Thursday, 21 August 2008

Cyprus: Further Looting

Is it a "coincidence" that as the officers of the ACCG (Wayne Sayles, Executive Director, August 6, 2008; Peter Tompa, President, August 9; August 16, 2008; see also David Welsh, member of the ACCG Board, and Chairman of the International Affairs Committee, July 11, August 10, August 20, 2008; and see earlier reactions) launch what appear to be co-ordinated attacks on those connected with the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) and archaeologists commenting on the ethics of collecting, there are reports of looting in the Kourris Valley near Limassol? (See Anna Hassapi, "Tomb raiders plundering Kourris Valley antiquities", Cyprus Mail August 19, 2008).

Dr Pavlos Flourentzos, the Director of the Antiquities Department, is quoted:
The illegal antiquities trade is a problem in Cyprus, even in the non-occupied part ... However, there are antiquities buried in the ground almost everywhere in Cyprus. Therefore, tomb raiding and illegal antiquities trading is a problem in many other areas, not just in the Kourris Valley. When citizens break the law and steal, it is a matter for the police and I think they have been doing a good job.
Such reports remind us of the need for import restrictions on archaeological material from Cyprus.


Marc Fehlmann said...

Looting is indeed a problem everywhere in Cyprus (North and South), though nowadays, most of the material seems not to enter the open market anymore and not to end up with dealers and auction houses in London, Munich and Switzerland. Instead, the "finds" seem to find a quick way to collectors on the island.

We did a survey of the published collections here in Cyprus (Severis, Giabra Pierides & Zintilis, all formed after 1960)according to the methods applied by Chippendale and Gill to Cycladic figurines, and we found that 98.4% of the objects in the Severis-Coll., 98.6% in the Giabra-Pierides and 37.7% in the Zintilis-Coll. have no provenance or previous owner at all. Of the 784 objects in the Zintilis collection, 29 had so-called "find spots" in Northern Cyprus while 271 had one in the South (Republic of Cyprus). It would be helpful, if those who deplore the looting in Cyprus would also indicate its consequences to the privileged few who can afford to have their collections published... There is, as always, a lot of hypocrisy around.

Marc Fehlmann
Department of Archaeology and Art History
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Famagusta, Northern Cyprus

David Gill said...

Thank you for these comments. This group of private collectors is very interesting.
Best wishes

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Thank you Dr. Fehlman for having the intestinal fortitude to state publicly the truth of the situation. If a U.S. collector said the same thing, it would immediately be brushed off (and has been) as self-serving rhetoric. Regarding coins, which is the only area of concern to me personally, extremely few coins from Cyprus appear on the U.S. market and many if not most of them are from well known old collections.

David Gill said...

The Thanos N. Zintilis collection of Cypriot antiquities is in the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. [See catalogue]

For the Pierides collection: catalogue.

For the Severis collection: V. Karageorghis, Ancient Cypriote Art in the Severis Collection (Nicosia 1999) [review in BASOR]

David Gill said...

For Peter Tompa's reaction.

samarkeolog said...

I wish I could remember it - I'm sure I took a photo of the display board - but the Zintilis exhibition in Athens had a wonderful turn of phrase when explaining to visitors how he had collected his material and when. Maybe, "Zintilis collected most of his antiquities at a time when the law was more relaxed", something like that.

The silent accord and amnesty allowed Greek Cypriot collectors who had access to the Turkish Cypriot enclaves to buy looted antiquities for private collections. Antiquities Director Vassos Karageorghis explained in his memoirs that he himself used to buy looted antiquities for the (public) Cyprus Museum with government money (Karageorghis, 2007: 102-103). A minor problem that he didn't tarry on was that the enclaves were controlled by the Turkish Cypriot terrorist group TMT. So, some of the money for the looted antiquities would have gone to TMT, and some of the money for smuggling them out of the enclaves would have gone to TMT too. (Karageorghis didn't have that last worry - he entered and exited the enclaves in a UNESCO vehicle...)

Karageorghis, V. 2007: A lifetime in the archaeology of Cyprus. Stockholm: Medelhavsmuseet.

samarkeolog said...

Although Marc Fehlmann's point about the origins of the collections themselves is entirely valid, I would note that if the collections were largely formed between 1963 and 1974, the north/south spread of the find-spots would be irrelevant, because the two regions hadn't been segregated yet. (But if many of the artefacts appeared in the collections through post-1974 amnesties on looted antiquities, he would have a valid point about the geographical spread, too.)

An amphora attributed to the manner of the Princeton painter

Photo: Becchina Archive Source: Christos Tsirogiannis An Attic black-figured amphora attributed to the manner of the Princeton painter has b...