According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, nationalism has two basic definitions: “(1) the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity, and (2) the actions that the members of a nation take when seeking to achieve (or sustain) self-determination.”1 “Cultural nationalism generally refers to ideas and practices that relate to the intended revival of a purported national community’s culture.”2 Based on this ideology, the cultural property of each country consists of a source of power for the nation and needs to be used as such while underlying the national interests, benefits, values, mentality and pride.
Moreover, it is supported that these artefacts should remain within the borders of the country where they were created and obtain a significant role “to cultural definition and expression, to shared identity and community”.3 Many countries choose to declare an ownership claim of all subsoil or underwater cultural property, which is located within the national boundaries, which may be either unknown or discovered, in order to protect their cultural artifacts4. In the hope that by declaring the ownership claim their national artifacts could be preserved, those countries of origin reassure that the artefacts which were discovered will be hopefully protected since they will not be subjected to international commerce, which is admittedly often realized through exporting illegal excavated artefacts and works of art.
Additionally, it is possible to discourage the undocumented digging and looting, which destroy the archaeological sites and reduce the historical and functional coherence of the cultural artefacts with their region of origin. Furthermore, the repatriation of artifacts is characterized as a complex procedure and the request for repatriating those objects has to have a strong legal basis and not be based on alleged accusations or facts.5With regard to the artifacts which fall under the request of repatriation and have been excavated illegally, exported illegally and are considered by UNESCO as stolen property, it is usually considered that the above mentioned cultural property should be returned to its country of origin.
The request for repatriation can also be understood as an assertion of the right to claim artefacts as part of national identity, history and psyche. Successful repatriation allows the country of origin to reap great benefits. For one, the country now has the authority to safeguard and conserve these artefacts, deterring undocumented digging and export of illegally obtained artefacts. It also has ability to earn financial gains from the interest in these artefacts, for instance via increased museum visitorship. Finally, restoring artefacts to the integrity of the functional and historical wholeness that they were created in serves to fuel sentiments of nationalism and strengthen the historical narrative of the country.