Monthly Archives: November 2008
2009 SAFE Beacon Award Recipient Prof. Colin Renfrew: "I’m much in favour of collecting…"
“…so long as it doesn’t involve objects recently taken from the ground. In my opinion all too many collections are scandalous for this very reason. I don’t mind so much people buying antiquities looted a century ago, but not if the items in question entered the market post-1970 when the convention on the illegal trade in antiquities was signed.” Professor Renfrew said in Sarah Jan Checkland’s article in the Financial Times My favourite things in which he was described as “archaeologist and campaigner against the trade in illicit antiquities.”
This coming January, Prof. Renfrew will receive the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award in a rare visit to the United States. He will give a lecture “Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: the 1970 Rule as a Turning Point (or How the Metropolitan Museum lags behind the Getty)” and also discuss the ethics of excavating and collecting, and the merits of the once popular but now rare “partage” system in the SAFE Tour “Collecting the Right Way” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
Photo: Ben Stansall(MORE ...)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security to look into "Ka-Nefer-Nefer" mask case
The AP article “St. Louis museum proud of its ancient mask purchase, but Egypt calls it a steal” reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is now looking into the case of the “Ka-Nefer-Nefer” mask, which many people believe to have been stolen from Egypt. The article recounts the meticulously documented discovery of the mask by Mohammed Zakaria Ghoneim, which “resurfaced in 1998 when the St. Louis Art Museum in Missouri acquired it.”
“Egypt has a right to the mask.” Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s antiquities authority, demands, while Brent Benjamin, Director of the the Saint Louis Art Museum asserts that “[t]o date, we have not seen information that we believe is compelling enough to return the object.”
Mr. Benjamin has been nominated by President Bush to join the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), which makes recommendations to the President regarding importation restriction requests from state parties to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (UNESCO 1970).
The saga continues. Photo: AP file(MORE ...)
Heritage@Risk seeks articles
We thought the following announcement posted on SAFE’s Facebook page would be of interest to some of our readers. Thanks, Marni, for bringing this to our attention:
The ICOMOS international committee on archaeological heritage management is seeking short articles for an upcoming issue of ICOMOS’s “Heritage at Risk” series. They are looking for contributions that discuss the impact of the illicit artifact trade on archaeological sites and other heritage places. These can be short reports from the field, alerts, etc. (as opposed to academic articles). If interested in contributing, please send a title and brief abstract or description, along with authors’ names, to Brian Egloff (Brian.Egloff@canberra.edu.au). More information about the Heritage at Risk series can be found here.(MORE ...)
CAA 2009: CALL for Papers and Posters (Deadline: Dec. 19, 2008)
Professor Bernard Frischer, director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, and a long-time SAFE supporter, has asked us to spread the word about the December 19th deadline for paper and poster abstracts for presentation at the 37th annual international conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) to be held March 22-26, 2009 at Williamsburg, Virginia. Sponsored by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the University of Virginia, the theme of this year’s CAA conference is “Making History Interactive”.
CAA is dedicated to the application of digital technologies that make it possible to access and investigate our cultural heritage in new ways. Using digital technologies, archaeologists can interact with the historical record, to push the boundaries of interpretation and further our understanding of the past.
Professor Frischer and the entire CAA 2009 Organizing Committee invite proposals for sessions, individual papers, poster presentations, workshops, and round table discussions related to the conference theme as well as other CAA topics. For further information on submitting a proposal, please visit CAA 2009 website.(MORE ...)
Cleveland Museum of Art: Returns Announced
The Cleveland Museum of Art announced today that it would be returning 14 items to Italy. Many of the items were from Apulia, Campania, Sicily, Etruria and Sardinia. One of the more important pieces was an Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Darius painter.
Image MiBAC.(MORE ...)
Why Context is Crucial: The Oriental Institute’s New Find at Zincirli
The Oriental Institute announces a major new discovery of a stele at Zincirli in southeastern Turkey. A funerary monument recovered there reveals that people who lived in an important Iron Age city there believed the soul was separate from the body. They also believed the soul lived in the funerary slab. (Photo at left by Eudora Struble.)
This find offers a great illustration of the importance of context to understanding artifacts, even when those artifacts include writing…
For the full story, go to The Punching Bag.(MORE ...)
New books: "Loot" and "Unholy Business" reviewed
In the November 16 edition of the Washington Post, author of “Stealing History” and SAFE Beacon Award Winner Roger Atwood reviews two new books about stolen ancient artifacts and their journeys to museums around the world.
Have you read these books? Tell us what you think.(MORE ...)
Easter Island project receives major grant for site preservation
According to a news release issued by Larry Coben, co-chair of The Archaeological Institute of America Site Preservation Task Force:
The Archaeological Institute of America Site Preservation Task Force (“AIA”) announced today that it had awarded a $94,000 grant for the preservation and conservation of Easter Island’s famous megalithic moai statues. The AIA gave the grant to the Easter Island Statute Project (the “Project”), directed by UCLA archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg and co-directed since 2000 by Rapa Nui’s Cristián Arévalo Pakarati. The Project will develop and apply stone preservation techniques to arrest the rapid deterioration of these statues as a result of the fragile nature of their volcanic stone, climate change and unregulated tourism.
The Project will utilize the grant to focus initially upon the conservation of two of Easter Island’s most famous moai, known as the “mama” ...(MORE ...)
Loot versus Looting: Time to Address the Primary Policy Challenge
The always astute Hugh Eakin concludes his review of Sharon Waxman’s newly released Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World, by noting that restitution is a sideshow that distracts from the real and pressing issue, which is the looting of archaeological sites:
The larger problem is Waxman’s portrayal of the antiquities crisis as mainly a “tug of war” over coveted museum pieces. In fact, the more important battle concerns unprotected archaeological sites, and it is far less a matter of repatriating objects than of figuring out how to stop latter-day looters from destroying our collective past. That vital challenge remains unsolved.
All of us who care about our collective past ought to be focusing now on generating and promoting realistic policy and legal measures that will reduce looting of sites in the most cost-effective way. I have suggested a few such solutions (impose a modest tax on antiquities sales with revenues dedicated to funding site protection in the countries or regions of origin; jawbone wealthy collectors to fund a non-profit foundation to develop low-cost anti-looting technologies and shunt assistance to those countries facing the most pressing difficulties; persuade countries, with the US leading the way, to contribute to the UNESCO fund dealing with the problem). Others have suggested market-based mechanisms that would incentivize site protection; public-spirited initiatives to spur cities, universities, or even facebook members to adopt particular archaeological sites; and, of course, cultural-sensitivity campaigns designed to tamp down on the demand side of the antiquities market by demonizing collecting as akin to buying baby seal fur.
With a new president — from the University of Chicago, my home institution — about to take office, there is a real opportunity to move forward. What we need now is a robust discussion where all these options and others are put on the table, critiqued, and refined. Weigh in now!(MORE ...)
Interpol’s 7th International Symposium on the Theft of and Illicit Traffic in Works of Art, Cultural Property and Antiques
Read the meeting minutes of the symposium which took place 17 – 19 June 2008 in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with 187 member countries.
The participants note “…a lack of awareness among the general public of the importance of cultural heritage and the need for it to be protected,” and recommend that “INTERPOL, UNESCO and ICOM: – Jointly seek ways of raising awareness among law-enforcement services, those responsible for safeguarding religious heritage, the major players in the art market and the conservation world, and the general public, with regard to protecting cultural property and combating illegal trafficking.”(MORE ...)
Debate: Colin Renfrew and James Cuno
On BBC’s “Today”, Colin Renfrew, a former director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge University, locks horns with the Art Institute in Chicago director James Cuno, over issues of ownership, due diligence, and museum acquisition practice.
Also read about the debate between Dr. Cuno and Dr. Donny George in the earlier SAFECORNER post “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.'”(MORE ...)