posted on Jul, 14 2006 @ 08:20 AM
Regarding Western museums, much of what they have was taken perfectly legally. The Egyptian government long ago had a deal where you could excavate
and keep half of what you found, the rest going to the Egyptians.
In this way, they could fund digs in Egypt by legitimate archaeologists, which back then was a fairly new science, and retrieve valuable display
items. All without laying out a single dime of their own money.
This practice ended with Howard Carter's controversial activities during the Tut excavation.
Not to say that several museums don't illegally possess some items. A lot of items were hidden from the Egyptian authorities and thus
not counted as part of the find in early digs. Also, what with the Colonial period, several valuable finds were just taken out of Egypt by the
colonial power of the time, with the Egyptians having no say in the matter. Think of what Napoleon brought back. Many Items in the British museum
ended up in the UK after the British defeated the French. The "booty" was demanded by the Brits as part of the French surrender agreement.
Zahi Hawass, the man everybody here seems to loathe, has been instrumental in orchestrating the return to Egypt of quite a large number of artifacts
which were either stolen by graverobbers (which is still going on today) and put on the market, or were taken illegally back in the day. Hawass has
even shamed some collectors into returning items that they legally possessed.
I'm not up on all the signatories, but most of the West is signatory to a U.N. agreement making the unauthorized transport and/or sale of antiquities
illegal. There have been several arrests, with convictions and jail time, here in the U.S. of various "art dealers" that have been caught doing
this. Some of them weren't in the least involved in the actual theft, they were just middlemen, so to speak, and could make a somewhat convincing
claim that they didn't know the artifacts they held were smuggled illegally out of Egypt. According to U.S. law, that doesn't matter, though. It
is up to the buyer to make sure of the authenticity and authorization of the items he purchases.
All such items recovered by law enforcement have been returned to Hawass' "Council on Antiquities," or whatever they call it in Egypt.