Skip to main content

Ankhhaf and Boston

The bust of Ankhhaf was excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Egyptian Expedition at Giza in 1925 (Dows Dunham, "The portrait bust of Ankh-haf", Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts 37 (1939), 42-46). The sculpture was assigned to the Expedition by the Director-General of the Department of Antiquities in April 1927. The collecting history is made clear on Boston's website (inv. 27.442).
Ankhhaf is unique, and by the terms of the Museum's contract with the Egyptian government, he should have gone to the Cairo Museum. However, he was awarded to Boston by the Antiquities Service in gratitude for the Harvard-Boston Expedition's painstaking work to excavate and restore objects from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres.
In other words the bust was not looted; it was excavated. It was not removed from Egypt by illicit means; it was assigned to Boston.

Geoff Edgers now reports on Egypt's hope for the return of Ankhhaf ("Fragile, don’t touch", Boston.com August 14, 2011). Zahi Hawass made a claim on the statue in 2005, and Mohamed Saleh has now identified a space for Ankhhaf in the new Egyptian Museum. Edgers reminds us:
The bust of Ankhhaf was given to the MFA by a previous Egyptian government, so the current government has no legal case. Any appeal must be made on moral grounds: that the piece is part of Egypt’s patrimony, and belongs at home.
In other words, Ankhhaf is so important to the study of Egyptology that it should reside in Egypt. Patty Gerstenblith was asked to comment: "There is no way Ankhhaf should be lumped with something that was illegally obtained ... But there may be times when a country wants something back even when it was given and obtained legitimately." Edgers also comments on Hawass who mistakenly described the statue as "stolen".

Edgers rightly reminds us of the conservation issues relating to Ankhhaf. Is it in the interests of this "unique" piece to transport it to Egypt even as a temporary loan?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Marc Fehlmann said…
The question here is: Why talk of moral grounds?

The UNESCO-Convention clearly states under Article 5 that States Parties to this Convention (like Egypt) ensure the protection of their cultural property against illicit import; export and transfer of ownership and

establish and keep up to date, on the basis of a national inventory of protected'property, a list of important public and private cultural property whose export would constitute an appreciable impoverishment of the national cultural heritage;

(c) promote the development or the establishment of scientific and technical institutions (museums, libraries, archives, laboratories, workshops . . . ) required to ensure the preservation and presentation of cultural property;

(d) organize the supervision of archaeological excavations, ensuring the preservation `in situation' of certain cultural property, and protecting certain areas reserved for future archaeological research ...

I do not see how Zahi Hawass' claim on the statue of Ankh-haf fulfills this obligation. I also do not understand why Geoff Edgers talks of "moral grounds" when probably nothing else than self-promotion and politics (by Hawass and his successors, not G. Edgers) are at stake.

Why does one have to fall again and again into this nationalistic trap? Would it not be more sensible to prevent current and future looting and to set up proper inventories of what is currently in source countries than to launch such a "hype"?

One should really think that the people of Egypt have other and more pressing issues to deal with right now.
DR.KWAME OPOKU said…
If the idea in the last sentence were to be taken seriously, very few countries would ever claim their national cultural treasures. Can we think of one single country in the world now that did not at present have "other and more pressing issues to deal with right now"?

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.