Monthly Archives: September 2008
What cultural nations do…
My eye was initially caught by the large photo in the article (Egypt to retrieve ancient statue from Netherlands) about a case that has already been in the news recently about the shabti bought by a private collector which has been identified as coming from Sakkara and having been stolen. The accompanying text contains, unintended by the author, a comment which raises a question. It says:
the export of archaeological artefacts is strictly forbidden from Egypt, as from other cultural nations.
So what do we call nations which do little to prevent and punish the import of precious archaeological evidence which has been looted from the archaeological record in other countries only to be sold as aesthetically pleasing collectable gee-gaws? Cultural? I think not. It’s nice to see from this case that some private collectors are trying to find out where “their” treasures come from and have scruples.(MORE ...)
Hague Ratification: Fighting the Last War?
The Senate has at long last ratified the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. This ends decades of unflagging lobbying by cultural heritage protection advocates, led by the indefatigable Patty Gerstenblith and others. They are to be congratulated on achieving this legislative victory.But lest anyone think that the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict is now assured, it is important to recognize what ratification of Hague does and does not accomplish….For more, go to The Punching Bag
SAFE applauds Penn Cultural Heritage Center
Nearly forty years ago, the University of Pennsylvania Museum led the way in the adoption of ethical museum collecting practices by issuing the “1970 Philadelphia Declaration,” which renounced the acquisition of unprovenanced antiquities by collecting institutions. This long and distinguished history of leadership now takes an important new turn with the launch of Penn Cultural Heritage Center under the directorship of Dr. Richard Leventhal.
SAFE applauds the creation of this new center, which you can read about in their August 18 Press Release.(MORE ...)
More word on whether looting of sites is overIf it were not already clear that the rosy scenario painted by Dr Abbas is difficult to accept at face value, Mounir Bouchenaki, the Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, writes to say that, although “we have unfortunately no direct information, since no mission can go to the field,” the word he is getting is not terribly encouraging:
…according to various colleagues having been to Baghdad (only in the green zone) and one UNESCO colleague having been to Samarra, the situation is not completely under control. To give you one example from yesterday’s meeting I had with one official from the Italian Ministry of Culture who was in Nassiriyah on August 10th. He said that the situation is still very tense and there are problems of security. He had to fly with the support of the American army from Baghdad to Nassiriyah. According to him the lack of control by the Department of Antiquities of the archaeological sites is certainly leading to ongoing illegal excavations.Does this prove that looting is ongoing at sites throughout Iraq? No. Does it prove that the Department of Antiquities is not fully in control. Yes. Does it lead one to suspect that looting is going on at the many places where the Department of Antiquities is not in control? Yes. Does it underline, yet again, the importance of American military support for the efforts of the SBAH? Yes.(MORE ...)
"Cultural Heritage Sites Safe," at least those that have been guarded
The State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ninewah Province has issued a report of an assessment of important archaeological sites in northern Iraq that was conducted jointly with Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in May 2008. The headline trumpets the finding: “Cultural Sites Safe.” To be more specific, the team visited Hatra, Nineveh, Nimrud, Khorsabad (Dur Sharrukin), the Mosul Cultural Museum, the al Hadba Leaning Minaret in the old city of Mosul, and the St. Elijah Chaldean Monastery ruins. They report that, “even though the sites showed signs of deterioration due to the lack of onsite archaeologists and conservators, none of the sites showed signs of looting or extensive vandalism.” The first thing to say about this report is that it is heartening to see that the Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working with Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage….For more, go to The Punching Bag(MORE ...)
Two Pieces from the Shelby White Collection in Athens
Two pieces from the Shelby White collection went on display at the National Museum, Athens, Greece today (press release, in Greek). One of the pieces, a fragmentary funerary stele, had featured in the Glories of the Past exhibition (1990-91) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The second, a bronze calyx-krater, had been part of a touring exhibition, Greek Bronze Vessels from the Collection of Shelby White & Leon Levy (2005); a detail from the krater appears on the cover of the exhibition catalogue.
Seven other pieces from the Glories of the Past exhibition were returned to Italy earlier this year.(MORE ...)