Why China’s MoU request should be renewed: its undiscovered ancient past
On our Facebook group yesterday, attention was brought to a mysterious stone animal uncovered this past January at an excavation site in Sichuan, China. Weighing 8.5 tons, and at 10ft 10in long, 3ft 11in wide and 5ft 7in tall, what else do we know about it besides its vastness?
What animal is it? Media reports have called it a horse, a lion, or a panda, a cow, a pig. The latest “conclusion” is that the animal is a mythical rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus.
How old is it? While most Chinese reports have the statue dating to the Qin Han dynasties 221 B.C.–A.D. 220, other reports speculate that it could have come from the Tang dynasty 618–907, or even Ming Qing 368—1840.
Perhaps most important, what was its purpose? Archaeologists are reportedly baffled. At this writing, we have not found the discovery in Kaogu, or Archaeology journal, published by Institute of Archaeology, of the Chinese Academy ...(MORE ...)
Marsha Fulton of The Extreme History Project remembers
I first encountered SAFE and Cindy Ho while I was teaching Art History at SUNY New Paltz. As all of us, I was stunned at the horrific losses at the Baghdad Museum after the invasion of Iraq. I wanted to get involved in some way. I phoned Cindy and we had a lengthy conversation that ended with my commitment to supporting and contributing to SAFE in any way I could. Through those early years, I met several times with SAFE supporters and hosted the first SAFE Board retreat at my home in Saugerties, NY. We laid the foundations for what SAFE would become over those few days in my dining room. When SAFE began commemorating the anniversary of the looting with a Candlelight Vigil, I created an annual program at SUNY New Paltz which included a presentation on the looting of the Baghdad Museum and a screening of the film The Giant Buddhas, a powerful documentary ...(MORE ...)
Thoughts on the Tragedy of Iraqi Cultural Heritage, and Three Inspired Responses to it: SAFE, Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, and Dr. Saad Eskander of the Iraq National Library and Archive
The 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies has prompted many reflections. They bring to my mind the Bad Faith to which the Iraqi people have been subjected ever since the victorious powers betrayed their Arab allies at Versailles after WWI. “Bomber” Harris, who presided over the destruction of German cities from the air in WWII, practiced on rebellious Iraqi villages in the 1920s. There was no organic connection between the royal Hashemite line imposed by the British on the Iraqi people, laying the grounds for nationalist coups to come, and the seemingly ineluctable descent into Saddam Hussein’s despotism. The extraordinarily destructive invasion (in its acts and consequences) was but one of the more recent such betrayals, although in that instance the American and British people were also victims, though less grievously so.
Saddam’s dictatorship betrayed the Iraqi people in countless ways, including the gross distortions of culture and corruption of institutions that benefited the narrow interests ...(MORE ...)
China’s “other” looting problem
One might rejoice at today’s news about the Christie’s owner François Pinault’s offer to return two bronze animal heads to China, a “cause célèbre for Chinese nationalists” has garnered start-studded attention from Ai Weiwei to Jackie Chan, Yves Saint Laurent, Nicolas Sarkozy, the Dalia Lama and now the head of the PPR, maker of luxury fashion goods, husband of movie start Salma Hayek. Or, one might ask if this is really a cause for celebration.
Since our 2009 post on the subject stating that since the objects were taken before current laws were in place, China’s “only recourse so far has been to purchase these antiquities back whenever they surface on the antiquities market,” Pinault has found another way. Purchasing the bronzes then “donating” them back to China, “their rightful home”, Pinault has found another solution, and a way to improve business and diplomatic relations with a nation that boasts an impressive purchasing power by showing respect for its ...(MORE ...)
Archaeological Looting is an Environmental Issue
The supporters of the indiscriminate market in dug-up ancient relics are fixated on representing the fundamental issues at stake as those of “ownership”, whether by a state (by their use of labels such as “retentionist”, “Nationalist”) or private individuals (accompanied by a lot of “cold dead hands”-type fighting talk). What lobbyists of this persuasion strenuously fight shy of is admitting that the current pace of depletion of the finite and fragile archaeological record by looting is a non-sustainable misuse of a precious resource. Looting is not an ownership issue, but an environmental issue.
The attempts to deflect the attention of the public and policy makers from the environmental aspects of the issues is of course a cynical manipulation. Lobbyists know they will get no sympathy from presenting the activity they are engaged in as the destroyer of a finite resource. That is why they will always play down the role of the indiscriminate market in the erosion. This is why they play on ...(MORE ...)