• "Stuff Happens": US "Torah rescue" from Iraq?

    Rabbi Menachem Youlus removes dirt from a Torah that had been buried in a Polish cemetery to keep it from the Nazis. Brendan Hoffman for the New York Times

    On the Iraq Crisis discussion list yesterday, Peter Tompa drew attention to an article from the Jewish Bugle discussing how a Torah scroll from Mosul, Iraq came to be in the Temple Isaiah synagogue in Fulton, Maryland. He wrote: the US military was involved in the rescue operation described in this article so I do not believe there can be any claim the material was “smuggled.

    What the article claims is simply astounding, not because of the described act, but the implications of the dismissive way it is presented to its audience in the US. The article raises but supplies no answer to some very disturbing questions, perhaps ...

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  • James Cuno: "There is not a credible museum in this country that has an object in it that it knows to have been stolen from someplace else."

    On June 11, 2008, the “Here On Earth” series produced by Wisconsin Public Radio — featured Dr. James Cuno, director of the Chicago Art Institute and author of the book “Who Owns Antiquity?” and Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, former director of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad and the former president of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities.and now a visiting professor at Stony Brook University.

    The program — titled “Who Owns Antiquities?” — has been archived and is available here.

    At one point in the conversation, Dr. George said: “I do agree with Mr. Cuno that for people to go to one place and see antiquities and cultural heritage of different people, of different parts of the world is a wonderful thing, because this is the role of museums. Museums are cultural and educational centers. But I don’t agree with ...

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  • A Long Legacy of Protecting Cultural Heritage

    A couple of days ago I visited the AIA’s Archaeology Watch resource page. I have visited the site several times before, but I have always glossed over the first little paragraph at the top of the page. This time, however, the little blurb about the Antiquities Act caught my eye. I was well aware that the AIA (Archaeological Institute of America), founded in 1879, was chartered by an Act of the U.S. Congress in 1906, but I had not realized until then that its charter coincided with President Theodore Roosevelt’s passage of the Antiquities Act and the role the AIA played in it is development. This may not be news to anyone but me, but I founded it interesting for a couple of reasons.

    The Antiquities Act was supported by the AIA and lawmakers in order to ...

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  • UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage Laws Database

    We would like to bring your attention to the UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage Laws Database, a thorough and well-organized compilation of all laws concerning cultural property within the member states of UNESCO. The database makes accessible to the general public full copies of all international conventions related to the protection of cultural heritage and contains contact information for national authorities that are responsible for the conservation of cultural heritage. It is an immensely important tool for anyone involved in the issues of cultural heritage and antiquities, allowing for quick and easy access to legal information concerning antiquities.

    We are delighted that this work is available to researchers and anyone interested, and thank our Members Ricardo St. Hilaire, Emmeline Babb, and interns Avi Toltzis and Rebecca Davison for their contribution to our own attempt at this project which began a few years ago. With this new resource from UNESCO, we feel that our project is now complete.

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  • Natural and cultural disaster in Burma

    The cyclone which hit Burma on May 2nd 3rd, 2008, affected about 2.4 million people. Storm victims are still suffering in the aftermath of the natural disaster with little to no help arriving thanks to a government which has sealed off the country and prohibited the entry of international assistance. And the country’s ancient Buddhist monuments experience the same neglect by the military junta as its people do. In a country with a military dictatorship trampling on its people as much as on its historically valuable monuments, can it be possible to preserve cultural heritage?

    One of the holiest sites for Southeast Asia’s Buddhists, the 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda in the former capital Yangon, was badly damaged by the storm. Hundreds of gold-leaf panels were torn off the 98-meter high bell-shaped stupa and 1,000 precious stones fell off. But with the junta concentrating its relief work on the ...

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  • Harrison Ford and the AIA

    Cross posted from Numsimatics and Archaeology: “Harrison Ford and the AIA” 13 June 2008.

    Several weeks ago, I reported on the Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) appointment of Harrison Ford to its Board of Directors (Numismatics and Archaeology: “‘That Belongs in a Museum!’” 21 May 2008). Harrison Ford is popularly known for his role as the dashing, adventurous archaeologist, Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr., in the Indiana Jones films. Since Harrison Ford’s appointment to the AIA Board of Directors, there has been some controversy over the appointment (there are some links to these discussion in the comments section of my previous post).

    SAFECORNER recently posted a reaction by Oscar Muscarella, a well-known scholar and advocate against the illicit trade in antiquities and an active AIA member (“‘Indiana Jones is a ...

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  • "Indiana Jones is a plunderer." What do you think?

    Dr. Oscar Muscarella, outspoken critic of the antiquities trade and the plunder of artifacts from archaeological sites, sent us the following:

    “Brian Rose has stated that the movie character Indiana Jones ‘has played a significant role in stimulating the public’s interest in archaeological exploration,’ …{but] Jones is the very antithesis of an archaeologist. In fact, he has played a significant role in stimulating the destroyers of sites, the plunderers who supply ‘antiquities’ to a museum.

    Indeed, let me say loud and clear: the AIA President has made a serious and very unfortunate blunder. He has publicly proclaimed that he has no idea what archaeology is, what it is not, and he has thereby compromised the AIA and its membership, which includes me, and thousands of others.”

    Dr. Muscarella leads SAFE Tours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    Tell us what YOU think.

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