Skip to main content

UCL and the Incantation Bowls: new revelations

Michael Balter has reported on the Incantation Bowl saga at UCL ("University Suppresses Report on Provenance of Iraqi Antiquities", Science 318, October 26, 2007). The discussion is now about the commissioned report which has not been made available for circulation.

Lord Renfrew is quoted:

It is shameful that a university should set up an independent inquiry and then connive with the collector whose antiquities are under scrutiny to suppress the report through the vehicle of an out-of-court settlement.

The archaeological community was looking forward to reading this report because UCL in a press release of May 16, 2005 had stated that it would
provide a model for best practice in dealing with the complex cultural issues that can arise from such situations.
Is suppressing this report "best practice"?


jamesdoeser said…
The great majority of people here at the Institute of Archaeology, myself included, are really upset about this. UCL might be behaving in a legally judicious way but it reflects very badly on the university and all the work people do here to ensure good ethical practice regarding antiquities.

nice blog btw
David Gill said…
The Institute of Archaeology is a world class body which has done so much to speak out on the issue of looting. You all appear to have been placed in a difficult position by this decision.
David Gill said…
The press release, "Correction of media innuendo concerning alleged 'looted' provenance of incantation bowls" (October 14, 2007), from the Schoyen Collection should also be read:
jamesdoeser said…
This will only get resolution once the report is published. Legal title is such a touchy subject (god knows I encountered this when formulating public discussion of the Sevso treasure) that no one wants to encounter the wrath of the lawyers. The effect of such fear is that the subject becomes taboo - hardly the way academia should be conducted in the 21st century.

This will not go away and if the Science piece is to be believed then legal proceedings by the Iraqis will take this in a whole new direction anyway.
Don Thieme said…
This sort of behavior by academics and university administrators reminds me of the ridiculous over-classification of government papers and documents. Surely their foolish secrecy has done more harm than good both to the authentication process and to the academic reputation of UCL.

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.