About Megan Gannon

Megan Gannon, a writer employed by NewsCore, studied English and Art History at New York University. Her archaeological field school experience in Western Cyprus inspired her to start thinking about cultural heritage and the legal issues surrounding it. She is particularly interested in how looting and the illicit antiquities market are portrayed in news media and pop culture. She plans to go to law school.

New Zealand’s built history, cultural heritage suffer losses after massive quake

Recovery operations are still underway and looking increasingly grim in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the city’s second major earthquake in six months left over 140 dead and scores more wounded and missing. As always, people remain SAFE’s first concern and our condolences go out to those who have lost their loved ones, colleagues and homes.

But as the dust settles in New Zealand’s second largest city, we will also get a clearer picture of the toll on its built history and cultural heritage. As Prime Minister John Key said in an interview with TV3 News just a day after the 6.3-magnitude tremor hit, Christchurch will be “a very different city” once rebuilding efforts begin.

Museums Aotearoa has been updating their blog with word from museums across Canterbury and they have relayed some good news. Firstly, they have not reported any museum staff or volunteers lost. They have also reported that the Canterbury Museum, which was feared to have suffered damage, has been declared “structurally sound.” It houses, among other things, a 130-year-old collection of natural history specimens and artifacts from Antarctic expeditions. It also lies in one of the worst-hit areas, Christchurch’s central business district (CBD).

Other museums and historic places have not fared so well. The former municipal chambers building, which opened in 1887 and has housed exhibitions for the past decade, had been closed to the public after suffering major damage during September’s even bigger, but far less violent quake. Museums Aotearoa reported that the building has now been completely ruined.

Major cultural landmarks, including the city’s provincial chambers (built in 1865), The Press building and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament have also suffered significant damage. And images of the century-old Anglican cathedral, pictured above, have circulated widely, showing how the church has lost its iconic spire and part of its tower – not to mention that authorities fear up to 22 people have been lost in its rubble.

As the New Zealand Herald reported, the cathedral “has become a symbol of the city’s anguish,” but Mayor Bob Parker is confident that the massive stone church will be rebuilt and that its restoration will become an important symbol of the city’s resilience. “There is some discussion that that is a building we could rebuild brick by brick, stone by stone. We need to find some symbols like that,” he told reporters this week.

Lyttelton, a colonial harbor town just 12 km southeast of Christchurch, was devastated by the Feb. 22 earthquake and its 1876 Timeball Station – one of just five working timeball stations in the world – was among the many historic buildings laid to waste.

Architect and conservator Ian Bowman, who will travel to Christchurch next week for several restoration projects, has told me that he heard the storage facility for the Timeball Station museum was flattened. It housed all display material and collection items that were moved from the main museum after the September earthquake damaged the station. It remains unclear if anything has been or can be salvaged.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust is working to provide advice on how to approach historic buildings damaged by the quake, according to its website, and it has urged against the “unnecessary clearing or removal of heritage buildings or structures.” NZHPT chief executive, Bruce Chapman, had this to say about Christchurch’s damaged cultural sites in a statement released Friday

These buildings are much-loved, iconic landmarks that helped to tell Christchurch’s story and have made the city the special place that it is and what locals and visitors readily identify with.

There is no easy answer to whether Christchurch can rebuild its damaged historic buildings. Once the full extent of damage is known then discussions can begin on how Christchurch can rebuild, what buildings it can retain and the costs involved.

But that’s a conversation that no one is having right now. Like everyone else our thoughts are firmly on the safety of people in the city, and with the remaining rescue and recovery work.

Photo courtesy: news.com.au, AFP

Greece requests U.S. import restrictions on cultural material

Greece has made a formal request for the U.S. to impose import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material (Neolithic through mid-eighteenth century) that comes from the Hellenic Republic.

Despite their own efforts and enforcement of national law, Greek officials claim that “a considerable number of antiquities has been and continues to be smuggled out of Greek territory, causing serious jeopardy to the cultural heritage of the county.”

The U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will hold meetings in Washington, D.C., next month to review the new request and will hold a public session on October 12 from 10:00am to 1:00pm.


If you would like to make comments at the meeting or attend as a spectator, you must call the Cultural Heritage Center and sign up by September 22.

As always, if you cannot make the meeting but still want to voice your support for the protection of Greece’s heritage, you can write a letter to CPAC. The AIA has great resources on their website that make this easy to do. See their letter template, which takes about five minutes to fill out.

The AIA also has a great summary of the process by which an MoU is agreed on and renewed under the Cultural Property Implementation Act of 1983.

This past spring, Italy’s MoU was up for renewal, and at the meeting, coins dominated the debate. Disappointingly, they were not added to the list of materials protected under the bilateral agreement.

The DoS thus far has only made available a public summary of Greece’s request, which doesn’t get too specific about the kind of material the country wants protected. Greece did conclude, however, that looters prefer “ceramic such as pottery, metal such as jewelry and coins, and stone such as statues.”

Can we assume that coins will be on the table?

Nathan Elkins wrote a great feature, “Why coins matter,” for SAFE last year about how the systematic looting of archaeological sites for the purpose of finding coins to sell on the market creates an irreparable loss of cultural information. Read it, and peruse our resource page Coins Matter to learn more. Urge CPAC to seriously consider protecting coins in your letter if you feel compelled to do so.

Photo: Michael Setboun

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 motivations behind them.

Certainly, fictional heroes can lend a welcome cloak of sexiness to a sometimes-unsexy field. And they can be inspiring. Christopher Heaney, a former SAFE volunteer, devoted the first few pages of his excellent debut book, Cradle of Gold, to Indy and the iconic big screen moments that first sparked his interest in archaeology.

Heaney even calls the subject of his work, Hiram Bingham, a “Real-Life Indiana Jones,” and for good reason, too. Bingham was an academic and explorer of the early 20th century, equipped with a pith helmet and a gun.

He made major contributions to the growing field of Latin American studies and worked his way through the Peruvian Andes to rediscover the most famous lost city of the Incas — Machu Picchu. Bingham’s questionable archaeological practices, however, fueled the emotional debate over Yale’s collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts.

So how many more “Real-Life Indiana Jonses” do we need today? Some of our Beacon Award winners have found themselves working undercover with smugglers in Peru, and all have taken enormous risks, at times, putting their careers and lives on the line. But their boulder chases and snake pits sometimes look more like pesky bureaucrats and thousands of pages of federal code.

We congratulate Robert K. Wittman, Robert E. Goldman, James E. McAndrew, and David Hall — our 2010 SAFE Beacon Award Winners. We hope you’ll keep checking our website to find out who they really are, and that you’ll join us at our awards ceremony on October 29th!

 

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.

Meanwhile, in Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession, Craig Childs inserts himself into the polarizing debate over who owns the past– a topic he has previously discussed. He recounts his own dilemmas over artifacts and ownership, and confronts his desires to open ancient doors, to pick up arrowheads, and to get closer, through possession, to the Native American past that he studies.
Those desires are ultimately trumped by Childs’ view that the integrity of objects is best preserved in their natural environment, left untouched by “pothunter” and archaeologist alike. Childs, as Paul Barford rightly pointed out last year, seems to believe the past belongs to no one. In Finders Keepers, he even claims to have freed an ancient pot from a glass case in an anonymous building to return it to the desert, though a reviewer from the L.A. Times says Childs “did not feel entirely good about that.”
At the heart of both Finders Keepers is a lust for uncovering the past in a physical way, but Childs endorses a suppression of that impulse, and the TV show encourages a full exploitation of it, which certainly raises several questions from the middle ground.
Image: Regan Choi/Little, Brown & Co.

CPAC review of MOU between U.S. and Italy

Last week, the U.S. Department of State issued a Notice of the Meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to take place May 6-7, 2010. The committee will review a proposal to extend the MOU between the U.S. and Italy concerning the current import restrictions on archaeological material. You can register to speak or simply sit in during the public session (May 6th 9:30-11AM) by calling the Cultural Heritage Center. Note that if you do wish to speak at this meeting, comments are limited to 5 minutes and must be submitted for the committee’s review by April 22, 2010. Even if you cannot be attendance at the CPAC meeting, you can still make a difference by faxing a letter to the Cultural Heritage Center (also by April 22). Please refer to SAFE’s “Say YES to Italy” page and to the AIA’s guidelines to write an informed and effective letter expressing your hope that the U.S. will extend their bilateral agreement with Italy.

The Looting of the Iraq Museum: 7 Years Later

This weekend marks the 7th anniversary of the tragic looting of the Iraq Museum—an anniversary that is especially important for SAFE. Cindy Ho founded SAFE in response to the mass looting in 2003, and since then, SAFE grew from a single-purpose public awareness campaign into a non-profit organization, the only one of its kind, with a much broader mission.

SAFE and others around the world have commemorated the looting of the museum each year with special events, like candlelight vigils. These gatherings are an easy way to say that we have not forgotten, and they also remind us of the challenges Iraq faces today to protect its cultural heritage. One of the major challenges we were reminded of this year is the reopening of the museum. SAFE, like most other media outlets, all too eagerly announced that the museum was reopened in February 2009. Our friend and former director of the Iraq Museum, Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, warned us that these reports were misleading:

…they made the ceremony for two hours, then the closed the museum, it is not opened since then, no one from the public goes in, except VIP’s and journalists, can go in with an appointment, but they would go through the back door, that is through the administration building, and as for the displayed material, nothing from the original small items are displayed, they are still in their hiding place, only the large items that fixed to the walls and the floors are there, and some of the material that was brought back to the museum, and some later excavations, nothing from the original material.

Of course, I would love so much to see the museum open, but still it is not a good time in Baghdad.

Not only are these vigils a way to remember Iraq specifically, but they can also draw attention to other situations around the world. This year we might also think about the destruction in Kashgar and Haiti, for example. Remembering and looking ahead are the two major themes of SAFE vigils that prove to be relevant year after year. In that way, these events would support a case for nationally recognized day (akin to Earth Day) to remember the importance of cultural heritage (something that we applaud Paul Barford for suggesting in an earlier post). But until our cause achieves national recognition, SAFE hopes that our members and friends will attend a vigil, or host their own, to acknowledge that we are all responsible for the protection of our shared past.

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.

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

Another delay for the Cyrus Cylinder


The British Museum announced that it would once again postpone its loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran. This time, a new discovery is to blame. Farah Nayeri for Bloomberg.com reports:

On Jan. 5, inscriptions similar to the Cylinder’s were found on two pieces of cuneiform tablets from Babylonia in the museum’s collections. The pieces will be studied to shed light on the Cylinder’s “missing” or “obscure” passages, the museum said, and presented at a London workshop involving Iranian colleagues.

After that, “it is intended that the two new pieces should be exhibited for the first time in Tehran, together with the Cylinder itself,” the museum said in an e-mailed release.

“The agreement has been made with our colleagues in Iran that we’ll postpone the loan to investigate this exciting discovery with them,” said Hannah Boulton, head of press and marketing at the British Museum. “That’s the reason for the postponement.”

Asked why it took so long for the two tablets to be found, she said, “There are 200,000 cuneiform tablets in our collection, and only a limited number of scholars who can understand and translate cuneiform.”

The timing and urgency of this discovery seem all too convenient—the cylinder was meant to go on display in Tehran at the National Museum of Iran just a few days from now. Abbas Alizadeh from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute has already voiced skepticism about the British Museum’s announcement. Press-TV reports that he told the ISNA that the small missing pieces would not likely yield any groundbreaking revelations about this cylinder or others.

This is not the first postponement. The British Museum agreed to loan the cylinder to Iran after it was displayed in their “Forgotten Empire: the world of Ancient Persia” exhibition of 2005-2006. When it was finally scheduled for loan in September 2009, the museum balked, apparently due to the political unrest following Ahmadenijad’s re-election. Then in October, Iran’s state-run Press TV announced that the country would sever all ties with the British Museum if the Cyrus Cylinder was not loaned to them, and the museum promised that it would eventually hold up its end of the deal. We have yet to see that it does.

If the British Museum continues to ignore its agreement and circumvent Iran’s ultimatum, it is sending a message to other countries that cultural stewardship is a privilege, and not a self-determined one. The curators are trying to make good by announcing that they have invited Iranian scholars to London to study these new findings with them, but that’s not the point. The Cyrus Cylinder is to be displayed in Tehran not just so that a few Iranian scholars can study it, but so that the Iranian public can see it, too—for many of them, it will probably be their first time.

Oscar Muscarella’s "Fifth Column" of Plunder Culture

All too often, debates about cultural property are made to look simply like battles between curators/collectors/dealers and archaeologists. In an article published in Studies in Honor of Altan Çilingiroglu. A Life Dedicated to Urartu on the Shores of the Upper Sea, Eds. H. Saglamtimur, et al. Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayinlari, Istanbul, 2009, “The Fifth Column Within the Archaeological Realm: The Great Divide,” Dr. Oscar White Muscarella looks at the network of plunder in all the complexity it deserves, and pays special attention to an overlooked accomplice in the continued destruction of the past.

According to Muscarella there are four visible mutually supporting columns operating within the realm of “Plunder Culture.” These groups, in order, are: on-site looters or tombaroli, smugglers and local dealers, professional antiquities dealers, and lastly, wealthy collectors, including museums and universities, both public and private.

Cultural heritage may be endangered most, however, by the fifth invisible column whose members are within the archaeological community. Muscarella illustrates the ways in which professional archaeologists facilitate Plunder Culture, and their participation does not just include the more obvious examples of performing authenticity evaluations for wealthy collectors. Members of the archaeological community also enable plunder by accepting money, invitations, committee memberships and appointments from fourth column institutions with dishonorable acquisition policies and compromised attitudes toward the value of context.

The hypocrisy in these affiliations has yet to be broadly acknowledged by the media and by the field of archaeology. The members of the fifth column have yet to be publicly denounced, and as a result:

They continue to flourish, their activities proceed successfully and unabated, they get awarded – revealing that the discipline of archaeology has no comprehensive sense of itself, no unclouded self-knowledge, no awareness of its moral and academic weakness.

Muscarella is unafraid to name names (of both the good and bad, the individuals and institutions) and avoids ambiguous and ineffective discourse about the problems of cultural property. He urges archaeologists to reconsider the consequences of their professional, academic, and personal associations, and to those who consider themselves clean, he urges active participation in the protection of cultural heritage.

To join Dr. Muscarella’s SAFE tour at the Metropolitan Museum on Friday, October 23 at 6:30 PM, you can buy tickets from our website.

In the name of ethics…

Yesterday, a French celebrity collector, Pierre Berge, alleged that he offered to donate two Chinese bronze animal heads to Taiwan’s National Palace Museum but was turned down. AFP reports that the museum’s refusal was rooted in ethical reasons as well as a reluctance to incite conflict with China. The article quotes the director of the museum, Chou Kung-shin saying: “In accordance with professional museum ethics, we can’t collect disputed artefacts.”

“Disputed” is the keyword here. These artifacts were not recently looted, but stolen from Beijing by the British and French during the Opium Wars in 1860, and Beijing has repeatedly asked for their repatriation. There were no laws in place 150 years ago to protect these items – the museum’s refusal to accept the bronzes was on moral, not legal, grounds. This incident is reflective of what I hope is a growing consciousness of the role that cultural heritage plays in a country’s relations with other nations.

Why should we care?

In response to the seemingly imminent destruction of burial mounds in Bahrain, Gillian Abbas wrote a letter to the Gulf Daily News addressing the essential question, “Why should we care?” She writes:

“Any artefacts or intact burial mounds, no matter how small or insignificant, in their original background, offer us insight into the way our ancestors lived, their societies and their environments.

They complete our view of ancient life and enrich our understanding on many levels and as such, these burial sites and antiquities embrace an essential part of the Gulf and our global cultural heritage.

And why should we care about culture and antiquities?

Simply because the physical fabric of the past is fundamental to the moral and spiritual foundation of our present and future.”

This editorial echoes SAFE’s own Why should we care? segment and offers additional insight about why we must safeguard information that only antiquities and ancient sites can tell us about our past.

Wall Street Journal: The Keeper of the Keys and the Mystery of the Bactrian Gold

Afghan Banker Who Risked His Life to Save Treasure from the Taliban Finally Gets His Due

This WSJ article sheds light on the remarkable history of the Bactrian Gold—an Afghan cache once feared to be lost, but actually kept hidden until a few years ago in a presidential palace vault. A collection of this gold is now on display at the Met as part of the “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures of the National Museum, Kabul” exhibit. You see the Bactrian hoard and hear the fascinating back-stories of other objects from Kabul if you sign up for a SAFE Tour with Nadia Tarzi at the Met this weekend. Friday is selling out fast, but there still lots of room on the Saturday morning tour!

 

Debates from the Grave: a Review of Art as Plunder by Margaret M. Miles

At the center of Margaret M. Miles’ latest book are two men: corrupt Roman magistrate of Sicily, Gaius Verres, and the lawyer who prosecuted him, Marcus Tullius Cicero. Art as Plunder: The Ancient Origins of Debate about Cultural Property unfurls from the matters at stake in their famous legal battle of the first century BCE.

While Rome was preoccupied with Spartacus’ slave revolt, Gaius Verres wreaked havoc on the Sicilian people as their governor from 73 to 70 BCE. During that extended post Verres exercised indulgent abuse of power; he extorted money from the locals and killed innocent people, but, according to Miles, what figured most important in Cicero’s prosecution was the governor’s sacrilegious and indecorous theft of art.

Using eyewitness accounts and documentary evidence, Cicero presented the Roman jury with horrifying episodes of Verres’ bad behavior. Maybe the most poignant of these incidents happened in Sicilian city of Tyndaris where Verres coveted after a statue of Mercury that the townspeople were keen to hold on to—it had historical importance and had been once plundered during wartime but since repatriated. As punishment for his refusal to surrender the statue, the distinguished local magistrate, Sopater, was stripped naked in freezing rain and tied to a bronze equestrian statue in the city’s center until the local senate agreed to hand over their Mercury.

Verres violated integral codes of Roman behavior. He disregarded rules of hospitality in a foreign land, and he pillaged sanctuaries, private homes, and public places during peacetime. Worse, Verres did not even offer his spoils to the gods or for public benefit; rather, the plunder decorated his private atrium in Rome. To be sure, Verres was officially charged with extortion of forty million sesterces from the Sicilians—not with stealing art. But the accounts in Cicero’s Verrines that best illuminate the governor’s greed, decadence, and aggression are those that depict his injudicious removal of cultural property for his personal use.

Miles does an excellent job of contextualizing these violations. In her first chapter she exhaustively details ancient precedents for plunder with examples ranging from the Elamite confiscation of the Stele of Naram-Sin in the second millennium BCE to the unparalleled repatriation of Sicilian art by Scipio Aemilianus in the second century BCE. In her second chapter, her focus narrows and she reconstructs the specific historic moment in which Verres’ trial took place.

If Cicero’s picture of Verres looks familiar, it should. As Miles tells us in her last chapter, the Verrines were often cited and evoked as parallel arguments in Neoclassical legal cases like Edmund Burke’s prosecution of Warren Hastings, Governor-General of India from 1773-1784. Lord Byron also used the text in his denunciation of Lord Elgin’s removal of antiquities and architectural elements from the Acropolis.

Perhaps the most compelling resurrection of Cicero’s Verrines took place after the Napoleonic Wars with the Duke of Wellington’s order that France must give back all of the art it plundered to its rightful nation of origin. Miles’ portrait of the Duke is the culmination of the “humane general” theme that runs throughout her book in rare passages of history. In these episodes, rulers are shown acting outside the typical conventions of war, behaving magnanimously, and thinking insightfully about the future of foreign relations and cultural heritage.

The scope of Art as Plunder is vast and interdisciplinary; thus it will be an invaluable resource to a number of audiences including cultural property advocates, museum curators, soldiers, ancient historians, Neoclassical historians, and anyone with an interest in art history, aesthetics, and military history. Its academic quality—heavy footnotes and an extensive bibliography—should not scare away readers with a casual interest in the subject. Miles’ language is intelligent but completely lucid. The only thing really keeping Art as Plunder away from a popular audience right now is the cost. (The list price is $90.00).

By providing a comprehensive picture of ancient views about plunder, Miles propels her reader into the ancient mind. She then challenges her audience to take that knowledge and try to make sense of pillages, legal developments, and battles of repatriation that have taken place in the past few centuries and are still taking place today. The author’s aim is not to mine the historical record for evidence supporting the protection and repatriation of cultural property—the story she has to tell is much more nuanced and complicated than that. However, Miles does make it clear that those persons in line with the Verrine model often end up on the wrong side of history. Art as Plunder should warn the most ravenous of collectors to start thinking about posterity.

To purchase Art as Plunder, visit the SAFE Bookstore!