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The repercussions from the smuggled Ban Chiang artifacts case in California have got museums around the US keeping a close watch. Especially since under US law, all the Ban Chiang material currently in the collections of US museums might be considered stolen property because of a 1961 Thai law.

Thai Antiquities, Resting Uneasily
New York Times, 17 February 2008
This feature is scheduled to be published in the US on Feb 17, but has been online since yesterday

Now Ban Chiang is in the news again as a result of a five-year undercover investigation by three federal agencies. Their examination centers on two Los Angeles antiquities dealers, Cari and Jonathan Markell, and a wholesaler, Bob Olson, who federal agents say donated Ban Chiang artifacts to museums at inflated values in a tax fraud scam. Last month four California museums — the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bowers Museum of Art in Santa Ana, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego — were raided as part of the inquiry.

The investigation could also have broad implications for other museums across the country. In the affidavits filed to obtain search warrants, the agents laid the groundwork for a legal argument that virtually all Ban Chiang material in the United States is stolen property.

In essence, the paperwork states, antiquities that left Thailand after 1961, when the country enacted its antiquities law, could be considered stolen under American law. And since Ban Chiang material was not excavated until well after that date, practically all Ban Chiang material in the United States could qualify.

Read the full story here.

Books on Ban Chiang
Ban Chiang, a Prehistoric Village Site in Northeast Thailand: The Human Skeletal Remains (Thai Archaeology Monograph Series, 1) by M. Pietrusewsky and M. T. Douglas
The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia (Cambridge World Archaeology) by C. Higham
Southeast Asia: A Past Regained (Lost Civilizations)
Ban Chiang: Art and prehistory of Northeast Thailand by A. J. Labbei
Ban Chiang: Discovery of a Lost Bronze Age by the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania by J. C. White
Cognition and design production in Ban Chiang painted pottery by P. Van Esterik
Ban Chiang prehistoric cultures by Y. Chin

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