a tough question, but overall I think these magnificent historic works of art should be open for the public to view so they can appreciate and learn about the past cultures.

      • #6842
        Celina Batchelder
        Participant

        I agree that art should be available for all to observe, ponder and enjoy. Creating replicas of these pieces could be one solution, so that we aren’t removing the piece from its original country of origin. I think you bring up a great example, the Aphrodite of Knidos. Works should belong in their country of origin; it is true that they make be key to that culture’s history.

    • #6769
      Sam Saccomen
      Participant

      Allie, I really enjoyed your post. I thought you had really good examples and a great take on where the artifacts should belong too. However, I believe that giving these artifacts to descendants wouldn’t allow the world to see these cultures. I believe that the reasons these artifacts are given to the wrong individuals is so that we can get a bigger understanding of these artifacts and their cultures. Without this being done many of the artifacts that helped us learn these cultures wouldn’t even be known.

    • #6772
      Kaylyn Kelly
      Participant

      There are many individuals out there that sell old artifacts that they find. Is it morally right to sell work that isn’t yours? It is hard to know if there is a right or wrong when dealing with artwork but I do not think it should be “owned’ by anyone other than its creator. Prehistoric art on up to Ancient Greek artwork does not have anyone around to be the physical owner due to how old it is. This allows for our human nature to kick in. We become greedy, believe everything on this earth needs ownership, and thus leading to humans taking action into their own hands. Artwork is sold without consent which allows people to make a profit from something that never was theirs in the first place. It is a circle that continuously goes round and round with artifacts. Any historical artifact in my mind should not be sold nor profits made from it. Art should also be kept in the original place it was created in. Many pieces of art from Ancient Greece is now in Munich, Germany which is used for educational purposes but still does not seem right to take it from where it was created. An example of art being moved would be The Kouros figures from Attica Greece. These figures have been moved across the world to New York to be put into a museum. In my eyes, I see these figures or any form of art having more significance in the place it was made.

      • #6782
        Miranda Jackovich
        Participant

        To Kaylyn Kelly
        I completely agree with your thoughts about how greedy people can become. Do you possibly think that cultural material in the past could have been traded, stolen, sold, gifted and the last place where it was uncovered could possibly not be the original location. Luckily archaeologist are getting better at tracking trade routes in the past. Also if we learn that cultures gave gifts to each other it can spark new relationships between cultures. Great thoughts!

    • #6781
      Miranda Jackovich
      Participant

      Many civilizations have died out through the course of thousands of years. Regardless they all leave their mark on this planet. When it comes to ‘ownership’ of sites, artifacts, and remains I have always believed that these should be restored and left where they are found. Unfortunately artifacts like the ‘Berlin Kore’ were removed from its original place. There are some cases where it is necessary to move these remains and cultural material to keep them safe due to weather and/or war zones. Besides these incidences I would much rather travel the world and put myself in the environment that they once lived in. But for someone to claim a culture, endless there are direct ties to present day people, no one should claim it. I also believe that the countries in the surrounding areas should have say how things should be handled. The lines and borders that we live in today were very different from those in the past, so the cultural material found might have ties to them as well. In time, hopefully people can come together to take the right step to handle these fragile and priceless cultural material to share with each other.

    • #6841
      Celina Batchelder
      Participant

      Determining who owns art from the past is a multi-faceted discussion, especially considering that the culture who created the piece may no longer exist. A “finders-keepers” sort of attitude leads to a art history saturated in misrepresentation. On one hand, we want to honor these cultures and leave their artworks with them in order to help sanctify their rich history as much as possible. It is also important to grant other societies and social groups a chance to discover and learn through the observation of other societies/culture’s art. This is why many art pieces, such as the Man and Centaur, can be found in places such as New York City, far from where they were discovered.
      When considering this topic, the Mask of Agamemnon comes to mind. It was discovered by the business man, Heinrich Schliemann, and it has been theorized that the mask was altered in order to fit a political agenda. The removal of this item from its original site caused Schliemann to hypothesize its cultural significance, which alters the history we have of the Aegean culture.
      While it is important to let other societies enrich themselves in the cultural art works that others have created, it is also important to preserve their legacy as much as we possibly can.

    • #7066
      Gabe
      Participant

      I think most importantly we all own the past. I think it’s only a nationalistic and borderline racist rhetoric that doesn’t recognize the interpollination that has occurred culturally and genetically all across the world. Especially for a work which goes back thousands of years, obviously the culture that lead to that artwork also contributed to the lives, in one way or another, of everyone who came after. I think the strongest argument for keeping a relic nearby where it was found is that in many ways the land shapes a people. For instance, ancient Greek art is heavily influenced by the sea, the volcanoes, the availability of marble, the proximity of other cultures. All these factors made Ancient Greek culture what it was, so whatever people continue to live in that place will also to a degree partake in those same factors and so the experience of the art may be enriched for them. The fact that it is more relevant is an argument for them holding onto a piece, however I don’t think it implies ownership, but more of a trust or stewardship. Ideally a people would recognize the relevance that world art and world heritage has for everyone, and be open to share that as widely as possible. Often however people jealously guard their identities and feel the need to exclude others.

    • #7244
      Guy Gaswint
      Participant

      The questions of ‘who owns the past?’ and ‘can the past be owned?’ have resulted in many battles over art in modern times. Some people claim that an artifact should belong to the person who found it, or the nation that funded the excavation. Others argue that the artifact should belong to the person/nation on whose land it was found. Still others believe it should belong to the culture that made it. But what if that culture no longer exists? Nothing is black and white in this argument and there are many shades of gray. Weigh in on this discussion and use examples from Greek culture and other cultures that we are studying.
      I believe that artifacts should be owned by the country in which it was discovered. When we discuss history than we have to consider who does that history belong to. A easy example is the use of a nuclear bomb, the U.S. owns that history exclusively. That Japanese people own the history of being the only ones attacked with a nuclear weapon. I believe history can be owned.
      The same is true with art weather we want to recognize it or not, someone or group(s) always owns, or is responsible for history. The Egyptians have recently declared that they will no longer lend out artifacts to other museums, that in itself establishes a sort of ownership.
      Most will agree that architecture is a form of art, obviously structures are owned by the country it is in, you can not just take a building with you. The same should apply to any artifacts regardless of portability.

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