A new policy for the selling of archaeological materials on ebay.de (Germany) went into effect on July 1, 2008 (Press Release from eBay.de: “Neuer eBay-Grundsatz zum Handel mit archäologischen Funden,” 1 July 2008). A link in the press release provides full details on the new rules (“Grundsatz zu archäologischen Funden“).
The new policy defines “archaeological finds” as follows:
“An archaeological find is an object of historical, artistic or scientific importance, which laid for a time in the ground or under water.”
“Ein archäologischer Fund ist ein Objekt von geschichtlicher, künstlerischer oder wissenschaftlicher Bedeutung, der vorübergehend im Boden oder unter Wasser ruhte.”
It continues in providing non-exclusive examples of certain objects covered by the new policy, which include:
- coins (Münzen)
- weapons (Waffen)
- grave goods (Grabbeigaben)
- ceramics (Keramik)
- jewelry (Schmuck)
- tools (Werkzeuge)
- sacral objects (sakrale Gegenstände).
Appended to the list are also items of geological and paleontological importance: fossilized animal and plant remnants and minerals (tierische und pflanzliche Überreste der Erdgeschichte (Fossilien); Mineralien).
The new policy requires sellers of antiquities to provide documentation (pedigree) for their auctions and to picture and describe it within the auction. For example, an object must have a document demonstrating that the find was reported to the ministry or have a history of being in the trade before going to auction at Ebay. Items originating from other countries must have a valid export license. For full details on each category of documentation and what the seller must provide (and how the seller can obtain such documents), see the new policy.
Ebay.de (Germany) should be applauded for being more sensitive to the role it has played in the illicit trade in antiquities and taking proactive steps to diminish its use as a market for recently looted material.
Internet auction platforms, such as Ebay, play an important part in the trade of recently looted material. For a general essay see Chippindale, C. and D.W. J. Gill, “Online Auctions: A New Venue for the Antiquities Market,” Culture Without Context 9.
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