Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Looting Egypt


I will be presenting my thoughts on contemporary issues relating to "Looting Egypt" to the Friends of the Egypt Centre, Swansea later this week.

I hope to explore the following themes:
  • examples of recently-surfaced antiquities that appear to have been looted in recent years. This will include the seizure of the coffin in Florida.
  • the theft of objects from museums and archaeological stores in Egypt. This will include a discussion of the mummy mask in the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM).
  • the theft of items from recorded archaeological sites in Egypt. One of the major issues in the last year was the return of the reliefs from the Louvre.
  • the call for the return of objects that are perceived as central to the study of Egyptology. These include the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum and the Nefertiti in Berlin.
  • the corrupting influence of forgeries. This includes the Amarna Princess acquired by the Bolton Museum.
  • an overview of the recent sale of Egyptian antiquities on the 'licit market'. How many lots are there? What were they worth? How many Egyptian lots come from 'old collections'? How many have recorded findspots?


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6 comments:

Larry Rothfield said...

Sounds like a full agenda, and a useful intervention into a discussion in which the facts about ongoing looting have gotten lost in the yaddayadda over Hawass' personality. Do you agree, though, that Hawass might have played the game a little better than he has to link the restitution claims for long-lost artifacts with the need to stop the ongoing looting?

Larry Rothfield said...

Sounds like a full agenda, and a useful intervention into a discussion in which the facts about ongoing looting have gotten lost in the yaddayadda over Hawass' personality. Do you agree, though, that Hawass might have played the game a little better than he has to link the restitution claims for long-lost artifacts with the need to stop the ongoing looting?

Alfredo De La Fe said...

What about a discussion of the major issues which enable looters?

1. Poor documentation and storage of finds.
2. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of finds which are sitting in storage with no hope of ever seeing the light of day within my lifetime (I am going on 37)
3. The amount of control exerted by Egypt in what, when and how items are studied and published.
4. The lack of freedom to allow different avenues of study and/or conclusions which go against Hawass or the "party line".
5. Poverty and an abundance of material with no fair system which allows finders to turn in their finds. (Would the average person turn in something they found which they perceived as being worth the equivalent of several months of income for "nothing"?)

Alfred

David Gill said...

Larry
The 1970 UNESCO Convention provides a watershed or benchmark. I agree that restitution claims appear to have confused two issues: recent cases of looting / theft from stores / museums and historic acquisitions that are perceived as central to Egyptology. Thus there is a difference between the return of the Louvre reliefs and the claim on the Rosetta Stone.
Part of the problem lies with unsophisticated reporting in the media.
Best wishes
David

David Gill said...

Alfredo
Thank you for your comment. My presentation will concentrate on recent examples of looting and thefts from museums.
Best wishes
David

Jamie Gibbs said...

A great lecture, David. It's good to be reminded that these issues never go away. It's daunting to think of the sheer scale of this kind of operation, one that a lot of collectors and institutions would prefer others not to know. It'll be interesting to see what happens after Zahi's conference, and whether the issues of repatriation of high profile objects are more important than the issues of looting.

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