• How the Illegal Trade of Afghan Antiquities is Funding Terrorism

    Spotlight, a weekly presentation of investigative reports from around the world for Link Tv, reported recently on the European art trade. The selling of stolen or smuggled art in Europe has been a problem for as long as the trade has existed. However, the looting of archaeological sites in Afghanistan has now become a major concern. Spotlight reports that the exploitation of Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage is helping to finance terrorism and the Taliban.

    The report begins in The Royal Museum of Art & History in Brussels where crates of illicit antiquities are being kept – they had been impounded by customs. Items from looted sites in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including examples of Nal ceramic art and Buddhist art from the Indus plain, had found their way to Belgium. Artifacts from the 3rd millennium BC, the Islamite period and ...

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  • 2010 CHAPS Conference

    On April 10th, the program in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies (CHAPS) at Rutgers University will be holding an all-day conference, Cultural Heritage Now: Prospects, Directions, Futures | A Public Conversation. The conference will focus on the current state of cultural heritage studies and practice, bringing together academics, museums, funding-agencies and non-profit organizations for discussions about the future of this topic. Their keynote speaker is The Honorable James A. Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and their list of preliminary speakers is as follows:

    -Joshua Bell, Curator of Globalization, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution-Joan Breton Connelly, Professor, Department of Classics, New York University-Jon Fein, Independent Filmmaker and Sculptor, educator-Douglas Greenberg, Executive Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University-Richard Leventhal, Director, Penn Cultural Heritage Center-Phillip E. Lewis, Vice President, Mellon Foundation-Mary Sue Sweeny Price, Director, Newark Museum-Suzan Shown Harjo, Director, Morningstar Institute-Enid Schildkrout, Chief Curator, Museum for African Art-Mary Ellen Snyder, National Park Service-John Stubbs, Vice President, World Monuments Fund-Jack Tchen, Director,Asian/Pacific/American Institute Founder, Museum of Chinese in America

    CHAPS offers both a Certificate in Historic Preservation and a Masters degree in Cultural Heritage Preservation. This summer, they are offering a 5-week, 6-credit program in Athens called, “Cultural Heritage Preservation in Greece.” It is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and they are accepting applications until April 1st.

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  • More False Claims about Lobbying on Antiquities Issues

    David Gill has recently addressed claims made by Peter Tompa that appear to have little basis in fact. Tompa is a lobbyist who represents commercial trade interests. He has alleged that the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) “was involved in behind-the-scenes lobbying on behalf of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, the Cypriot government body that issues excavation permits that allow CAARI affiliated archaeologists to excavate on the Island.” The assertions are not substantiated further.

    Ellen Herscher, the vice president of CAARI and an independent scholar, responded to Tompa’s claims after they were posted to the Museum Security Network. She stated:

    CAARI’s Director and several trustees publicly submitted statements in support of the agreement. This position is in accordance with CAARI’s Code of Ethics, which states that the organization “is dedicated to the protection and preservation of archaeological sites in Cyprus and the information they contain.” There was no “behind-the-scenes lobbying” involved.

    Secondly, “CAARI-affiliation” has nothing to do with the granting ...

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  • Old collections: to what extent is it a convenient myth?

    Dealers in unprovenanced archaeological material frequently evoke the argument that a lot of the material on the market today comes from the dismantling of old collections; collecting of archaeological artefacts has been going on, they say, since the Renaissance. In debate they can even show examples of such long-curated finds. Dealers assure buyers that this means that there are a good many legitimate artefacts on the market (see for example the websites of UK dealer Guy Rothewell, and that of Hicham Aboutaam). The pro-collecting lobby then argue that the concerns of the preservation lobby over the number of unprovenanced artefacts on the market today are exaggerated, holding that many items being collected today are from dismembered old collections. They insist that “unprovenanced does not necessarily mean looted”. While that is of course true, it is clear that the buying and selling of ...

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  • ICOM’s "Red List of Cambodian Antiquities At Risk" – A New Weapon in the Fight?

    Recently, the I.C.O.M. (International Council of Museums) brought together archaeologists from academic, outreach, and museum contexts (specifically, the E.F.E.O. (Ecole Francaise D’Extreme Orient), Heritage Watch, and the National Museum of Cambodia) to create a new edition to the “Red List” series. They seek to provide up-to-date information to all relevant legal and investigatory authorities slated with the task of curtailing the antiquities trade from those countries most heavily targeted; Cambodia increasingly amongst them. Although most countries with antiquities under threat are beginning to step up their legal and investigatory efforts to stem export from their boarders, in countries with relatively porous boarders, coupled with largely undocumented and under-investigated archaeological records, efforts at in-country apprehension of offenders, and the repatriation of loot, will be stymied without further efforts at education. While most such educational outreach efforts rightly (in my opinion) target the supply and demand ‘ends’ of the chain, and increasingly attempt to utilize cutting-edge approaches (see Huffer 2009), ...

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  • Field Report: Vietnam – Another Source Country?

    As followers of the antiquities trade in general will be well aware, the illicit looting, smuggling, and display of artifacts from prehistoric and historic sites truly remain a global problem. Yet, the on-the-ground situation in certain regions, such as Mainland Southeast Asia, remains under-reported. Although UNESCO conventions, better monitoring and conservation, and increased calls for repatriation by Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia has curtailed the trade in historic period frescoes and statuary from the regions’ numerous early states and empires (from Funan, to Dvaravati, to Champa and Angkorian Khmer), the trade in prehistoric artifacts continues unabated. Since at least the 1980s, the looting of innumerable archaeological sites throughout the region, primarily in Cambodia and Thailand, has continued to mar the landscape and enrich the profits of middle-men at the expense ...

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  • The Penn Museum & Robert Hecht Jr.

    Tom Avril, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, reports this month on 24 pieces of gold from the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The items in question, including ear rings, neck laces and brooches, were purchased over 40 years ago by the museum from a Philadelphia antiquities dealer; they were not accompanied by any documentation of their origin and it seemed likely the gold had been looted.
    The Penn Museum was founded in 1887 and most of its collection was acquired through archaeological expeditions. In 1966 George Allen, of Hesperia Art, approached the museum with an opportunity to purchase a collection of gold that he said was most likely from ancient Troy. The items were similar in style to gold found by Heinrich Schliemann in 1873, in Turkey, at a site he believed to be Homer’s ...
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  • SAFE’s Flickr Project

    On January 12, 2010 Haiti was changed forever by a devastating earthquake that took the lives of thousands and left a huge portion of the country in ruins. SAFE/Saving Antiquities for Everyone recognizes that in times of mass destruction, human lives must always be first priority. At the same time, Haiti stands to lose its heritage, which has been a source of great pride throughout the country’s troubled history. Historic neighborhoods and landmarks like the National Palace, the Holy Trinity Cathedral, and the Supreme Court have been leveled by the earthquake. Artists, art dealers, foreign envoys, and others are scrambling to assess the cultural loss and to ensure the safety of portable cultural objects like books, paintings, documents, and artifacts.

    To join these efforts to preserve Haiti’s heritage, SAFE has initiated a Flickr project, “Haiti: Look back to look ahead,” to collect pictures and videos of what has now become intangible, that is, life in Haiti before January 12, 2010. We are looking for images of Haiti’s built environment before it was reduced to rubble and of the people whose lifestyles defined these places. After the wreckage is removed and discussions about rebuilding begin, Haiti’s past—both its most fatal historic problems and its rich cultural legacy—must be kept at the forefront of our imaginations. SAFE hopes to create a place for visual remembering as well as visual reckoning of what should be changed, restored, or recreated as Haiti looks to its future.

    Over 300 photos have already been gathered on our Flickr page. If you would like to share your own photos of Haiti, we encourage you to e-mail them to the21tin@photos.flickr.com

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