• CPAC to review requests by Bulgaria and Belize for Memoranda of Understanding with the U.S.

    The U.S. Department of State has issued a Notice of the Meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to take place November 15-17, 2011. The Committee will begin its review of new cultural property requests from the Governments of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Belize seeking import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material. On November 16, an open session to receive oral public comment on these requests will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. If you wish to attend the open session, you must call and notify the Cultural Heritage Center of the Department of State no later than November 2, 2011, 5 p.m. (E.D.T.) to arrange for admission. If you wish to speak at the public session you must request to be scheduled and must submit a written text of your oral comments no later than November 2.

    If you cannot attend the open session, you can still support the requests of both Belize and Bulgaria by visiting SAFE’s Say YES to Bulgaria page and Say YES to Belize page for guidelines on how to write and send an informed and effective letter expressing your hope that the U.S. will sign bilateral agreements with both Bulgaria and Belize. Also, add your name to the list of people supporting the preservation of the cultural heritage of Bulgaria.

    Click here for more information on bilateral agreements and why SAFE supports them.

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  • "Chasing Aphrodite" Fall Book Tour comes to NYC

    The 2011 SAFE Beacon Award Winners are busy traveling the East Coast this fall discussing their book, Chasing Aphrodite. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet Jason Felch this October in New York City.

    Lecture and Book SigningOctober 24, 6 pmSilver Center Room 300Washington Square EastNew York University

    “Jason Felch will give a presentation about his non-fiction book Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum, which details how the J. Paul Getty Museum became the epicenter of an unprecedented scandal over the acquisition of looted Greek and Roman antiquities by their Los Angeles Times coverage of the controversy, including stories revealing how the Getty, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and other leading institutions patronized a black market awash in illicit objects. The revelations forced American museums to return more than 100 of their finest antiquities-valued at nearly a billion dollars-to Italy and Greece. Their new book lays bare the roots of the scandal with fly-on-the-wall accounts gleaned from hundreds of additional interviews and internal Getty documents spanning four decades. Their presentation-which includes slides of the key characters and looted objects-will touch on the origins of the scandal, the efforts of senior Getty officials to continue buying looted artifacts while appearing ethical, and the tragic consequences the strategy brought to the museum’s collection and its highly regarded antiquities curator, Marion True. The presentation will also address how the scandal has ushered in a new era of cooperation between Italy and American museums through cultural loans.”

    For information about the Fall Book Tour visit the Chasing Aphrodite website.

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  • Hungarian Archaeologists Express Concern over Modification of Cultural Heritage Protection Law

    SAFE was recently contacted by Merva Szabina – a Hungarian archaeologist – asking for our help in publicizing a danger to Hungary’s archaeological heritage. We are happy to spread the word and lend our support. Here is a brief summary of the situation provided by Merva Szabina:

    “The Archaeological Heritage is in extreme danger in Hungary. According to archaeologists, a new draft law recently submitted to the Hungarian Parliament could mean the end of heritage protection in Hungary. The most serious point in the draft is that first phase test-excavations related to large-scale investments (e.g. motorway constructions, major state investments) would be limited to a time period of at most 30 days. Furthermore, any necessary follow-up preventive excavations could not last longer than another 30 days either. This would not be applied to simply to the sites themselves – which would also be equally irresolvable – but to the whole of ...

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  • "Operation CERBERUS Action": Neither overkill nor justice

    The September 24 Deseret News raised the question: “Overkill or justice? Costly 5-year-old artifacts case nets no prison time and 3 suicides, but retrieves Native American treasures and raises awareness”. The case referred to is Operation CERBERUS Action, aimed at the illegal trafficking of Native American artifacts in the Four Corners area, previously discussed here.

    SAFE has expressed disappointment over the lenient sentencing following the arrests made under Operation CERBERUS Action. According to a June 10, 2009 Department of Justice press release the operation was the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts, involving dozens of defendants. In the Redds case alone, eight hundred and twelve Native American artifacts were forfeited, reportedly requiring two trucks to remove them from the Redds’s residence.

    Neither overkill nor justice, we believe the outcome shows disrespect for the federal agents and informants who put themselves at risk to make the case, and to the public, which paid for the prosecution. Most disturbingly, the leniency sends the message that the law — in this case, Archaeological Resources Protection Act and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act — are unimportant or do not apply to the Four Corners region, and will encourage rather than deter looters.

    We suspect that the descendants of those whose burial grounds were desecrated and whose remains were destroyed by looters would agree.

    According to the Deseret News article, Bureau of Land Management assistant special agent in charge Dan Love said “the case remains active” and indictments in other states are pending. We continue to hope that future sentencing in such cases will more closely adhere to the recommendations of Federal Guidelines.

    Photo: Native American antiquities were seized in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. (BLM)

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  • What is meant by a "private collection"?

    Heads from the Schinoussa Archive

    A pair of Greek terracotta protomai are due to be sold at Christie’s (London) this week (lot 69). They are said to have been in a London private collection. Yet the pair of heads appear to be the same as those featured in the Schinoussa Archive seized in Greece. If so, the “private collection” is likely to be the stock of London-based dealer Robin Symes.

    The Attic krater that is due to be handed back to Italy by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was also said to have resided in a UK private collection as well as a Swiss one.

    Earlier this year an object due to be auctioned at London was described as coming from a Swiss “private collection”. Seized photographic archives show the real nature of that “private collection”.

    So should auction houses stop using the description of “private collection” if they really mean “dealer’s stock”?

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