• SAFE congratulates newly appointed CPAC Chair Patty Gerstenblith

    The White House just announced President Obama’s intent to nominate key Administration posts, including Prof. Patty Gerstenblith as Chair of Cultural Property Advisory Committee.

    Gerstenblith’s biography reads: Patty Gerstenblith has been Professor of Law at DePaul University College of Law and founding president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. She also serves as senior advisor to the International Arts and Cultural Property Committee of the ABA Section on International Law and served as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Cultural Property (1995-2002) and as a member of the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee (2000-2003) in the U.S. Department of State. She teaches and publishes in the field of cultural heritage and law and the arts. Her most recent article, “Controlling the International Market in Antiquities: Reducing the Harm, Preserving the Past,” was published in the Chicago Journal of International Law. Gerstenblith received a BA from Bryn Mawr College, Ph.D. in Art History and Anthropology from Harvard University, and JD from Northwestern University. Upon graduation, she clerked for the Honorable Richard D. Cudahy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

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  • Looted memorial statues returned to Kenyan family

    Ancestral memorial statues (vigango) erected by the Mijikenda peoples of Kenya are frequently stolen and sold to international art dealers. During the summer of 2007, the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) returned two vigango, which had been in the collections of two American museums, to a Mijikenda family in a rural Kenyan village. We give the history of these two stolen statues, including their theft and rediscovery, the efforts leading to their repatriation, and the joyful return ceremony. We also describe how this case inspired the return of nine more vigango from an American family to the NMK, and examine the current status of efforts to protect vigango.

    On June 20, 2007, much celebration accompanied the National Museums of Kenya’s (NMK) return of two stolen ancestral memorial statues (vigango, singular kigango, Kigiriama) to a ...

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  • Treasure-Hunting in Afghanistan

    This 2009 photo essay by Adam Ferguson entitled “Treasure-Hunting in Afghanistan” offers a graphic depiction of the world of looting and the illicit antiquities trade, all too familiar not only in Afghanistan, but the world over. The essay accompanies “Afghanistan: A Treasure Trove for Archaeologists” by Aryn Baker. Some quotes from the essay:

    The ancient heritage has fallen victim to an epidemic of pillaging on par with the depredations of Genghis Khan’s army that in 1220 left the city of Balkh in ruins.

    “Looters dig because of international demand,” said Brendan Cassar, UNESCO’s culture specialist in Afghanistan. “It’s the same as opium in this country – we grow it because junkies want heroin.”

    For more about the rampant pillaging of Afghanistan’s archaeological sites that continues to this day, read Joanie Meharry’s latest SAFE feature story “Looting Afghanistan’s cultural heritage: A conversation with Abdul Wasey Ferozi“.

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  • The Brazen Destruction of an Ongoing Dig

    I’m sure this is all over the blogosphere by now, but I wanted to continue to pass it on. Here we have yet more evidence that looting, thievery, and general archaeological vandalism is not contained to the “third world,” and need not even target sites, features or locations known to produce “valuable” antiquities for the market. Here these students were, working at a new excavation near their campus, in semi-urban Illinois, on a field school designed more to teach technique than with the expectation that earth-shattering discoveries would be made. And yet, vandals and looters struck, nearly irreperably damaging the site and most revealed contexts, making off with neccessary equipment, etc! From my own experience digging on various “contract” (Cultural Resource Management) projects for archaeological companies working in southern Arizona, I can attest that cases of urban vandalism or looting of active dig sites are more common than they should be. Popularization of the “glory” of archaeology far oustrips that of the “science.” In my opinion, as long as the “Indiana Jones/Laura Croft” stereotype continues to foster disconnect between public perception and actual practice, this mentality, combined with the still-active market, will continue to lead to incidents like this. Constant vigilance against the global scourge that is looting!

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  • Research Publications on the Antiquities Trade

    The basis of my research on the antiquities trade has been based on a series of publications (many with my colleague Christopher Chippindale).  I published the list on Looting Matters and reproduce it here for convenience.

    • (with K. Butcher) ‘Mischievous pastime or historical science?’, review article of Minerva, in Antiquity 64 (1990), 946-50. [ISSN 0003-598X] [online]
    • (with Christopher Chippindale) ‘Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures’, American Journal of Archaeology 97 (1993), 601-59. [ISSN 0002-9114] [online]
    • Commentary (with C. Chippindale) on C. Morris, ‘Hands up for the individual! The role of attribution studies in Aegean prehistory’, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 3 (1993), 57-58 (pp. 41-66). [ISSN 0959-7743]
    • (with Kevin Butcher) ‘The Director, the Dealer, the Goddess and her Champions: the Acquisition of the Fitzwilliam Goddess’, American Journal of Archaeology 97 (1993), 383-401. [ISSN 0002-9114] [online]
    • ‘Publishing unprovenanced artifacts: further observations’, Electronic Antiquity 2.2 (1994). [online]
    • ‘Sotheby’s, sleaze and subterfuge: inside the ...

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  • David Gill receives AIA’s 2012 Outstanding Public Service Award

    Heartfelt congratulations go to David Gil, for this well-deserved recognition from the Archaeological Institute of America. SAFE and SAFECORNER would like to take the opportunity to thank Prof. Gill for years of research and study on looting and the illicit antiquities trade, and above all, his efforts to keep the public informed of these problems with his blog “Looting Matters”, a pioneering effort in this field. Not only that, SAFE is grateful to David for his advice and contributions to SAFECORNER. Congratulations!!!

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