• “Why is it even showing them?” Roger Atwood on the Bourne collection’s fakes and undocumented objects

    {caption}Click on image to order book{/caption}{credit}Jane Evelyn Atwood{/credit}

    What do fakes have to do with the problem of looting? Fakes and unprovenanced, authentic antiquities often turn up together in collections because neither was found through the transparent process of archaeological excavation. They flock together.  Collectors might think their connoisseurship protects them from fakes, but they get hoodwinked all the time. This is not a sign of denseness or gullibility, necessarily; it just comes with the territory if you’re in the business of acquiring undocumented antiquities….

    Has the collector gained a tax benefit for the donation of what are quite possibly, if the Walters’ analysis is correct, worthless fakes?  Why is it even showing them?

    Roger Atwood, author of Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World questions the integrity of Walters Art Museum’s Bourne Collection in a Chasing Aphrodite post. Atwood is also critical of the exhibit’s lack of information, presumably, because the objects were:

    all purchased from the cast of looters, dealers and ...

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  • Howard Carter and his discovery of King Tut’s tomb…what if?

    {credit}Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, and National Geographic Society, 2005{/credit}Technology can now deduce what King Tut looked like, impossible to achieve if his tomb had been plundered and its contents traded in the illicit antiquities trade

    One of the easiest ways to think about the damaging effects of looting ancient sites is to consider what we stand to lose. Or simply put: what if?

    In celebration of Howard Carter’s 138th birthday and his discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, a most important point should not be forgotten: what we now know about the young king would be impossible had tomb robbers found the coffin first.

    In a 2005 Dig Magazine article, Adrienne J. Donovan of SAFE wrote:

    In ancient times, robbers entered Tutankhamun’s tomb twice, but not his coffin. They took what was most valuable at the time, unguents and oils. After it was covered by rubble from the cutting of another tomb, Tut’s tomb was left untouched until Howard Carter began digging in 1922. It is the intactness of the finds and of Tut’s untouched mummy that have allowed the young king to be so well understood today.

     

    Untouched by tomb raiders, the artifacts in King Tut’s intact tomb continue to stimulate public interest in ancient Egypt. Rather than “beautiful but dumb”*, the objects speak volumes about the ancient world in general. Among the many possibilities this wealth of information brings, technology can now even deduce what King Tut looked like, impossible to achieve had his tomb been plundered and its contents traded in the illicit antiquities trade

    *Professor Clemency Coggins used the term to describe archaeological objects removed out of context. Professor Coggins of Boston University has worked on problems of Cultural Property preservation and law since 1968. She served on the US committee involved in drafting the 1970 UNESCO convention, and worked many years for the US ratification and implementation of the Convention.

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  • Will new research lead to repatriation of mosaics to Turkey?

    Bowling Green mosaic tile

    Turkey’s latest repatriation request called for the return of a dozen Roman mosaics currently owned and displayed at the Wolfe Center for the Arts at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio. The university acquired the mosaics—which depict birds, human faces and other subjects in intricate detail—in 1965 from a New York dealer for $35,000. BGSU believed the mosaics had been discovered in a Princeton led excavation in Antioch during the 1930s. At the time of the excavation, Antioch was a Syrian province (the province was later annexed to Turkey in 1939), where the university was granted concessions by the Syrian government to excavate in the region. The archeological findings were then legally distributed according to the original agreement with the Syrian government.

    New research, however, from Dr. Rebecca Molholt, assistant professor at Brown University, and Dr. Stephanie Langin-Hooper, assistant professor at BGSU, reveals the mosaics were most likely illegally looted from the ancient Roman garrison town of Zeugma in modern ...

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