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Showing posts from June, 2008

Tomb of Mutirdis (TT410): Update

Back in May I commented on the fragment from the Tomb of Mutirdis (TT410) that had been withdrawn from a sale at Bonhams (London). It is now reported that the piece has been returned to Egypt ("Egypt retrieves a 2,500-year-old stone relief from Bonhams auction house in London", IHT, June 30, 2008)

Julian Roup, spokesperson for Bonhams, said,
"We were alerted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in New York) that this item had apparently been seen in a tomb that someone at the Met had been involved in the excavation of ... It has now been repatriated, as we always try to do in these situations ..."

Roup would not identify the seller who tried to put the artifact up for auction, but said it appeared to have been bought "in good faith."The piece is said to come from an Australian seafaring collection. And there are still some unanswered questions about the due diligence process.

Archaeological Loans: Looking Back to EUMILOP

If international museums can no longer "own" antiquities either through purchase on the antiquities market or through partage, what other options are open to them?

In the 1980s Maxwell L. Anderson, then in Atlanta, was involved with "The Emory University Museum International Loan Project" (or EUMILOP for short). The aims of EUMILOP were as follows:
"to encourage substantive cooperative efforts between archaeological museums and sites in this country [sc. USA] and abroad.""With a view toward the future, when acquisitions of antiquities will become increasingly difficult for American museums owing to financial and ethical considerations, loan projects of this kind will provide one avenue for American museums with limited resources."As part of the project the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma placed on loan 22 key Roman portraits and a splendid catalogue, Roman Portraits in Context(1988), was produced. A second exhibition,Syracuse, the Fairest Gre…

The "Antiquities Wars": Further Thoughts

Lee Rosenbaum has posted the second part of her views on the "Antiquities Wars" (and see my comments on her first part). She still emphasises the 1983 date in spite of the AAMD's unambiguous statement that the report
Recognizes the 1970 UNESCO Convention as providing the most pertinent threshold date for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archeological material and ancient art. Widely accepted internationally, the 1970 UNESCO Convention helps create a unified set of expectations for museums, sellers, and donors.The AIA, AAMD and the Italian Government have all accepted 1970, so why don't we accept it? (However we also need to respect national laws.)

Rosenbaum expresses the hope,
American museums cannot be expected to empty themselves of all antiquities with uncertain pasts.
The recent returns to Italy have shown that only a selection of disputed antiquities have been returned. (There appear to have been long-lists which have not been implem…

Partage: Some Preliminary Thoughts

James Cuno has put the issue of partage back on the agenda. He explains in Who Owns Antiquity? how it worked:
For many decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, archaeological finds were shared between the excavating party and the local, host country through partage (p. 14).He then provides examples including:
The Gandharan collection (from Afghanistan) in the Musée Guimet, ParisThe Assyrian collection (from Iraq) in the British Museum, LondonThe Lydian collection (from Turkey) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (but not to be confused with the "Lydian silver" in the same museum)The Egyptian collection in the Museum of Fine Arts, BostonCuno then states, "With the surge in nationalism in the middle decades of the twentieth century, it has become almost impossible to share archaeological finds".

While it may be true that fewer finds are shared with the excavating sponsors, the notion of partage has continued beyond "the middle decades o…

The Politics of Culture: James Cuno and Michael Conforti

I have been listening to the discussion between James Cuno and Michael Conforti (President of AAMD) on KCRW. They discussed Cuno's book and the AAMD's new guidelines on acquisitions. Key themes of partage and the licit market in antiquities popped up.

Ruth Seymour chaired the discussion and demonstrated that she did not understand the issues. She was clearly shocked by the treatment of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the hands of the Los Angeles Times and merely saw the Getty Villa as a way of introducing "Greek Art" to a Californian viewing public. There was no acknowledgement that the antiquities returned to Italy from North American institutions (as well as a private collector and a dealer in antiquities) appear to have come from destroyed archaeological contexts in Italy. The discussion also explored the common ground between Cuno's approach and the AAMD.

Conforti also drew attention to the AAMD's "Object Register": although the interview was more tha…

Towards a Ceasefire in the "Antiquities Wars": A Response to Lee Rosenbaum

Lee Rosenbaum has proposed a way ahead in the light of the AAMD's announcement that it will adopt 1970 as the cut off point for the acquisition of antiquities ("Towards a Ceasefire in the Antiquities Wars: The Next Step (Part I)"). She poses the question:
Now AAMD needs to tackle the hard part: What should its member museums do about all those objects they already own that wouldn't have entered their collections had the new standard been applied at the time of their acquisition?
Of course some of these objects, such as those in the Cleveland Museum of Art, are the subject of negotiations with Italy. And the recent returns of classical antiquities have largely involved Italy. What about the series of photographs in the hands of the Greek authorities that appear to be as damning as the Polaroids seized in the Geneva Freeport? And what about claims from Turkey? The Republic of Macedonia (FYRM)?

So if AAMD members think that the first wave of returning antiquities is the la…

"History Massacred": Turkish Style

I am used to reading accounts of mechanical diggers being used to open archaeological sites to provide objects to supply the market. But then there is "Chippindale's Law" ...

I read in the Turkish press that looting at Soma in Manisa province in western Turkey has reached new levels of intensity ("Soma's ancient treasures in coma, Turkish Daily News 14 June 2008).
Illegal excavations are being carried out on tumuli, necropolises and relics of ancient cities in and around Soma, in the western province of Manisa. Pillagers use bulldozers in their nighttime hunt for treasure on high hills, cutting trees to take construction equipment to the places where they conduct the diggings.

The Soma district administration office, the gendarmerie and the Manisa State Museum are aware of the smugglers' activity but have taken no action, locals say.

History massacred openly in Soma

Mines in the Sarıkaya neighborhood of Soma have caused serious damage to relics of ancient c…

Euphronios and Cerveteri

In 1999 the J. Paul Getty Museum returned an Attic red-figured cup "signed" by Euphronios as potter and attributed to Onesimos. It had been acquired in fragments between 1983 and 1985 from (among other sources) Galerie Nefer and the Hydra Gallery. The cup itself had been dedicated to Ercle; the sanctuary of Ercle at Cerveteri was not excavated until 1993. (See comments in an earlier review.) Two further fragments of the cup had been added in 2005 when they were returned by Giacomo Medici.

It has now been reported that a new fragment of the cup has been found at Cerveteri ("Fragment of Euphronios work found", ANSA June 6, 2008).
The new fragment forms part of a scene in which Talthybius, messenger of Greek commander Agamemnon, is sent to bring back Achilles' slave Briseis.Apparently the piece was found by two volunteers who worked at Cerveteri; other objects were seized in their house.

Cerveteri is also the reported find-spot of the Sarpedon krater.

Italy to Renew Claims on Antiquities

At the end of last week Sando Boni, the Italian Minister of Culture, issued a statement that he would be seeking the return of further items of cultural property. (See also Lee Rosenbaum's comments.) His predecessor Francesco Rutelli had anticipated that hundreds more antiquities would be returned. (These include objects in three other museums [North America, Europe, Far East] and possibly the seized stock of a London dealer.) By my reckoning only some 1% of the pieces represented by the Polaroids seized in Geneva have been returned to Italy. So "hundreds" would only represent some 5% of the possible returns.

The Geneva polaroids also included material from countries other than Italy. It is probably too early to say that the era of returns is over - we will be seeing other countries stepping up their activity as objects are identified.

Cultural Sites in Greece

Sharon Waxman has drawn attention to an article, "Run-down heritage sites embarrass the Greeks" by Helena Smith, in The Guardian (June 23, 2008). This discusses the issue of access to world-heritage status archaeological sites.

There is a quote from Michali Liapis, the minister of culture:
The situation at museums and sites around the country is bad ...It has to be corrected.Maria Damanaki, the shadow minister of culture, was interviewed for The Guardian report:
What we are seeing is the indifference of a government that simply does not make culture a priority.Waxman takes a strong position on this:
Countries like Greece cannot justifiably demand the return of objects taken in recent decades by looters, or a century ago by imperial-minded "collectors," if they cannot adequately care for the objects and sites they already have. But reality is a harsh taskmaster. Caring for antiquities costs money. The answer lies not in pointing fingers, as is suggested by the article …

AAMD and Antiquities: The Object Register

The AAMD announced its new policy on the acquisition of antiquities earlier this month. The Object Registry is now available.
The AAMD Object Registry provides access to all relevant information known about our members' acquisitions of archaeological material and ancient art lacking complete provenance after November 1970, the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Art museums regularly acquire archaeological material and works of ancient art - of which objects with incomplete provenance represent but a fraction.It continues:
A complete recent ownership history may not be obtainable for all archaeological material and every work of ancient art. Recognizing this, AAMD believes that its member museums have the right to exercise their institutional responsibility to make informed judgments about the appropriateness of acquiring such an object. AAMD is committed to ensuring t…

Reviews of Who Owns Antiquity?

Reviews of James Cuno's controversial Who Owns Antiquity? (Princeton University Press, 2008) are now beginning to appear. As I have nearly finished writing my own response for an academic journal, I have gathered these views for convenience. They include:
Roger Atwood, "Insider: Guardians of Antiquity?", Archaeology 61, 4 (Jul / August 20080 [link]
Christopher Chippindale, The Art Newspaper [link]Andrew Herrmann, "You Can't Have Your Stuff Back", Chicago Sun Times May 4, 2008 [Lootingmatters response]Deanna Isaacs, "Who Owns antiquity?", June 5, 2008 [link]
Madeline Nusser, "War of the World", Time Out Chicago 169, May 22-28, 2008 [link]
Kwame Opoku, June 9, 2008 [link]Eric Ormsby, "Treasures on Trial", Wall Street Journal April 26, 2008 [link]Lee Rosenbaum, "Cuno Conundrum: Whose Law Is It, Anyway?", Culturegrrl, May 21, 2008 [link]
Edward Rothstein, "Antiquities, the World is your Ho…

Cycladic at Auction: the Ascona Link

There is a growing emphasis in the antiquities market on objects that have a good history. (Please can we stop using the misleading term "provenance"?) Objects that have a record prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention can now claim much higher prices.

The IHT ("Antiquities sales in New York") has noted:
... at Sotheby's, bidders were even more willing to pay enormous prices for desirable antiquities that could irrefutably be proved to have reached the West well before 1970.(I presume that "the West" means the land mass to the west of the Atlantic ...)

Among the antiquities sold at Sotheby's in this category was a male Cycladic figure (June 5, 2008, lot 13) that fetched US$1,314,500 (though less than the upper estimate of US$1.8 million). The catalogue provides the early history for the piece. It was apparently residing in an unnamed German private collection in the late 1960s, and was acquired from that source by Dr. Wladimir Rosenbaum, Galleria Casa Se…

Egyptian Antiquities at Sotheby's

I have been plotting the sale of Egyptian antiquities at Sotheby's New York (see comments on December 2007). The June sale of antiquities raised some US$8,933,001 of which US$3,118,125 was for Egyptian items. This represents some 35% of the total value of the sale, and well above the average (15%) for the period from 1998. Egyptian antiquities fetched US$34 million for the same period (out of an overall total of US$225 million). Of these, over 65% first appear to be recorded after 1973, and just over 95% have no recorded find-spot.

The high prices on the non-Egyptian side included:
lot 13: Cycladic male figure: US$1,314,500lot 28: Hellenistic bronze goddess: US$602,500lot 32: marble head of Serapis Ammon: US$182,500lot 38: chalcedony head of deified queen: US$962,500lot 39: Late Republican marble portrait: US$374,500lot 45: marble head of horse: US$110,500lot 69: Bactrian bronze cosemtic vessel: US$116,500lot 171: Byzantine mosaic fragment: US$170,500

Fragments of Antiquity at Harvard

I have earlier commented on the 1995 purchase of more than 200 Apulian, Attic, Chalcidian, Corinthian, Etruscan, Laconian pot-fragments. (There are 182 catalogue entries in the Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin representing the exhibition at the Fogg Art Museum, 15 March - 28 December 1997.) This acquisition is discussed briefly in James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity?
Every fragment was described and reproduced. Their provenance, such as we knew it, was indicated. And the objects became the subject of study in seminars and other classes. [p. 22]
Cuno wrote the "Director's Foreword" for the Harvard catalogue. He noted the origin of the fragments:
These had been collected by J. Robert Guy, currently Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Archaeology and Art at Oxford.They were apparently purchased indirectly. Cuno wrote:
When I first saw the fragments we would soon acquire in 1995 ... Lying flat in drawer after drawer in a dealer's shop ...The acquisition w…

The Parthenon Marbles: "the opportunist acquisition of the hastily-chiseled plunder"

A new edition of Christopher Hitchens' "advocacy" for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles has appeared. (It was originally published as The Elgin Marbles: should they be returned to Greece? [1987].) This includes a new introduction by Hitchens as well as a preface by Nadine Gordimer that anticipates "an honourable return of the missing parts from the British Museum".

Charalambos Bouras has contributed an essay "The Restitution Works on the Acropolis Monuments". This includes discussion of the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the temple of Athena Nike.

Hitchens, C. 2008. The Parthenon Marbles: the case for reunification. London: Verso. [WorldCat] [Verso]

Cultural Property removed from the Ottoman Empire

There is a distinction between the recent looting of archaeological sites and the historic removal of sculptures and architectural fragments in the nineteenth century. Debbie Challis has provided a detailed look at British exploration in the Ottoman Empire in the period 1840-1880. This includes the removal of tombs in Lycia by Charles Fellows as well as the sculptures from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos (the modern Bodrum) by (Sir) Charles Newton. She includes a list of where the objects can be seen (even down to the gallery in the British Museum).

Challis, D. 2008. From the Harpy Tomb to the Wonders of Ephesus: British archaeologists in the Ottoman Empire 1840-1880. London: Duckworth. [WorldCat]

Chippindale on Cuno

Christopher Chippindale has reviewed James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity? (2008) for The Art Newspaper. Chippindale considers it to be
a clear, well-argued, and too partisan book about the vexed question of how great museums like his should collect ancient objects.Chippindale continues:
The greedy and knowing acquisition of looted antiquities by its great museums is a bad mistake for the long term.The recent announcement by the AAMD concerning the acquisition of antiquities can perhaps be seen as a sea-change for institutions in North America.

University Art Museums and Collecting Antiquities

I have already commented on Kimerly Rorschach's views on the policies of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). She has written in more detail about the role of university art museums:
We believe that classical antiquities have tremendous educational and aesthetic value, even when removed from their original context and even when their original context is unknown.At the same time she acknowledges the issue of looted antiquities and notes that university museum curators
must take account of the interests of our colleagues in other scholarly fields, especially since our teaching mission as university museums relies on the ability and willingness of faculty and students in these fields to work with the objects we collect.I take heart from the fact that she has doubts about the AAMD's report on the "Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art" (see "Loan Exhibitions and Transparency") and the proposed "ten-year rule" (as opposed to…

AAMD and Antiquities: A Revised Position

On the 3 June 2008 the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued a new report on "Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art" (see AAMD Pressroom). This acknowledges the usefulness of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (as I have argued) as "the most pertinent threshold date for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archaeological material and ancient art". Michael Comforti, the incoming president of AAMD, is also quoted:
We also believe it is important to go beyond the letter of the law in considering the acquisition of antiquities and ancient art and that the acquisition of these works must be responsible and ethical as well as legal.The whole tone of the report is conciliatory and there is talk of co-operation with archaeological organisations.

There are a couple of outstanding matters.
There are concerns about the place of long-term loans (see "Loans of Archaeological Material"). I have a particular interest in the…

The Koreschnica Krater: Further Comments on the Tomb

I remain intrigued by the looting of the major burial at Koreschnica in the Republic of Macedonia. This is a good example of an elite burial that has been the target of a deliberate raid to supply objects for the antiquities market.

The burial chamber was some 4.5 m below the present ground level and had been covered by approximately 3.8 m of rocks and rubble. The burial chamber was some 8.5 m by 3.5 m, and 0.7 m high. However the monumental bronze krater had been placed in a separate area some 1.5 by 1.5 m, and 1.8 m high. Objects emerging from this tomb were not "chance finds".

My understanding is that iron supports have been inserted to stop the roof of the burial chamber from collapsing on the looters. The chamber apparently contained some 18 bronze helmets (some of Illyrian type).

This tomb contained a major grouping of objects whose contexts have now been lost - and the objects dispersed. There is much speculation about what they could be. Pasko Kuzman has suggested that…

Philippe de Montebello: a "Tribute"?

I gained some amusement from Lee Rosenbaum's tribute ("Philippe Baby") to Philippe de Monetebello.

I can sense a new TV show ... "Bloggers Have Talent".