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Prof M Kersel -- Capital Gains? The Consequences of Esteem for Levantine Neolithic Masks The Centre for Art and Politics Presents

The consequence of individual and institutional esteem for Neolithic (7600-6000 BCE) masks from the Levant has a direct impact on our understanding of past lifeways during this important period. Demand for these alluring artifacts results in landscape destruction, insecure archaeological provenience (findspot), fictive narratives used to create an original location, and a museum-going public left with an incomplete understanding of these masks. In Distinction, Bourdieu observes that the physical acquisition of artifacts can be a kind of short cut to social status. Education, class, refinement, and cultivation are implied by owning artifacts. But attaining these qualities requires the investment of time, effort, money, and I would argue the imprimatur of both institutions and scholars. Drawing on the work of Denis Byrne, Neil Brodie, and others, I want to examine how a loan of the masks to a museum increased the cultural competence of an individual collector. I contend that the valorization of masks by a variety of actors — academics, buyers, collectors, museums, scientists, and sellers results in capital (cultural, economic, social) gains.

Professor Kersel is an archaeologist with a doctorate from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and a master of Historic Preservation from the University of Georgia. Her research interests include the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age of the eastern Mediterranean and Levant, cultural heritage protection, the built environment, object biographies, museums, and archaeological tourism. Her work combines archaeological, archival and oral history research in order to understand the efficacy of cultural heritage law in protecting archaeological landscapes from looting.

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