Friday, March 6, 2015

Weep for Nimrud



I thought that we could use these ancient words to remember what has been happening at Nimrud (and elsewhere).

The words are said by Gilgamesh (tablet IV) in the translation by Stephanie Dalley (Oxford UP).

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Damage to Nimrud

Various media outlets are reporting the deliberate damage to the archaeological site of Nimrud.

The Director General of UNESCO has issued a press release ("UNESCO Director General condemns destruction of Nimrud in Iraq", 6 February 2015).

“I condemn in the strongest possible manner the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq. This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: it targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity’s ancient heritage,” said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. 
“We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage. 
“I call on all of those who can, especially youth, in Iraq and elsewhere, to do everything possible to protect this heritage, to claim it as their own, and as the heritage of the whole of humanity. 
“I appeal also to all cultural institutions, museums, journalists, professors, and scientists to share and explain the importance of this heritage and the Mesopotamian civilization. We must respond to this criminal chaos that destroys culture with more culture. 
“I have alerted the president of the Security Council as well as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The entire international community must join its efforts, in solidarity with the government and people of Iraq, to put an end to this catastrophe. 
Likewise, UNESCO is determined to do whatever is needed to document and protect the heritage of Iraq and lead the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural artefacts, which directly contributes to the financing of terrorism. At stake is the survival of the Iraqi culture and society”
This is an attack on humanity's shared and valued heritage.

But we also remember the people of Iraq caught up in this conflict.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

National Gallery of Australia to return statue to India



The National Gallery of Australia will be returning one of its statues to Australia. This seems to be another instance of unauthenticated documentation.

The full story can be found on Chasing Aphrodite. There is an interesting comment on how new ethical standards are likely to be applied retrospectively ... and making those adopted in the US (by AAMD) look very dated.

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A Manifesto for Heritage in the UK

The Heritage Alliance has produced a manifesto in case some of the political parties need some ideas relating to heritage.

The text can be found here.

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Heritage on the Agenda for the Election


It is important to remember that three political parties (Conservative, LibDem, Labour) were represented on the pre-election 'hustings' at the December 2014 AGM for the Heritage Alliance. There were some searching questions and a heated debate during the length of the session.

The politicians were reminded of the economic contribution of heritage to UK PLC and some of the changes that needed to be made.

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The destruction in Mosul

Christopher Jones has posted two very helpful posts on the destruction in Mosul:

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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Horiuchi sarcophagus returns to Italy

The Horiuchi Sarcophagus
The US authorities have returned the Horiuchi Sarcophagus to Italy [press release].
HSI New York returned six objects Wednesday including “sleeping beauty,” an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus lid of Sleeping Ariadne, which was smuggled out of Italy. TPC identified the object as part of a collection of suspected looted Italian antiquities belonging to a known trafficker who was involved in trafficking archeological items from clandestine excavation sites in Italy. HSI special agents seized the sarcophagus lid with a warrant issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
It is not clear which 'known trafficker' is alluded to in the statement as the lid has been linked to several individuals.

This is a further example of the co-operation between the US and Italian authorities as a result of the MOU between the two countries.

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Walter M. Banko Enterprises Ltd. and the returns to Italy

Source: ICE
The US authorities have returned a number of items to Italy. They include objects handled by Walter M. Banko Enterprises Ltd.
In July 2011, Walter M. Banko Enterprises Ltd., attempted to import four pieces of antique Greek pottery through the point of entry at Rouses Point, N.Y. Based on previous investigations and seizures from Walter M. Banko Enterprises Ltd., law enforcement detained the shipment to determine if the pieces had been listed as lost or stolen. In November 2011, HSI Rouses Point seized two of the four pieces of Greek pottery, both from the 5th century B.C. The items were identified as an antique pottery piece titled “Skyphos” and a red-figured pottery krater. These two pieces were seized once they were confirmed to be the same pieces linked to a well-known trafficker of Italian cultural artifacts.
The 'well-known trafficker of Italian cultural artifacts' appears to be Gianfranco Becchina.

Banko has been linked to a marble janiform head, returned to Italy on a previous occasion.

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Tomb fragment from Paestum returned to Italy.

Paestum Fragment
Source: ICE
Italian authorities have returned a tomb painting apparently removed from Paestum. The statement from ICS gives a little detail:
In 2009, HSI New York special agents received information indicating that a New York-based antiquity collector allegedly dealt in the sale of illicit cultural property. This collector was in possession of an artifact that was looted from an ancient Italian tomb in Paestum, Italy. In February 2012, HSI special agents seized the Steinhardt fragment, and it was forfeited to the U.S. government.
This fragment was discussed before on LM with a link to Chasing Aphrodite that has the full details.

This raises the issue of the falsification of the collecting history. And the intended recipient, Michael Steinhardt, has been linked to several other objects.



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Pompeii fragments returned to Italy

The objects returned to Italy, 2015
Source: ICE
The US authorities have returned a number of objects to Italy ("19 cultural treasures returned to the government of Italy", 25 February 2015). They include a seizure from the Alan E. Paulson Trust:
In July 2012, HSI San Diego received information from HSI New York regarding four illegally excavated antiquities from clandestine sites in Pompeii owned by the Allen E. Paulson Trust. HSI San Diego located and seized the three frescos, dating back to 63-79 A.D., and one askos, dating back to 4th century B.C. The trust administratively forfeited the items to the U.S. government so they could be returned to the Italian government.
A situla seized from Christie's in 2009 also came from the same source, the Alan E. Paulson Trust. Its collecting history can be traced back to the Summa Galleries in Beverly Hills (and subsequently the Royal-Athena Galleries in New York City).  The names of Paulson and McNall coincide. It is not clear if the same ICE press release alludes to this earlier seizure.
During the course of two separate investigations, HSI New York seized two stolen cultural treasures from Christie’s auction house in New York. The TPC contacted HSI Rome to help locate a Lucanian red-figured bell krater (circa 420-400 B.C.) and other stolen artifacts. That tip led HSI New York special agents to Christie’s where they seized the stolen krater in July 2013.
It would be worth reviewing the full collecting histories of other objects that passed through the Alan E. Paulson Trust.

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