10 Things To Avoid While Traveling as an American: Number 6, Cultural Property Theft

Sometimes when you create a series of blog posts, you often wait patiently for a sign or something to inspire your next post. Today my sign was delivered on a giant shiny silver platter by Italian airport authorities and antiquities police.

Hence I present the next post in our blog series on 10 Things to Avoid While Traveling as an American Part 6: INVALUABLE CULTURAL PROPERTY THEFT

Today a news story broke out that two American tourists were stopped at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport attempting to smuggle 30kg worth of ruins from Pompeii. First of all, shame on the Italian authorities for not noticing two Americans hacking away at a wall or somehow stashing off invaluable treasures. We’ll blame it on a siesta break

American tourists caught with Pompeii relic
Photo: Il Mattino. Source: http://www.thelocal.it/20140916/american-tourists-caught-with-pompeii-relic

Second of all, I simply don’t know where to start. Obviously this circumstance is an extreme example, but are some Americans so ignorant to think that the local tourist shop happens to sell authentic relics that they go collect themselves? Or, were they so dissatisfied by said chintzy tourist goods of exploding volcanoes over colossal ancient cities that they just decided to help themselves to the local ruins. Well, ‘no one has put them back together, so they must not care about them’, they probably thought as they shoved CHUNKS of Pompeii’s ruinous buildings into their luggage and then sped off for the airport thinking how they would proudly present their new gifts back in the US saying, ‘Here Grannie, we brought you something for the front porch.’

Antiquities smuggled onto front porch

These folks are in BIG trouble, allegedly facing charges of appropriation of state heritage. It is likely these Americans are not just ignorant criminals, but rather they are antiquities dealers hoping to casually slide past authorities.  Nevertheless, destruction of cultural property and particularly theft are certainly things to avoid while traveling abroad.

Now, I understand that America doesn’t really have such old and interesting stuff and we feel a bit jealous of other places. But that’s simply not true. 

We have the Leaning Tower of Niles in Illinois....
Leanting tower of Niles in illinois, wacky heritage, wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas, equipped with its own cowboy hat....
Eiffel Tower replica, Wikimedia
Source: Wikimedia

And we can never forget that we have Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, VA. 

Foamhenge, Virginia
Source: Invisiblegalaxy.net

Yet somehow, despite these modern marvels of historic landmarks, Americans have proven that they just don’t know how to react to older heritage sites abroad. 

For example, don’t shake hands with a 14th century Renaissance statue in Florence and break off its finger like this guy. And let’s not forget the time that the cast of Jersey Shore was sent to Florence and were promptly kicked out by authorities because they were simply unable to enculture themselves in the historic city’s atmosphere. In fact, smuggling and vandalizing seems to happen a lot

So what is the moral of the story? In general, blend in. Don’t touch things that say ‘don’t touch’, unless they somehow seem diabolically enticing like this... 
Meemes.com photo
Source: Meemes.com

And if you see ruins lying on the ground in one of the most famous archaeological ruinous sites in the world, please do not shove them in your bag and think they’ll make it in your carry on next to your 3 oz. shampoo bottle and lonely planet travel guide. Take home one of those exploding volcano souvenirs instead!

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