• Colin Renfrew asks: What about ongoing looting?

    Professor Colin Renfrew, 2009 SAFE Beacon Award Winner voiced his concerns that the problems of ongoing looting of archaeological sites around the world were not addressed in the lecture Looted art and its restitution: moral and cultural dilemmas for the twenty-first century, given by Professor Richard J Evans on Monday 7 June 2010 at Wolfson College, Cambridge. Professor Renfrew also spoke about the fact that although repatriation of looted antiquities from Iraq were mentioned, no reference was made about “the Metropolitan Museum’s being constrained to return antiquities to Italy, which had been illegally removed… in recent times.” (View video clip here. © Wolfson College, Cambridge)

    Professor Evans focused on historical looting giving examples dating back to Jason and the Argonauts, and issues related to repatriation and restitution of Nazi art loot. Also brought up was contentious topic of the Parthenon sculptures, more commonly (but some believe, misguidedly) known as the “Elgin marbles” and whether they should be returned was the first question from the audience. Professor Evans will become Wolfson College’s fifth president in October, 2010.

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  • SAFE Beacon Awards: Who is…? but why?

    In anticipation of our Beacon Awards event, SAFE has launched a new batch of Who is…? campaigns, which profile individuals making tangible contributions towards our mission: protecting and raising awareness about our shared cultural heritage.

    But we realize that our “Who is…?” begs another question: Why?

    The easy answer is that superheroes like our SAFE Beacon Award winners deserve recognition for their incredible work.

    The more complicated answer is that our award winners, well, are not superheroes. SAFE is not handing out awards to the likes of Lara Croft or Indiana Jones for making us endlessly answer to their portrayals of archaeologists (or archaeology’s worst nightmares?). Instead we are honoring unsung heroes with real lives, families, careers, principles, and ...

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  • Finders Keepers v. Finders Keepers

    Two weeks ago, a forthcoming TV series with the working title “Finders Keepers” announced a call for backyards. Tomorrow, desert ecologist and writer Craig Childs will release his new book of the same name — no relation.
    “Finders Keepers,” the TV show, one-ups programs like “Antiques Roadshow” and “Pawn Stars.” Not only are the producers interested in objects collecting dust in attics, but they also promise to uncover historic valuables that participants never knew they had.
    The producers are looking for Americans who have “found or dug up an antique, artifact or relic” or “think they have an important and valuable artifact buried on their property or at a site they have discovered.” Allegedly, their team of archaeologists will then excavate and appraise, but thus far, it is unclear who the keepers will be.

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  • Italy’s Financial Police Recognized for Cultural Heritage Protection

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    Those responsible for protecting Italy’s cultural heritage have once again been given center stage in Rome this summer – this time in the form of an exhibition honoring the efforts of the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s Financial Police.

    The celebratory exhibit, entitled “Dal sepolcro al museo. Storie di saccheggi e recuperi” (“From the grave to the museum. Stories of pillage and recoveries”) will be housed in the Vittoriano complex at Piazza Venezia through 12 September 2010. The Sala Gipsoteca has been filled with remarkable pieces recovered by the Guardia di Finanza’s Division for the Protection of Archaeological Patrimony.

    The exhibit includes numerous treasures which were put at serious risk by looters but recovered before leaving Italy. ...

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  • Donny George: "The truth about the Kuwait Antiquities"

    The following is published at the request of its author, Dr. Donny George:

    Dear All, since the first gulf war of 1991 everybody’s been accusing the Iraqis of steeling the Kuwait’s antiquities, and no one has asked the Iraqis for their opinion about it. I was reserving this to be included in a book I started writing, but let me explain this Kuwaiti mater in some details.

    Prior to the first gulf war we had done the preparations to evacuate the antiquities from the Iraq museum, since the war was coming no matter what was said in the daily news inside Iraq, then we got the orders from the ministry of culture, to go and insure the evacuation of the Kuwait museum, exactly as we did for the Iraq ...

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  • New Ambassador to Iraq Confirmed — No Help for Iraq’s Endangered Archaeological Sites Likely

    The Senate has just confirmed James Jeffrey as the new ambassador to Iraq. As part of the confirmation process, Jeffrey was posed a few questions in writing about the State Department’s policies regarding the protection of archaeological sites…

    To read the full post, go to The Punching Bag.

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  • “Cultural heritage is a necessity…"

    Diana Gregor’s article in MediaGlobal “Protecting cultural heritage as development priority” underscores the importance of preserving cultural heritage worldwide.

    The piece begins with the disaster in Haiti and quotes UNESCO Programme Specialist for Culture in Port au Prince Elke Selter on cultural preservation as a priority, “Cultural heritage is a necessity, it is your past. You cannot just leave a country to lose its history. One needs the past in order to move on to one’s future and therefore you cannot cut off people’s roots. Haiti has a history with very important moments.” (Please see SAFE’s January 23 response Rebuilding Haiti: Look to the past and our call for images of Haiti’s cultural heritage in our Flickr project Haiti: Look back to look ahead.)

    Citing examples around the globe, the article speaks about the various threats to cultural heritage including natural disaster and armed conflicts and, most pertinent to SAFE’s mission, the destruction of archaeological sites and looting. Gregor ends with the important and positive message that “cultural property can provide opportunities for tourism and development.”

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