Radiocarbon Dating and Protection of Cultural Heritage

Following a conference paper and a journal article on the ‘enhancement’ of cultural heritage by AMS dating: ethical questions and practical proposals, physicists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), plus archaeologists and a lawyer at the University of Geneva, organised a workshop on Radiocarbon Dating and Protection of Cultural Heritage.

14C and Protection of Cultural Heritage

The two-day event was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Commission for UNESCO.

Archaeologist Eric Huysecom, physicist Irka Hajdas, anthropologist Anne Mayor, lawyer Marc-André Renold and physicist Hans-Arno Synal discussed how science could help with the protection of the past. Renold also explained the international legal context. Art service manager Yan Walther and conservation scientist Valeria Ciocan presented a case study of scientific analysis of antiques with uncertain provenance. Cultural property criminologist Donna Yates reviewed how archaeologists and criminologists are looking at ways to combat the illicit trade in antiquities. In relation to his documentary work with cinematographer Trevor Wallace, archaeologist Gino Caspari presented a case study of the impact of looting on archaeology in the Eurasian steppe.

I showed evidence of the market for conflict antiquities and fake conflict antiquities. Provenance curator Victoria Reed presented a case study of restitution of African antiquities. And chemist David Chivall discussed radiocarbon, ivory and the changing law. All of these talks were combined with visits to the machines that go “ping” at the ETH Hoenggerberg Laboratory (including its AMS laboratory) and discussions of laboratory practices. Since the workshop, another case has emerged, which recalls the demand for antiquities from communities in crisis and conflict. There was also a group discussion. ETHZ has kindly posted all of these materials and other documents.

The market for conflict antiquities and fake conflict antiquities

Over this and next week, I’m going to run a somewhat related series of posts, which explore organised cultural property crime – including art forgery, multi-commodity trafficking and (claims and allegations of) conflict antiquities trafficking – in and through Turkey.


2 Responses to “Radiocarbon Dating and Protection of Cultural Heritage”

  1. Reblogged this on HARN Weblog.



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