This is a great essay, and quite correct too.
Illicit antiquities are once again in the headlines. US retailer Hobby Lobby was recently fined US$3m (£2.3m) for illegally acquiring antiquities that were most likely looted from Iraq. Collectors and museums are therefore being reminded to undertake due diligence in checking collections’ histories before purchasing cultural property.
The implication here is, of course, that when the item on the auction block has been legally excavated and diligently recorded by archaeologists, there isn’t a problem. This is an enormous mistake. Such sales may be legal, but they are still ethically problematic.
At its most direct, the public auction of archaeologically procured finds puts those objects at risk of disappearing into the private domain, where their integrity is no longer assured. There are no international legal protections, no “obligations of ownership”, for cultural property in private possession.
Etc. And again, she’s right.