Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Scrambled Eggs?

Previously, it was reported on the Portable Antiquities Collecting and Heritage Issues blog (here) that a dinosaur egg "collected in the Henan province in China and (was) valued at $1,700" was stolen from the Otago Museum last week. The original reporter was asked by an independant observer if the thief or thiefs also happened to steal any export licence paperwork associated with this find, to demonstrate that it legally left China, but at the time of this writing, the answer to this question is not known. The answer is relevant, as if affirmative, it would both increase the likelihood that the egg entered the museum's shop by legal channels (perhaps sold as an excess 'common' specimen from the acquisition of an old excavation assemblage), and make it easier for the thief to sell to any "responsible" dealers.

Now The Southland Times reports (here) that a "52 year old Invercargill artist" has been arrested and charged in relation to the theft of the egg, which was very well recorded by the museum shop's video cameras. Apparently, the perpetrator was also brought up on unrelated shoplifting charges, and returned the egg (voluntarily?) after two days, leaving it in a shopping bag at the museum reception desk. This seems like a very basic and spur of the moment robery...probably done merely to pay off some minor debts, as without official collecting history paperwork and export license, no responsible dealer, gallery or auction house should touch it. Much the same as what should be done to perform due diligence on any suspect archaeological artifacts...an infrequent and incomplete process at best.

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