Monthly Archives: December 2008
Crimes Against Culture
Another colloquium presented at the upcoming AIA Meeting organized by a member of SAFE Blythe Bowman who authored “Plunder of antiquities: A crime of global proportions” for the SAFE website is “Crimes Against Culture: Perspectives on Archaeological Site Looting and the Illicit Antiquities Trade”
Session Abstract Illegal digging at archaeological sites and the trade in illicitly-obtained art and antiquities represent serious threats to the preservation of cultural heritage. Art and antiquities trafficking, largely fueled by the looting of archaeological sites, is a multi-billion dollar industry in which organized criminal and even terrorist networks have reportedly become deeply involved. These activities represent but a few such “crimes against culture,” which generally refers to criminally punishable acts involving works of cultural significance and includes phenomena as diverse as faked ...(MORE ...)
Selling our past to the highest bidder
SAFE Board Member Elizabeth Gilgan will organize a colloquium at the AIA Meeting entitled “Selling our past to the highest bidder: a global snapshot of antiquities in the art market” on January 9, 1:30 to 4:30 pm. We hope you can attend. Abstract: In December 2007 Sotheby’s, the second oldest auction house in the world, sold an unprovenienced archaeological object for a record breaking price of 57.2 million US dollars. This price is even more astonishing given that the object is only 3.25 inches tall. When such record prices are to be found in the art market, it makes one question the strength of legislation that protects antiquities. While archaeologists know that sites are being looted and that unprovenienced cultural material is being sold all over the world, they still need to prove to the art collectors ...(MORE ...)
Milken Institute report proposes "market-based solutions" to combat looting
The Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank based in Santa Monica, CA, recently published “Financial Innovations for Developing Archaeological Discovery and Conservation.” The 36-page report was written by Caitlin MacLean and Glenn Yago of the Milken Institute, who received input from “economists, representatives from museums and the archaeological community, attorneys, and antiquities dealers and collectors,” who met in January 2008 to discuss “market-based solutions to finance and accelerate the legal discovery and conservation of archaeological heritage, with the goal of slowing and halting the devastating effects of looting.”
The Financial Innovations Lab Participants were: Ali Aboutaam and Hicham Aboutaam (owners, Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A.); Mathew Bogdanos, Assistant District Attorney, New York County, and Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps); Ran Boynter (Director, International Research, Cotsen Institute); Neil Brodie (Social Science Research Associate, Stanford Archaeology Center and former Research Director at the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, University of Cambridge); Lawrence S. Coben (Chairman, Site Preservation Task Force, Archaeological Institute of America); Lynn S. ...(MORE ...)
Selling Egyptian Antiquities
In August 2007 I speculated about the scale of the market in antiquities. I have now posted some analyses of the scale of the market based on Sotheby’s New York:
- Percentage of Egyptian antiquities at auction (1998-2008)
- Trends in the sale of Egyptian antiquities (1998-2008)
Legal Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage: National and International Perspectives in Light of the "Black Swan" Case
At the Joint AIA/APA Annual Meeting, behind held at the Marriott Downtown Hotel in Philadelphia, SAFE board member Eric Powell will moderate a “must attend” Workshop on Saturday, January 10, 2009 for anyone interested in evolving legal mechanisms that involve underwater cultural heritage.
Embedded video from <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/video”>CNN Video</a>The recent discovery of the “Black Swan” treasure off the coast of Spain by the US-based underwater salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. has re-ignited the long-simmering debate between underwater archaeologists, scholars, treasure hunters and their investors, attorneys and sovereign nations over who has the right to claim, recover and market the world’s undersea archaeological resources. Recent legal action lodged by the Government of Spain against Odyssey Marine, now being heard in federal court in Tampa, FL, promises not only to settle ownership questions over the estimated half billion dollar “Black Swan” treasure that Odyssey Marine recovered, but to serve as a landmark decision that maritime attorneys, commercial salvagers, archaeologists ...(MORE ...)
Interpol Tracking Task Force to Fight the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property Stolen in Iraq met in Lyon, December 17 and 18, 2008
Conclusions from the meeting can be downloaded here, thanks again to the Museum Security Network, which also brought our attention to the meeting minutes of Interpol’s 7th International Symposium on the Theft of and Illicit Traffic in Works of Art, Cultural Property and Antiques.(MORE ...)
State Department Admits No Mechanism Exists for Providing Ongoing Security for Sites or Museums, Defends Its Efforts
What has the State Department done to protect sites?
As readers of this blog already know, in October the State Department issued a fact sheet laying out its support of what was described as “numerous activities relating to the protection and preservation of Iraq’s cultural heritage”:
These include emergency response to the looting of the Iraq National Museum, training of Iraqi museum professionals, support for archaeological site protection, and instituting legal measures to mitigate illicit trafficking in Iraq’s looted cultural property. Since 2003, several million dollars have been applied to these needs resulting in professional and infrastructure improvements to the National Museum as well as other museums and institutions, and improved archaeological site security in Iraq.
As usual, the issue of site protection was lumped together with others, leaving it unclear how much money has been applied to supporting archaeological site protection, for what programs, protecting how many sites, with what results.
Addressing the problem? Not exactly.
In ...(MORE ...)
Zahi Hawass: Digging for History
Zahi Hawass is one of the most famous and popularly known archaeologists in the world. Hawass’ stardom among the general public is almost comparable to that of the fictional Indiana Jones; he has recently raised over $500,000 for a children’s museum by selling replicas of his own signature style “explorer hat” in conjunction with the traveling King Tut tour. CNN.com has posted a video outlining how his passion for archaeology developed, his duties as Egypt’s head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, his plans for a large new museum, and his efforts to repatriate stolen Egyptian antiquities.
Embedded video from CNN Video(MORE ...)