Abdulamir Hamdani on the implications of the current fighting for Iraq’s cultural heritage

The following is Dr. Abdulamir al-Hamdani’s presentation on the destruction of Iraq’s heritage made on July 18, 2014 at the Iraqi Cultural Center. The event was also live-tweeted by Dr. Damien Huffer (#ICHpanel) and reported here by Dr. Alex Nagel. SAFE is grateful for this collaboration, allowing us to raise awareness about these critical issues.

The vote is in: We want international cooperation for cultural heritage protection

On May 29, SAFE opened up an informal poll to gauge public opinion on the issue of international cooperation on cultural heritage protection. This was inspired by Egypt’s request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to restrict imports of Egyptian archaeological and ethnological material into the United States. The goal was to raise public awareness, a core mission of SAFE.

In fact, the poll did an excellent job—it got people talking. A total of 142 people voted on the poll, and more than twenty-five experts and concerned public took the trouble to put thoughtful comments on the SAFE webpage, the poll website, and LinkedIn group pages.

An overwhelming majority of the voters (89.44%) voted for the first choice—a simple “Yes,” that all nations should help protect each other’s cultural heritage.

It seemed that many people who responded YES saw the international cooperation on protecting cultural heritage as an obvious, basic moral duty. But what intrigued me the most was that some people have voted for the runner-up choice (albeit only with 5.63% support): “No, a nation only deserves assistance if it has a stable government, incorruptible officials and adequate museum facilities in which to preserve the protected materials.”

This was a kind of argument that the stubborn retentionists of the 80s and 90s often used to undermine source countries’ ability to take care of their cultural heritage.

One of the commenters on the SAFE website, Nigel Sadler, perhaps provides an insight into why some people might prefer partial or limited repatriation. First, Sadler reasoned that his understanding of this answer choice was not that objects should never be returned to politically unstable countries, but that they should ultimately be at some point. Then he said,

“there has to be a degree of stability in the government and there must be museums or organisations that can house, safeguard, and even display the items in a secure environment.”

This view suggests that some people might think temporary retentionism is permissible. However, Ian MacLeod, Executive Director at Western Australian Maritime Museum, seems to disagree, for he wrote,

“All nations deserve support regardless of the stability of the country—it is a shared cultural resource we protect.”

<caption>Results of the poll</caption> Results of the poll

Another idea that was echoed in several comments was that cultural heritage belongs to all humans regardless of nationality and cultural affinity. Christ Durham wrote:

“It is the heritage of all humans no matter which country it resides in.”

As a college student who has studied both the retentionism and restitutionism arguments, I personally thought that this idea could go either way. That is, if cultural heritage belongs to all mankind, you can argue that the museums with the highest number of visitors and the best conservation resources should keep the objects—a classic retentionism argument. But you can also make an opposite argument for repatriation: because cultural objects belong to all people, the objects should be placed within their source countries’ cultural context, where they can be best understood for the benefit of the entire world.

This is why I thought that Shruti Das raised an interesting point—she broke away from the dichotomy of retentionism and restitutionism. She wrote that there is the

“need to create a common platform for all the nations, where they can stand for the preservation of cultural heritage irrespective of national bias or discrimination.”

Therefore, she is talking not from the point of view of ownership, but from the point of view of shared efforts and shared knowledge. Sachin Bansal chimed in, writing,

“we should have a knowledge transfer exercises [sic] on the heritage preservations as ‘one world’ concept. People should share insights . . .”

Despite some disagreements, it was apparent that everyone wanted to advocate for more action to establish a worldwide culture of respect for every culture’s heritage. Jack Rollins’s eloquent comment might be a nice point to wrap up this summary. He commented on June 21:

“However tragic these losses are, the fact is that if someone has the power to do something, he also has the power not to do it. If the world sits by watching one minimally civilized group destroy—forever—any part of the world’s culture, how unendurably self-absorbed are we; a shiftless, spoilt, selfish, coarse citizens of the world we must see ourselves as ‘rudely stamp’d.’”

That is, apathy, laziness, and neglect are the worst enemies of safeguarding the heritage of all cultures.

Let SAFE know about your thoughts on another important issue on cultural heritage protection: Should the St. Louis Art Museum voluntarily return the mummy mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer to Egypt? Vote here.

Update: Mali’s cultural heritage in danger

Mali is one of the few countries in Western Africa where evidence of human occupation from the Middle (and possibly Lower) Palaeolithic to the modern day can be found (Mayor et al. 2005). The intense exploration of the Sahara has built a clearer picture of the expansion of modern humans, from around 100,000 to 50,000 BP, moving westward through the continent, crossing into countries such as Niger, Sudan, Chad and Libya. It is in the Ounjougou site complex in the Dogon Region where the longest prehistoric sequence in western Sub-Saharan Africa has been documented (Robert et al. 2003; Truman 2006). Mali has also provided some key sites regarding the spread of Neolithic people in Western Africa (Gallay 1966). At sites such as Kobadi, the adaptation of the population in changing environments has been observed (Georgeon et al. 1990; Raimbault and Dutour 1990).

The Bronze Age in Mali is a particularly interesting period as it raises the question of whether there were long-distance relationships between the sub-Saharan region and Europe. The area of Adrar des Iforas is home to a number of petroglyphs, the majority dated between the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some of the forms depicted here are similar to petroglyphs found around Italy, England and Portugal, among other countries (Dupuy 2010).

© OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection
Tomb of Askia

Archaeologically renowned, some of the oldest cities in western Africa are situated in this country. A series of different kingdoms (Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Mossi and Segou) have evolved throughout the past two millennia, leading to the creation of cities such as Djenné, Timbuktu or Gao. The Arab conquest of this area seems to have happened as early as the XIth century but became widespread under the Kindgom of Mali and specifically during the reign of the XIVth century ruler Kangan (or Kankan) Moussa. After coming back from Al hajj, his pilgrimage to Mecca, Moussa launched a program of construction throughout the country, having architects from Al-Andalus and Cairo building mosques, madrasas and palaces. He enlisted Abu Ishaq Es Saheli to construct the Djinguereber Mosque in 1327, which then became an important centre for the diffusion of Islam knowledge in the region. Most famously, Moussa is known for initiating the construction of the Sankore Madrasah in 1324. In 1495 the Songhai Empire, adopting Soudan-Sahelian Islamic architecture, erected a monument by Mohamed Aboubacar Sylla (known as Mohammed Askia) – the Tomb of Askia.

Another feature of Mali’s cultural heritage worth mentioning is the Hediab, a collection of thousands of manuscripts, theological and scientific treaties dating back as far as the pre-Islamic era and written in Arabic or the Peul language. These are usually kept at the Institut des Hautes Études et de Recherches Islamiques Ahmed Baba, but Malian officials say that most of these manuscripts have now been relocated to a safer area.

© UNESCO Auteur Francesco Bandarin
Djenne

The previous list is not meant to be exhaustive but instead aims at highlighting some of the key heritage features of the country. Since the late 1980s, UNESCO has submitted four cultural sites to its World Heritage List:

  • The Old Town of Djenné in 1988, with its 2000 traditional toguere-built houses.
  • The City of Timbuktu in 1988, covering the three main mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, as well as 16 cemeteries and mausoleums, considered as “essential elements in a religious system as, according to popular belief; they constitute a rampart that shields the city from all misfortune. “
  • The Tomb of Askia in 2004.
  • The Cliff of Bandiagara, a mixed natural and cultural landscape, in 1989.

Furthermore, nine other locations of great importance have now been submitted to the World Heritage List, a move that acknowledges and protects more than 2,000 years of history as recent geopolitical developments are endangering the unique culture of the Malian Heritage.

The Political Situation and Main Players Involved in the Conflict

© UNESCO Auteur F. Bandarin
Timbuktu

Earlier this week, the UNESCO World Heritage Collection (WHC) put the city of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia, Mali, on the list of World Heritage in Danger. The original request was conducted by the Malian government following a series of insurrections that took place in the northern part of the country and ultimately led to the establishment of an unrecognised Islamist State in the region of Azawad.

Since the times of French colonization, people in the northern part of Mali, the majority made up of Tuareg and Arabic populations, expressed their desire for an independent state as they considered themselves more oriented towards a sub-Saharan culture. The current events that have taken place since the start of 2012 represent the most recent development in a series of uprisings commencing as far back as the beginning of the 20th century. At the start of 2012, President Amadou Toumani Touré was heavily criticized for his handling of the crisis in northern Mali. Indeed, after the fall of the Libyan official army, for which many Tuaregs and members of the future National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) were fighting, the unrest in northern Mali was reignited by a series of declarations and armed actions taken by the MNLA and an Islamist movement known as Ansar Dine (or Ançar Dine) against several cities of the region. In March, President Touré was ousted by a coup led by several groups in the military. The transitory council, presided by Amadou Sagono, suspended the constitution and aimed to restructure the territorial integrity of the Malian Sate. However, in April, the MNLA unilaterally proclaimed the independence of the state of Azawad. It is not yet recognized by any other states. In May, the MNLA officially announced its merging with the Salafist group Ansar Dine to create the Conseil Transitoire de l’État Islamique d’Azawad. It is important to keep in mind that despite some allegations by the Malian government, the MNLA denies any connection with Al Qaeda and aims at the restoration of a laic republic in Azawad. On the other hand, Ansar Dine, led by Iyad Ag Ghali, aims at the application of Sharia law throughout the state of Mali, and has been suggested as a potential ally of the Al Qaida au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI) movement. These divergences, along with others, have led to the dissolution of their previous agreement. After several clashes between the two groups, Ansar Dine declared full control of the North of Mali.

Today, the conflict involves three groups: the elected government, still led by the council of transition, presided by Amadou Sagono; the Salafist group of Ansar Dine and the MNLA, currently led by the president of the Executive Committee of the State of Azawad, Mahmoud Ag Aghaly. The situation is currently unstable and no international actions have been taken so far. However, the worsening of the humanitarian situation in northern Mali, as shown by UNICEF Anthony Lake’s declaration mentioning in this area the spread of rapes and recruitment of child soldiers, calls for a rapid decision from the international community.

Damages to Cultural Heritage in Mali

Damages to the cultural heritage of Mali started before the attacks carried out against the mausoleums of Timbuktu. As early as April this year, the offices of the Hediab were ransacked several times, although no damages to the manuscripts have been reported. Reports also mentioned the damages done in late April to a mausoleum of the 16th century Sufi Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar by Ansar Dine, including “breaking windows, [and] burning the cloth surrounding the tomb of the saint.” On June 2nd, the New York Times reported the destruction of possibly another saint shrine, although no further information was available.

Concerned by these developments, UNESCO issued a decision on June 28th aiming to put Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Two days later and possibly as a reaction to this decision, the destruction of the mausoleums were reported in some newspapers. Sanda Ould Boumama, Ansar Dine’s spokesman, let the media know that the goal of his organization was to get rid of all the mausoleums in the city without any exception. The purpose of this is to install Sharia Islamic law across Mali. Let us here recall the Salafist group’s version of Islam, who believe that God is unique and who forbid the very existence of saints, and a fortiori their representation. On Saturday 30th, several press agencies received the confirmation of the destruction of three mausoleums:  the Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Moctar and Alpha MoyaLe Monde reported the destruction of seven mausoleums in total, adding Cheikh el-Kébir to the list, a site located on the grounds of Djingareyber. The Agence France-Presse notes:

“Islamist rebels in northern Mali took hoes and chisels to the tombs of ancient Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu for a second day, ignoring international pleas to halt their campaign of destruction. A local journalist said dozens of Islamists had swarmed the cemetery of Djingareyber in the south of the ancient city of Timbuktu.”

The Independent quotes Aboubacrine Cissé, a local resident,

“This morning, the Islamists continued breaking the mausoleums. This is our patrimony, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. They are continuing to destroy all the tombs of all the saints of Timbuktu, and our city counts 333 saints.”

It has now been a few weeks since the destruction of the mausoleums started, and an eighth building has possibly been destroyed. In addition to these irrecoverable damages, the dispersion of historical manuscripts as well as artifacts might “become the object of looting and trafficking for profit” in the turmoil. Additionally, the location of other precious cultural sites in the region now controlled by the Salafist group, whether they are on the World Heritage List, such as the Tomb of Askia in Gao, or not, should be a cause for concern for countries around the world.

What Is Currently Being Done? 

Beyond the destruction carried out against cultural heritage sites, a broader control issue has arisen by the current geopolitical situation in northern Mali. West Africa called for an intervention supported by the UN Security council in order to regulate the situation in this area and take action against the armed forces controlling the North of the country. The Economic Community of West African States (ECWAS) is favouring negotiation while planning on sending 3,300 men into the country, although needing international support to legitimize this action. The UN, African Union and European Union are however requesting more details about the ECWAS’ plan of action. More recently, the UN Security Council called for sanctions against the individuals related to Al Qaeda in Northern Mali and asked the rebel groups in this area not to associate themselves with AQMI.

In terms of cultural heritage, the Malian Minister of Arts, Tourism and Culture, Diallo Fadima, is asking the UN to take concrete measures to stop the destruction of Mali’s patrimony. Fatou Bensouda, procurer for the International Criminal Court, declared on Sunday 1st July in Dakar that destruction of these mosques and madrasas was considered a “war crime” and exhorted the groups involved to stop their actions immediately. On Tuesday 3rd, in St Petersburg, UNESCO and Diallo Fadima produced an appeal to governments and “all people of goodwill” to prevent the destruction of these monuments. The World Heritage Committee is, on the other hand, asking the UNESCO President, Irina Bokova, to create a special fund “to help Mali preserve its cultural patrimony from attacks” with financial aid from UNESCO members and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

CONCLUSION – Why Should We Care?

Reuters recalls how these attacks have been inline with other events throughout the Arab world for the past few years, as, for example, the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyian in Afghanistan in 2001. However, a new line was crossed this year when attacks started being focused directly at symbols of Islam. Reuters mentions that “experts are comparing the Timbuktu tomb destructions to similar attacks against Sufi shrines by hard-line Salafists in Egypt and Libya.” If there is indeed a history of unrest between the different Islamic groups, this type of behaviour seems like a new phenomenon. As mentioned earlier in this article, Salafists are defending their own version of Islam, defining legal systems based on the Sharia, and imposing iconoclasm throughout their territories. From this perspective the Sufi Shrines of the “333 saints” of Timbuktu have to disappear to make space for a “purer Islam.”

There is here a dangerous desire to standardize and homogenize Islam throughout the world by the destruction of its unorthodox (again from these groups’ perspective) cultural components. Therefore, beyond the protection of these monuments, it is freedom of religion, of cultural expression, of consciousness that has to be defended. It is also the right of self-determination, to the free construction of one’s own identity and the safeguard of a people’s memory that is here at stake.

 

UNESCO mourns loss of cultural heritage in Bamiyan valley

The Bamiyan Buddhas will not be rebuilt.  Instead, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has decided instead to transform the site into a sanctuary where the international community can meditate on the losses of cultural heritage and contemplate how to change the pattern of destruction that leaves the world without a past.  They have chosen Andrea Bruno, an architect who has been involved with the project since 2001, to spearhead the site design.

The decision not to reconstruct the Bamiyan Buddhas, which were bombed by the Taliban in March 2001, is practical for many reasons.  The site is more than just rubble– rubble weighing more than 60 tons– it is tied like a spider web to political, religious, economical, and archeological issues.  As I discussed in my article, Ten years later: The Buddhas of Bamiyan, UNESCO was faced with a myriad of plans.  It has taken 11 years for UNESCO to come to some conclusion about the future of the site and not rebuilding is a heartbreaking choice.

The site will focus on the empty space left behind by the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas.  Bruno describes his plan as “ecumenical,” “aiming to enhance the emotional and aesthetic experience of viewing the empty niche.” (Anna Somers Cocks, “The victory of the void, a defeat for the Taliban,” The Art Newspaper, May 31, 2012)  He explains, “The void is the true sculpture.  It stands disembodied witness to the will, thoughts and spiritual tensions of men long gone.  The immanent presence of the niche, even without its sculpture, represents a victory for the monument and a defeat for those who tried to obliterate its memory with dynamite.” (Andrea Bruno, Id.)  A viewing platform and lighting will be built to allow visitors to take in the full beauty of the site.  Bruno emphasizes that the construction will be minimal, easy to remove without harming the site, and built by local laborers in mere months.

Bamiyan Valley
UNESCO
The Bamiyan valley with two empty niches where the giant Buddha’s once stood.

The community of the Bamiyan valley consists mostly of Shia Muslims. For them the decision not to rebuild the Buddhas is beneficial both economically, religiously and politically.  In fact, the new plan takes into account their needs.  Rebuilding the Buddhas would be incongruous with the Muslim tenant against using images and could make the community vulnerable to a second Taliban attack.  The Bamiyan valley has been peaceful since the Buddha bombings, but suffers economically from the decrease in tourism.  The new site will bring international travelers to the valley and promises to increase the poor standard of living in the valley.

The new Bamiyan site is just one part of UNESCO’s new campaign to bring about peace and protect heritage sites.  In an April 6, 2012 letter to The New York Times Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, quite convincingly described this mission.  She wrote: “It may seem incongruous to denounce crimes against culture and call for their protection at a time of political instability and humanitarian crisis, but it isn’t.  Protecting culture is a security issue.  There can be no lasting peace without respect. Attacks against cultural heritage are attacks against the very identity of communities.  They mark a symbolic and real step up in the escalation of a conflict, leading to devastation that can be irreparable and whose impact lasts long after the dust has settled.  Attacks on the past make reconciliation much harder in the future.  They can hold societies back from turning the page toward peace.  So protecting cultural heritage is not a luxury.  We cannot leave this for better days, when tensions have cooled.  To lay the ground for peace, we must act now to protect culture, while tensions are high” (Irina Bokova, “Culture Under Fire,” The New York Times, April 6, 2012). As I read these words I reflect on cultural heritage we have lost, a past gone forever, and the plans for the new Bamiyan site.  At first I am brought to tears, but then the drum beat of battle enters my ears.

The new Bamiyan site will be a symbolic reminder to us all that cultural heritage is a powerful force.  It emboldens us, as human beings, to become involved and join organizations such as Saving Antiquities for Everyone.  The new Bamiyan site can and will ignite the international community to take action against the cycle that perpetuates the destruction of cultural heritage.

Bamiyan Community
The New York Times
Residents of the Bamiyan Valley hope that the UNESCO site will bring positive changes.

 

Say NO to “American Diggers”

Explosions abound and dirt flies in the opening credits of Spike TV’s “American Digger”, but explosions and dirt thrown from backhoes are typically not what you see in a properly executed scientific excavation. Amid numerous protests, this show continues to present “digging” as an exciting pass time that anyone can participate in. The dangers to our cultural heritage mount as viewers are encouraged to “dig, baby, dig”.

What can we do to stop it? First, sign the petition asking Spike to “stop looting our collective past”. Second, go to People against Spike TV’s “American Digger” on Facebook and email the form letter to at least one of the sponsors listed on the page. All of the contact information is there, the letter is already written, you just need to add your name and send it out. Also, you can use the contact information to call the sponsors, email them in your own words, or write them a letter. Join the thousands of voices asking Spike and its sponsors to end this show today.

Read these other SAFE blog posts for more information about the show.

UPDATE: $500 million worth of shipwreck loot remains property of Spain, court rules…again

Odyssey Marine Exploration’s appeal of the court’s ruling that the 17 tons of silver and gold the salvage company dug up from the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes (known as “Black Swan”) was rejected by the court, reaffirming a ruling earlier this year that the Black Swan treasure is Spain’s “natural, legal patrimony.” Details of the case, involving what is “reputed to be the most valuable find in history,” was explored in a joint AIA/APA Annual Meeting workshop organized by SAFE, which included leading authorities from the archaeological and legal worlds.

Federal Court Judge rules that 10th c. Khmer statue remains at Sotheby’s … for now

In a 30-minute conference held on the 21st floor of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan today, Judge George B. Daniels ruled against the government’s request for “a warrant to arrest” the 10th century Khmer sandstone sculpture, known as a Dvarapala, which is the subject of the in rem civil forfeiture action known as United States of America v. A 10th Century Cambodian Sandstone Sculpture [case number: 12 Civ. 2600 (GBD)]. If granted the warrant, the Government would transfer the sculpture from Sotheby’s warehouse to federal custody at another New York City warehouse. (Read about the case in the earlier post by Damien Huffer’s “Sotheby’s “Off-Base” on Cambodian Antiquities Again”.)

[The statue remains at Sotheby's subject to a restraining order that requires Sotheby's not to move the Dvarapala from its warehouse and to make it available for viewing by the government.]

The outcome of the conference was clear at the outset, when Judge Daniels told Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Cohen Levin that he “hesitates” to grant the government’s request to remove the statue from Sotheby’s warehouse at this time, because after he received the Government’s verified complaint, the Judge received an April 4 fax from Sotheby’s legal counsel Peter G. Nieman that challenges some of the government’s allegations. The existence of Sotheby’s April 4 fax, Judge Daniels said, required him to determine whether sufficient probable cause exists to grant the government’s request to remove the Dvarapala from Sotheby’s warehouse at this time.

In response, Ms. Levin said that no rule exists allowing Sotheby’s to send the Judge its April 4 fax, because Sotheby’s is not a party to the case, merely a temporary custodian of the property. Therefore the fax should not be considered in the Judge’s decision.

Ms. Levin then repeated the contents of her own April 4 fax to the Judge, citing Rule G of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states that in order to establish probable cause, the Government’s must: (a) file a verified complaint; and the verified complaint (b) must state the grounds for subject-matter jurisdiction, in rem jurisdiction over the defendant property, and venue; (c) must describe the property with reasonable particularity; (d) if the property is tangible, must state the location of the property when the action is filed; (e) must identify the statute under which the forfeiture action is brought; and (f) must state sufficiently detailed facts to support a reasonable belief that the government will be able to meet its burden of proof at trial — all of which the Government had done.

The Judge’s response: the Government’s verified complaint and two-page application for a warrant are “appropriate” but do not constitute probable cause for granting the Government’s request to remove Dvarapala from Sotheby’s warehouse.

Judge Daniels asked Ms. Levin whether there was any “urgency” in the Government’s request to remove the Dvarapala from Sotheby’s warehouse. Ms. Levin responded no. The Government does not expect Sotheby’s to violate the Judge’s restraining order (which requires the Cambodian statue be kept safe and secure in Sotheby’s warehouse and available for viewing by the Government).

Judge Daniels then questioned whether the Government of Cambodia had requested the US Attorney to request the warrant that would remove the Dvarapala from Sotheby’s warehouse. Ms. Levin said yes and agreed to send a copy of Cambodia’s request to Judge Daniels.



In a bid to establish probable cause, Ms. Levin repeated the basic elements of the Government’s verified complaint. She asserted that the type of warrant requested by the Government is necessary, and should not have been considered unusual or unexpected by Sotheby’s, as Sotheby’s has argued. Ms. Levin added that, in the past, the Government has seized such items under similar circumstances from Sotheby’s, therefore Sotheby’s was familiar with the process and should have known what to expect. In certain of those cases, Ms. Levin said, the Govemment has determined that Sotheby’s indeed acted as an honest broker and should retain physical custody of the disputed item until the matter is resolved. But this is not one of those cases, Ms. Levin continued, since the Govemment alleges here that Sotheby’s continued to market and attempted to sell the Dvarapala after Sotheby’s own paid expert told the auction firm that the statue was “definitely stolen.” The expert has been identified by the New York Times as Emma Cadwalader Bunker, who is a grand-daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker.

[The Government's complaint references the Khmer scholar Eric Bourdonneau, who located a temple known as Prasat Chen, located at a site known as Koh Ker, deep in the Cambodian jungle, and found the base (known as a Bima pedestal) on which the Sotheby's statue and its mate, a similar statue now at the Norton Simon Museum, once stood. The measurements that Bourdonneau made of the feet, which are still attached to the Bima pedestals at Prasat Chen, match the Sotheby's and Norton Simon statues, which are both footless.]

[The Government’s complaint also quotes the Sotheby’s expert as saying in an email to Sotheby’s: “I have been doing a little catchup research on Koh Ker (the site from this the statue was reputedly stolen), and do not think you should sell the Dvarapala at public auction. The Cambodians in Pnom Penh now have clear evidence that it was definitely stolen from Prasat Chen at Koh Ker, as the feet are still in situ…Please do not give this report to anyone outside of Sotheby, as I often have access to such material, and don’t want to anger my sources. The two Dvarapalas must have stood close together and their feet remain, so it’s pretty clear where they came from. I think it would be hugely unwise to offer the Dvarapala publicly, and I would not really feel comfortable writing it up under the circumstances. It is also possible that the Cambodians might block the sale and ask for the piece back….I’m sorry as I had some exciting things to say about it, but I don’t think Sotheby wants this kind of potential problem.” Later, the same expert emailed Sotheby’s again, telling them the opposite: that the Cambodians may not complain complain after all: “I think it best that you know all this,” the expert writes, “but think that legally and ethically you can happily sell the piece.” In a third email quoted in the Government’s complaint, responding to Sotheby’s request to show the sales description that the expert had written to Cambodian authorities, the expert refused, saying “There is NO WAY that I can send what I write to [the Minister of Culture]…. Sending the writeup specifically would be like waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Sotheby’s then notified the Cambodian Culture Minister of its intention to sell the Dvarapala in November 2010 but did not receive an immediate response.]

[The Goverment's complaint also references a January 20, 2011 Sotheby's internal email, which says in part: "You no doubt know that we will be selling a sculpture in our New York Asian sales that is known to have come from a specific site in Cambodia and or which we only have provenance from 1975... While questions may be raised about this, we feel we can defend our decision to sell it..." Finally, in a letter dated March 24, 2011, the day of the auction, Cambodian authorities demanded that the Dvarapala be removed from the sale, and that Sotheby's facilitate its return to Cambodia.]

Ms. Levin concluded her argument by asserting that Sotheby’s is neither an appropriate nor neutral third party in this case and should not be permitted to hold the Dvarapala, which it should have known was considered stolen under Cambodian law. She added that the Judge should reject Sotheby’s argument, that it had consulted the UNESCO art law database and found no cultural property laws for Cambodia dating back to 1900, as the Government complaint alleges, because the UNESCO database contains a disclaimer stating that users must perform their own due diligence.

[A simple Google search would have pointed Sotheby's to an article about Cambodia in Volume 17 of Cultural without Context, published by the MacDonald Institute at Cambridge University, references a 1925 Cambodian cultural property law that applies in this case, but does not appear in the UNESCO database].

Ms. Levin also noted the U.S. customs routinely cares for precious artifacts. [Seized million-dollar artworks and antiquities are stored at the heavily guarded ICE facility at The Fortress in Long Island City.]

While Ms. Levin was speaking, Judge Daniels thumbed through some papers and noted that Rule G(3)(b)(iii) states a warrant to remove the Dvarapala from Sotheby’s warehouse did not seem necessary, and is not required so long as a restraining order remains in place. So the Goverment’s request was denied. The next step, Judge Daniels said, is to proceed to a forfeiture hearing, which requires interested parties to file a claim no more than 30 days after the Government posts its final public notice. Therefore, the Court must wait until June 5 to determine whether there are any parties to the case other than Cambodia and Sotheby’s consignor.

“It makes sense for the parties to exchange discovery information in the meantime,” said Judge Daniels, and if more information and witnesses are needed, the parties should provide that no later than July 7.

The next conference in United States of America v. A 10th Century Cambodian Sandstone Sculpture is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20 at 10:30 AM.

 

 

Say YES to Turkey?

Recently, the government of Turkey requested the return of dozens of allegedly looted antiquities from American museums. The items being sought currently reside in museums all over the country, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Bowling Green State University, the Dumbarton Oaks Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Cleveland Museum of Art. You can view a complete list of the Cleveland objects and read more about the situation at Chasing Aphrodite.

Portrait of a Man, Bronze headOne of the items Turkey has requested is this bronze head currently on view at the Getty Villa. Portrait of a Man. (73.AB.8)

The Republic of Turkey is the home of cultural resources of extraordinary historical breadth and significance.  Catal Huyuk, Troy, Ephesus, Pergamum, Didyma, Halicarnassus, Priene, Sardis, Hattusas-Bogazkoy, Aphrodisias, Antioch, Beycesultan, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the underwater Uluburun shipwreck are only a handful of the significant sites in Turkey that hold singular importance to the cultures of the Neolithic, Anatolian Bronze Age, Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Ionian Greeks and the Eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.  Turkey contains more ancient Greek sites than Greece, more Roman sites than Italy and, most importantly, a vast number of undiscovered sites dating to its 10,000 years of history.

Because of a consistent demand for the types of antiquities that can be found among its stunning cultural wealth, Turkey is continuously victim to the looting and destruction of its archaeological and historic sites.  In 2010 alone, some 68,000 stolen artifacts were seized from nearly 5000 people involved in smuggling rings.  The number of objects that were not rescued and flowed into the illicit international antiquities market is unknown.

For more information on the protection of Turkey’s cultural heritage visit the SAFE resources section.

Egypt’s ownership claim of Ka-Nefer-Nefer slammed, or may be not…

The St. Louis Museum of Art (SLAM) filed a complaint in federal district court on February 15, 2011 asking for a declaratory judgment to prevent federal authorities from seizing a 19th Dynasty Egyptian mask popularly known as Ka-Nefer-Nefer.

The mask, excavated at Saqqara in 1952 by Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, was sold to SLAM in 1998 by Phoenix Ancient Art in Geneva. According to the New York Times, in 2006 Egypt first claimed that the mask was stolen and asked the museum to return it; and in 2008, U.S. Department of Homeland Security was “looking into the case.” While the museum insists that there is no documentation to prove that Ka-Nefer-Nefer is Egyptian property, stolen, or smuggled, many think otherwise. In a comment to our post, Dr. Peter Lacovara wrote:

The St. Louis Art Museum was informed by me soon after the purchase of that Mask that it came from Goneim’s excavations, was published and where, and that although it was not registered in the Cairo Museums’ inventory, the only means by which it could have legally left Egypt was if it had been retained by Goniem and later legally sold by him or his heirs and they would need to investigate this. They did not.

Another telling fact is that the name of the owner of the mask Ka-nefer-nefer was written in hieratic on the hand of mask and was scratched out and over painted to disguise its identity. If this were a painting published in a European catalog no one would dream of trying to justify keeping it without a clear and legitimate history. The Museum never undertook due diligence in trying to determine the provenance of this piece despite being told there was a cloud over it from the beginning.

They have no justification in retaining this mask and it should be returned to Egypt and the Museum should underwrite the cost of a conservator removing the over paint and restoring the inscription on the hand.

When SAFECORNER asked in an informal poll last March what should happen with the lawsuit, the results were:

  • 26% said “SLAM should continue legal action in federal court.”
  • 46% said “SLAM should produce documentation proving that the mask was legally exported from Egypt.”
  • 45% said “SLAM should acknowledge Egypt’s claim of ownership.”
  • 25% said “SLAM should drop the lawsuit.”

The curious case of St Louis Art Museum vs the United States may have just become “curiouser and curiouser” with the U.S. District Court’s dismissal of the government’s effort to forfeit the disputed Ka Nefer Nefer mask, but what about the case of St. Louis Art Museum vs public opinion?

According to Associated Press,

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said a decision on whether to appeal has not been made.

“We’re just looking to make sure we haven’t missed the tiniest bit of circumstantial evidence,” Callahan said. “We’re back to the drawing board and studying it.”

Meanwhile, the SLAM Attorney Linenbroker is said to be confident “we’re the rightful owner.”

The American Association of Museum (AAM) Code of Ethics for Museums says that a museum must make a “unique contribution to the public by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the things of this world.” How is the public served in the case of Ka-Nefer-Nefer? What do you think?

Add your voice to our latest poll: Should the St. Louis Art Museum return the disputed Ka-Nefer-Nefer funeral mask to Egypt?

Photo: AP

Memo to Spike: thanks for taking our advice

Thanks to People against Spike TV’s “American Digger,” we have just been alerted that Spike TV’s web site finally released the equivalent of a disclaimer “3 Things To Do Before You Dig For Relics.” On March 6, SAFECORNER wrote in “Memo to Spike: please ask Scott or Dierdre Gurney to return our phone call“:

Let’s hope Spike will insist that Gurney Productions insert warning and disclaimer. If not, the tens of thousands of signatures at the Change.org petition and a barrage of Twitter messages directed at advertisers who promote their products on American Digger (like the Twitter campaign directed against Rush Limbaugh advertisers last weekend) may cause Spike and Gurney to reconsider.

This goes to show that entertainment can also be educational. The next step is to add a suitable disclaimer at the beginning and end of every American Digger episode. Thank you!

Image: Maisie Paterson/Getty Images

US sets aside $79 Million for UNESCO

Four months after pulling funding from UNESCO, the US State Department has added $79 million to its proposed budget for the UN agency in order to obtain a Congressional legal waiver so that funding can be restored.

The US pulled its UNESCO funding, nearly 22% of the organizations overall funding, after the organization granted full membership to the Palestinian Authority in November 2011. The US was obligated to withdraw funding based on laws made in the 1990’s that order a mandatory funding freeze whenever there is full-membership offered to the Palestinian Authority in any UN Agency.

US Deputy Secretary of State For Management and Resources Thomas Nides remarked on the actions of the State Department, “UNESCO does a lot of enormously good work,” Nides declared, “and we’d like to make sure that we have a contribution commensurate with their work.” The programs most affected by the funding cuts include the Iraqi National Water Council and literacy and education initiatives in Iraq.

However, The Republican majority in Congress will no doubt have objections to the legal waiver, as those opposed to the move have fears of a further “Palestinian statehood push.”

It will be interesting to see where this attempt by the State Department goes—without US funding UNESCO has been struggling to close the gap on their 22% deficiency since November, despite Turkey’s contribution of 5 million to UNESCO’s emergency fund in February 2012.

Read the original article here.

Returns to Italy from North America

Featured

Various antiquities from Princeton University Art Museum, a healthcare company, a New York gallery, and a New York private collector linked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art have been returned to Italy.

It is hoped that a more detailed list will appear shortly.

The museum and gallery have already returned items to Italy.

Looking ahead: 2012 and beyond

With 2012 now upon us, SAFE looks forward to the coming year with anticipation, and offers a few predictions.

As discussion and publicity surrounding the repatriation of antiquities continues and public awareness and media focus on the actions of source countries (Italy, Greece, Peru, Turkey, Egypt, Bulgaria, etc.) increase, the return of cultural patrimony will accelerate during 2012 and the years that follow. The question is no longer whether such artifacts will be returned. In most cases, the only question is when.

Repatriation by U.S. museums and collectors in recent years (some 130 artifacts have already returned to Italy; the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s return to the upper half of the Weary Herakles to Turkey occurred this past year; Yale University’s transfer of Macchu Picchu artifacts back to Peru began in 2011 and will be completed by December 2012) provide incentive for source countries to continue their investigation to identify and seek the return of their cultural patrimony from museums around the world … with particular focus on objects shown among the thousands of photographs discovered by Italian police (the Giacomo Medici Archive seized at the Geneva Freeport in 1995), by Swiss authorities and Greek investigators. This vast trove of photos now in the hands of researchers, law enforcement and prosecutors and cultural attaches in several countries will continue to serve as source material during the coming year for the return of objects acquired by various museums (e.g., the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, the Miho Museum in Japan, the Toledo Museum of Art, and others.

Meanwhile, continuing issues at U.S. museums will be resolved (or very nearly so), such as the case that pits the St. Louis Art Museum against the U.S. government over ownership of a 3,200-year-old mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, which disappeared from the inventory of the Cairo Museum in the late 1950s and was sold to SLAM for $500,000 in 1998. We predict the matter will be decided during the coming year. And in southern Utah, we expect another shoe to drop in the ongoing Four Corners antiquities trafficking case with more hand-wringing over FBI methods and the DOJ’s duty to enforce laws that prohibit illegal digging and theft of artifacts on federal or Indian lands.

Finally, in response to the aggressive and well-organized destruction of archaeological sites in China a crackdown on antiquities theft in Shanxi, Henan and other effected provinces will continue as Chinese authorities seek to preserve the estimated five percent of all archaeological sites on the mainland that have not yet been plundered. As for a different kind of plunder, will the much publicized Chinese mission to track down and document objects that have been taken from Yuanmingyuan (Beijing’s “Old Summer Palace”) result in a request for their return?

All told, 2012 promises to be an interesting and eventful year. Best wishes to all.

Ten years later: The Buddhas of Bamiyan

In March 2001, more than a decade ago, the Taliban army dynamited, mined and gunned down two 1,400-year-old Buddhist masterpieces. Named “one of humanity’s most notorious cases of art vandalism” by the Wall Street Journal (July 21, 2011), the Taliban leveled the 125-foot-tall Eastern Buddha dating from 544-595 and 181-foot-tall Western Buddha dating from 591-644. The Buddhas, located on the historical Silk Road, are testimonies to the exchange between Indian, Hellenistic, Roman and Sassanian influences in Buddhist art. The monuments have been defaced throughout their history–heads and legs removed–but their total annihilation at the hands of the Taliban is stomach-churning. Ten years later the future of the sites is still under debate. 

A UNESCO-sponsored team headed by Erwin Emmerling began working on the sites in 2002. By 2004, the site, stone walls, and rubble fragments weighing up to 60 tons were secured. However, portions of the site remain inaccessible due to “antipersonnel missiles.” Now, the debate over the next step continues. There are currently three options: 

(1) Do nothing. Secure the rubble and pieces to prevent further damage. In his International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) publication The Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan: Safeguarding the Remains Michael Petzet writes: “Preserving the stature after the deconstruction could be combined with the idea of refraining from any intervention, keeping the site unchanged as a kind of memorial to the act of vandalism by the Taliban, which upset the world.” It has been suggested that leaving the rubble could in-fact be the best option since it would encourage tourism and be economically beneficial to the area. 

(2) Total reconstruction, which would include the creation of replacement parts lost over thousands of years of cultural war-fare dating back to Genghis Khan. Emmerling noted: “For centuries the Buddhas’ heads have been lost, so it would not be a reconstruction, it would be a new head. No restorer wishes to do this kind of work.” 

(3) Anastylosis. Article 15 of the Venice Charter by ICOMOS states: “Only anastylosis, that is to say, the reassembling of existing but dismembered parts can be permitted. The material used for integration should always be recognisable and its use should be the least that will ensure the conservation of a monument and the reinstatement of its form.” This option would both secure the site, prevent further destruction by recreation attempts, and guarantee reversibility– all tenets of modern conservation theory. Anastylosis is favored by both Erwin Emmerling and Michael Petzet. 

It should be noted that some positive discoveries have come about from the cultural destruction. New discoveries on the statue’s materials and construction, as well as original coloration have been made by analyzing over 300 fragments from the two Buddhas. 

The Bamiyan Buddhas are emblematic of cultural heritage in danger, and have become a galvanizing image for the preservation movement. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, that holds true. The media coverage and press images of exploding rock and empty caverns are forever burned into our consciousness.

Getty to return two antiquities to Greece

Source: Hellenic Ministry of Culture

The J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to return two antiquities to Greece. Both were acquired during the 1970s. Two fragments of a funerary relief have long been known to fit a third fragment in the Kanellopoulos Collection in Athens. The reunification of this monument would justify this return. It should be noted that the source for the fragments was Nikolas Koutoulakis whose name appears in the infamous organigram cited in The Medici Conspiracy. The source of the Athens fragment has not been given.

Source: Hellenic Ministry of Culture

The more intriguing return is the religious calendar from Thorikos in southern Attica that was acquired in 1979 [Getty]. This appears to have been seen in Greece by David F. Ogden, a student at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1959-61). Ogden was conducting research in the area of Thorikos. The cutting on the block suggested that it had been used in a later building, perhaps a Late Antique Christian basilica.

The usual benchmark for acquisitions is 1970, the date of the UNESCO Convention. So why has the Getty decided to return an inscription that appears to have been known some time before? When did the inscription leave Greece? What is the full collecting history?

A Fresh Coat of Justice

Good news on the front to protect Southwest US rock art sites from vandalism. This article details the arrest and prison sentence of another rock art vandal; a man who shot up a petroglyph panel with red and green paintball pellets in March of last year! More detail can be found here. Grapevine Canyon, in the Lake Mead National Park, has long been a sacred site to Colorado River Native American tribes, and is home to at least 700 petroglyphs. The perpetrator and two others were turned in by a witness, and the ring leader was sentenced to 15 months prison and a $10,000 dollar bill to help in restoration. Let justice be served!

Some Looted Antiquities Return to Nineveh

.

Alaa al-Din Burhan, spokesperson for the Department of Antiquities in Nineveh has announced that today (18th August) they have received 23 Antiquities that were stolen after the looting that occurred after the U.S. invasion in 2003. Security agencies seized the antiquities in the possession of a smuggling gang that was recently arrested in Mosul. He added that in July:

107 artifacts out of 1,200 stolen pieces held by Washington were returned to Baghdad and these are now being redistributed to their original provinces. Some of the pieces received from Washington date back to the Babylonian times, including necklaces and painted pottery.

Rizan Ahmed, ‘Looted antiquities returned to Nineveh‘, AK News (Kurdistan News Agency), 18/08/2011.

Map: Nineveh in Nineveh province (in the ‘Kurdish’ region) near Mosul (BBC – edited)

Connecticut: FBI Investigate Stolen Tang Chinese Heads

.

The FBI is investigating, but mystery surrounds two Chinese Tang dynasty sandstone heads of Lohan “valued at $800,000 each” which were recently stolen from a US private collection:

The two Louhan sculptures, which are approximately 1,000-years-old, were stolen from an undisclosed location in Westport, Connecticut. The sandstone works of art are two of only a handful known to exist and both date to China’s Tang Dynasty. The sculptures are 15 inches high and 15 inches long and weigh between 55 and 70 pounds each. Westport is a coastal town of about 25,000 residents and one of the wealthiest locations in the US. Police are not disclosing when the sculptures were taken or the exact location of the private collection.

The story has attracted no little attention in the newspapers, even reaching the daily main in the UK. Most of the attraction seems to be that items like this which, from the photos at least, are singularly unattractive to look at are worth such a lot on the “ancient art” market. But it seems to me one rather important question is not being addressed in the media.

It seems to me quite unlikely that these heads were dug up in Connecticut by local pot-hunters. The question therefore arises where they had been discovered and how – and when – they reached a US private collection. Why are there just the heads of what were clearly at one time complete figures? What happened to the rest? Did the art collector throw them away, or the dealer who sold them to him? Or the person that removed them from wherever they were to be found in China (and where was that?) so they could end up in some rich guy’s collection?

The released photos admittedly do not really show the items to their best advantage. What they do show are two heads with grey matter smeared all over them which certainly has the appearance in the photos of soil. It looks like these was still soil adhering to these sculptures when they were photographed. If that is what it is, it seems rather unlikely that they are still in that state if they had passed through some distinguished pre-1930s collection. Are not the FBI looking for some items which in fact are relatively freshly dug-up ?


I assume that before the FBI start looking for where these items are now, they looked into where they should be; after all if they find them they surely cannot give them back to a person who cannot document that they are indeed their legal possessor – like showing they had been legally exported from China. So, how did these items enter the USA, and when?

Photo: Have you seen these missing heads (AP, via Daily Mail)?

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 antiquities trade’, review article of P. Watson, Sotheby’s: inside story (London: Bloomsbury, 1997), in Antiquity 71 (1997), 468-71. [ISSN 0003-598X] [online]
  • Review article of Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities (Los Angeles 1997), in Bryn Mawr Classical Review (1998). [ISSN 1055-7660] [online]
  • (with C. Chippindale) ‘Material consequences of contemporary collecting’, American Journal of Archaeology 104.3 (2000), 463-511. [ISSN 0002-9114] [online] Supplementary tables available on-line at http://www.ajaonline.org
  • (with Christopher Chippindale, Emily Salter, and Christian Hamilton) ‘Collecting the classical world: first steps in a quantitative history’, International Journal of Cultural Property 10 .1 (2001), 1-31. [ISSN 0940-7391] [online]
  • (with Christopher Chippindale) ‘On-line auctions: a new venue for the antiquities market’, Culture Without Context 9 (2001), 4-13. [online]
  • (with Christopher Chippindale) ‘The trade in looted antiquities and the return of cultural property: a British parliamentary inquiry’, International Journal of Cultural Property 11.1 (2002), 50-64. [ISSN 0940-7391] [online]
  • Review article of Pat Getz-Gentle, Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2001), in Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2002). [ISSN 1055-7660] [online]
  • (and Neil Brodie) ‘Looting: an international view’, in L. J. Zimmerman, K. D. Vitelli, and J. Hollowell-Zimmer (eds.), Ethical Issues in Archaeology (Walnut Creek: AltaMira; Society for American Archaeology, 2003), 31-44.
  • Review of Oscar White Muscarella, The Lie Became Great: The Forgery of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures (Studies in the Art and Archaeology of Antiquity vol. 1; Groningen: Styx, 2000), in American Journal of Archaeology 107, 2 (2003), 285-86. [online]
  • Review of Vinnie Nørskov, Greek Vases in New Contexts. The Collecting and Trading of Greek Vases – An Aspect of the Modern Reception of Antiquity (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2002), in Culture Without Context 12 (Spring 2003), 21-23. [online]
  • (with Joan Padgham) ‘”One Find of Capital Importance”: a reassessment of the statue of User from Knossos’, Annual of the British School at Athens 100 (2005), 41-59.
  • (with Christopher Chippindale) ‘From Boston to Rome: reflections on returning antiquities’, International Journal of Cultural Property 13 (2006), 311-31. [online]
  • (with Christopher Chippindale) ‘From Malibu to Rome: further developments on the return of antiquities’, International Journal of Cultural Property 14 (2007), 205-40. [online]
  • Review article of Stephen L. Dyson, In Pursuit of Ancient Pasts: a History of Classical Archaeology in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press, 2006), in Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2007). [ISSN 1055-7660] [online]
  • (with Christopher Chippindale) ‘The illicit antiquities scandal: what it has done to classical archaeology collections’, review article of P. Watson and C. Todeschini, The Medici conspiracy: the illicit journey of looted antiquities from Italy’s tomb raiders to the world’s great museums (New York: Public Affairs, 2006), in American Journal of Archaeology 111 (2007), 571-74.
  • Review of Peggy Sotirakopoulou, The “Keros Hoard”: myth or reality? Searching for the lost pieces of a puzzle (Athens: N.P. Goulandris Foundation – Museum of Cycladic Art, 2005), in American Journal of Archaeology 111, 1 (2007), 163-65.
  • Review of E. Robson, L. Treadwell, and L. Gosden (eds.), Who owns objects? The ethics and politics of collecting cultural artefacts (Oxford: Oxbow, 2006); and N. Brodie, M. M. Kersel, C. Luke, and K. W. Tubb (eds.), 2006. Archaeology, cultural heritage, and the antiquities trade (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2006), in Journal of Field Archaeology 32.1 (2007), 103-06.
  • (with Christopher Chippindale) ‘South Italian pottery in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston acquired since 1983’, Journal of Field Archaeology 33, 4 (2008), 462-72.
  • ‘Homecomings: learning from the return of antiquities to Italy’, in Noah Charney (ed.), Art and crime: exploring the dark side of the art world (Santa Barbara: Praeger Press, 2009), 13-25.
  • ‘Context matters: archaeological and antiquities crime’, The Journal of Art Crime 1, 1 (Spring 2009), 43-46. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • ‘Context matters: Looting in the Balkans’, The Journal of Art Crime 2, 1 (Fall 2009), 63-66. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • ‘Looting matters for classical antiquities: contemporary issues in archaeological ethics’, Present Pasts 1 (2009), 77-104. [ISSN 1759-2941] [online]
  • Review article of James B. Cuno, Who owns antiquity? Museums and the battle over our ancient heritage (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008), in American Journal of Archaeology 113, 1 (January 2009). [online]
  • Review of James Cuno, Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the battle over our ancient heritage (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) and Sharon Waxman, Loot: The battle over the stolen treasures of the ancient world (Times Books, 2008), in The Journal of Art Crime 1, 1 (Spring 2009), 65-66. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • Exhibition review: ‘Nostoi: December 2007, Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome’, in The Journal of Art Crime 1, 1 (Spring 2009), 70-71. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • Exhibition review: ‘L’Arma per l’Arte. Antologia di Meraviglie, September 2009, Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome’, in The Journal of Art Crime 2, 1 (Fall 2009), 95-96. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • Review of James Cuno (ed.), Whose Culture? The Promise of Museums and the Debate Over Antiquities (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), in The Journal of Art Crime 2, 1 (Fall 2009), 99-100. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • ‘Collecting Histories and the Market for Classical Antiquities’, The Journal of Art Crime 3, 1 (2010) 3-10. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • ‘Context matters: Italy and the US: Reviewing Cultural Property Agreements’, The Journal of Art Crime 3, 1 (2010) 81-85. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • ‘The Returns to Italy from North America: An Overview’, The Journal of Art Crime 3, 1 (2010) 105-09. [ISSN 1947-5934 / 1947-5926]
  • ‘The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the archaeology of England and Wales?’, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 20 (2010) 1-11. [ISSN 0965-9315] [online] With responses from: Trevor Austin (‘The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the Archaeology of England and Wales? A Response’, 12-15), Paul Barford (‘Archaeology, Collectors and Preservation: a Reply to David Gill’, 16-23), Gabriel Moshenska (‘Portable Antiquities, Pragmatism and the “Precious Things”’, 24-27), Colin Renfrew (‘Comment on the Paper by David Gill’, 28-29), and Sally Worrell (‘The Crosby Garrett Helmet’, 30-32).
  • ‘The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the archaeology of England and Wales? Reply to Austin, Barford, Moshenska, Renfrew and Worrell’, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 20 (2010) 33-40. [ISSN 0965-9315] [online]
  • ‘Context matters. Greece and the U.S.: reviewing cultural property agreements’, The Journal of Art Crime 4 (2010) 73-76.

A full bibliography is available via here.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Efforts to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage: an update

We are grateful for the following update from Abdulamir Hamdani, archaeologist and PhD student at Stony Brook University, formerly Superintendent of Archaeology and Director of the Museum in Nassiriya. On the eighth anniversary of the 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum, we are gratified to know that in spite of difficulties, courageous – and collaborative – efforts are being made to protect Iraq’s past:

The Iraqi National Museum is partially open to the public. It opens for the media, VIPs, researchers, college students.

The Museum’s lab still deals with preservation of damaged and broken artifacts, particularly, those which come from current excavations and stolen objects which have been restored from smugglers and looters.

Department of documentation: In additional to its ordinary activities, the department works on scanning and digitizing all the archive and records of the ancient city of Ur as a part of broad project of digitizing the whole city’s legacy which exists in other museums.

Regional and provincial museums are partially opened to school students, especially in spring season.

Survey works of the archaeological sites in several provinces in the central and southern parts are conducted, as well as projects of archaeological investigations and excavations.

A salvage excavations campaign will start in May that aims to dig the archaeological sites in the southern marshes that potentially will partially or completely be covered by water of re-flooding the marshes.

Foreign projects

By next summer, we will have the following projects in the Southern region:

1. SUNY at Stony Brook will conduct in June an intensive survey at Mathkhuria, a small Sumerian settlement next to Ur, before digging the site on December.

2. A joint expedition from the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and University of Rome to dig at Abu Tubaira, a medium Sumerian / Old Babylonian town which located 3 miles south of Nasiriyah.

3. The Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has funded a project of documenting the ancient city of Ur, and arranging a plan of conservation and managing the city, which will be undertaken by SBAH.