12 IJCP 1 (2005)

handle is hein.journals/injculpy12 and id is 1 raw text is: 

International Journal of Cultural Property (2005) 12:1 5. Printed in the USA.
Copyright  2005 International Cultural Property Society
DOI: 10.1017/S0940739105050022







Cultural Property and the
International Cultural Property Society

Daniel Shapiro*




Cultural property goes back a long way. It is probably fair to say that it originated
with the beginnings of human creation, the earliest material and intellectual expres-
sions of mankind. And as soon as there was cultural property, there likely was dis-
pute, although in a most primitive form. The destruction, supplanting, and taking of
another group's cultural creations may not unreasonably be thought of as the ear-
liest form of cultural property debate.
  Self-consciously dealing with cultural property came much later. Historically,
cultural property was first thought of as spoils in war. Taking the material goods
of an enemy as trophies in conquests was the rule in the ancient world. Domi-
nance over or the eradication of other cultures was also viewed as a natural ben-
efit of war. Regulation of such conduct was only thought useful to avoid negative
consequences. Thus there was concern that since the taking and triumphal display
of another culture's art provided no military benefit, but could undermine mili-
tary discipline and might provoke reprisal from angry gods, some limitations might
be appropriate. By the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe, there were some
limits on the taking of cultural property, at least from neighboring Christian states.
But it was not until the grand conquests and takings of Napoleon, the rise of
nation-states, and the increased likelihood of destruction in modern warfare that
there were concerted efforts to regulate cultural property through national laws
and international treaties.
  Over the past half-century, cultural property and cultural differences have become
increasingly important and have emerged as the subject of multidisciplinary inquiry
with ever-widening dimensions. Unlike in the past, when war and economic and
political forces generally shaped attitudes and approaches to cultural property, cul-
tural differences and relations are now everywhere considered subjects in need of
discussion. From news reports to scholarly study, matters involving past cultures,
indigenous peoples, cultural preservation, restitution, museum collections and dis-


*President, International Cultural Property Society. Email: dshapiro@artlawdan.com

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