Greetings to the American Council for the Preservation of Cultural Property
January sees the launch of the ACPCP under the guidance of IADAA board member Randall Hixenbaugh, assisted by James McAndrew a Forensic Specialist with GDLSK, the New York law firm and Joseph Coplin of Antiquarium Art. As many of you will know, James is a former senior FBI agent and founder of the Antiquities department for Homeland Security in 2010. He has invaluable knowledge, contacts and experience when it comes to negotiating with the authorities on behalf of the trade in the US. IADAA is giving the ACPCP active support ongoing. ACPCP’s first salvo has been a hard-hitting article on Homeland Security Today over the reporting of ISIS funding from antiquities (see: http://goo.gl/YfR9vO). Following its publication, on January 9 Ivan Macquisten yet again approached its author, the HST Editor-in-Chief Anthony Kimery, to ask when the article HST commissioned from him regarding Homeland Security’s Cash to Chaos report last October will be published. By January 18, IM had yet to receive a reply. The IM article, commissioned by former HST Managing Editor Amanda Vicinanzo on October 12, was submitted on October 25. Despite asking several times for a biog and photo of IM to go with the article (which were supplied on each occasion), Kimery has continued to stall on publishing since then. IM has contacted him a total of five times now.
CINOA: January 13: Email to membership
Thanks to intervention and assistance from IADAA, CINOA has appealed to its membership to respond to the EU survey on the future of cultural property imports to the EU. CINOA expressed their gratitude to IADAA chairman Vincent Geerling for the detailed briefing and advice, going so far as to advise its own members to contact Vincent for further advice on the matter and thanking him publicly for the help given. This illustrates the not only the value of the work IADAA has been carrying out, but also the power of and value of trade associations working together.
Ancient Babylon's bricks finding their way into modern buildings
Al-monitor.com: December 15: This article confirms that masonry and other parts of Ancient Babylon have long been used in modern construction, showing how little care was taken in the past to protect heritage on the ground.
Mohammed al-Hilli, a 75-year-old stonemason from Hillah, told Al-Monitor, “We often find authentic Babylonian brick while demolishing dilapidated houses.” He explained, “During the 1950s, it was very common to transport bricks from the city of Babil to be used in housing construction. But this has stopped following the tightened security measures and increasing interest by the authorities in the city.”
Hilli went on, “In old neighborhoods, mainly Mahallat al-Jami’in, al-Kaoud neighborhood and Tais, one can still find Babylonian bricks that were brought here by our ancestors on animals to use in construction.”
It further confirms that damage to ancient sites has often been carried out by the authorities themselves. It is estimated that a total of 15 million Nebuchadnezzar bricks have been used during his reign.
“In a 1988 bid to immortalize his name, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered maintenance work in the city that was not compliant with the standards of UNESCO, using different materials from the original ones. Saddam had his name inscribed on the sand-colored bricks used to rebuild the walls of the ancient city. One frequently used inscription read, “From Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein.” As a result, UNESCO recommended against the inclusion of the ancient city of Babylon on its World Heritage List.”
The Antiquities Trade in Egypt 1880-1930
Archaeology & Arts, December 15: Review of new book by Fredrik Hagen and Kym Ryholt, which claims it “presents the first in-depth analysis of this market during its “golden age” in Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th Century. It is primarily based on the archival material of the Danish Egyptologist H. O. Lange (1863-1943) who, during two prolonged stays in Egypt (1899/1900 and 1929/1930), bought objects on behalf of Danish museums.”
After Islamic State institutionalized looting in Syria, the market for fake antiquities is booming
LA Times: December 31: An overview article about looting and the desire to make money from artefacts revisits the claims by Maamoun Abdulkarim, director-general of the Syrian Antiquities Agency, made last summer, that “In the last year, we’ve caught thousands of pieces. We noticed that the percentage of fakes has risen up from 30 to 40% to over 70%.”
As Abdulkarim explained, IS needed money but many of the areas they controlled “didn’t hold the high-value artifacts prized by collectors, fueling a rise in an industry of counterfeit antiquities”.
Bizarrely, former Syrian antiquities official Amr Azm, now a US-based academic and anti-trade campaigner who has worked closely with the media over the past year or two, advocates flooding the market with fakes.
In the long run, the rise in fakes could discourage looting and counterfeiting in Syria, said Azm.
“One of the ways to break the grip of a looting cycle is to flood the market with fakes, so that confidence in the material coming out of Syria crashes.”
With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage
Hurriyet Daily News, Cairo: January 6: This article reveals that loss of tourism revenues since January 25, 2011 are worse than previously thought and Egypt is having severe problems preserving its heritage.
“Since January 2011, our revenues have fallen sharply, which had a strong effect on the state of Egyptian monuments,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany said.
“From more than 15 million in 2010, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped to 6.3 million in 2015.”
It further reports that “revenue from entrance tickets to historical sites dropped to about $38 million in 2015, from about $220 million in 2010.”
“It’s catastrophic,” said Fayza Haikal, an Egyptologist and professor at the American University of Cairo.
Zahi Hawass, an archeologist and former antiquities minister, said the country’s heritage has suffered as a result.
He further confirms the government’s lack of cash.
“With the lack of funding, you cannot restore anything. Look at the Cairo museum. It’s dark,” he said, referring to the famed Egyptian Museum in the capital’s Tahrir Square. “And you cannot ask the government to support you because the economy is not that good. And antiquities are deteriorating everywhere,” he said.
Administering the country’s antiquities takes about 38,000 employees, including on-site workers, technicians, Eyptologists and inspectors, the ministry says.
The article also confirms that foreign economic support has been crucial.
The government has relied on foreign handouts since Morsi’s overthrow, and finally decided to float the pound last year as part of an economic reform program connected to a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
An important part of an economic revival would include the return of tourism, a main hard currency earner for Egypt.
Report That Antiquities Sales Is Major ISIS Funding Source Disputed By Authorities
Homeland Security Today: January 7: Homeland Security Today Editor-in-Chief Anthony Kimery (who has still not published Ivan Macquisten’s critique of the Cash to Chaos report more than three months after submission, despite promising to do so) writes this article acknowledging the challenge by Joseph Coplin and James McAndrew to David Grantham National Policy Center article on ISIS funding from antiquities.
This is a breakthrough and one that Joseph and James should be congratulated for. It comes exactly a year after Grantham’s previous NPC report on the subject (see January 2016 newsletter). Ivan had some dealings with Grantham after heavily criticising that earlier reports online, spending over an hour on the phone with him explaining that National Center of Policy reports have a far greater responsibility to be accurate and based on independently verified material than many other publications because of where they are coming from. He seemed to take that on board… at the time.
Five ancient Egyptian artefacts smuggled to US repatriated
Ahram Online: January 9: This article is important for what it tells us about the recently signed Egypt/US MoU, especially because it appears to acknowledge that MoU obliges Egypt to abide by UNESCO Convention Article 5 obligations to protect its archeological sites.
It states: “According to the MoU, the US government must return to Egypt any material on a designated list of antiquities which are recovered and forwarded to Washington.
“Abdel-Gawad said the US government will continue to provide technical assistance in cultural resource management and security to Egypt, as appropriate, under existing and new programmes.
“Finally, Egypt should promote best practices in cultural resource management. It should encourage coordination among heritage, tourism and religious authorities, along with development agencies to enforce laws that protect heritage sites from encroachment, unlawful appropriation, looting, and damage.”
National Museum cracks Egyptian treasure riddle after 160 years
The Scotsman: January 11: The trade (in the shape of Charles Ede Ltd) have helped solve a long standing puzzle concerning a 3400-year-old Egyptian perfume box.
The dealership approached the national Museum of Scotland to offer it two fragments following a blog post published by the museum about the box. The fragments turned out to be from the box, and their restoration has confirmed its suspected royal associations after more than a century of speculation, the article reports. It is thought to have been made for the granddaughter of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, who ruled from about 1427-1401 BC, during Egypt’s 18th dynasty. The surviving pieces of the box were reconstructed in 1895 and some of its decoration was restored in the 1950s – although the pattern on the newly-discovered fragments has revealed errors were made.
The story is an excellent example of how trade directly helps scholarship.
Cyprus FM Kasoulides makes pledge to protect cultural heritage
Tornos News, Cyprus Mail: January 13: Cyprus' Foreign Minister, Ioannis Kasoulides, who has taken over as chairman of the Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe, has pressed the case for adopting the Convention on Offences Related to Cultural Property, which is currently being drafted.
The convention, which was the subject of discussion at a CofE summit involving UNESCO and UNIDROIT on January 13, seeks measures to prevent looting and trafficking. Analysis by IADAA of the proposals in what is known as the Delphi Convention indicate that the CoE wants to introduce widespread licensing for cultural property of all types – thereby affecting the entire art market – demand access to confidential buyer and seller information from auction houses and dealers, and demands huge resources from member countries to support the initiative. Bizarrely, it puts forward yet another definition of cultural property, which does not tally with either the Hague Convention or UNESCO.
According to a follow-up article in the Cyprus Mail (http://goo.gl/9IFXWB), Cyprus is organizing a seminar in New York on strengthening the international legal framework particularly on combating and preventing the trafficking of stolen and illegally exported artefacts and overcoming hindrances to their effective restitution. The aim is to build on existing instruments such as Security Council Resolutions, the Unesco Convention of 1970 and the Unidroit Convention of 1995.
Turkish delight as pensioner returns 4,500-year-old jug
Daily Telegraph: January 16, 2017: A pensioner has returned a 4,500-year-old Bronze Age ceramic jug, which she bought while on holiday in Ephesus in the 1960s, to the Turkish authorities. Thelma Bishop only discovered the jug’s significance after she took it into Adam Partridge auctioneers in Macclesfield for inspection. The auction house revealed its true age and, in conducting due diligence, also uncovered a 133-year-old law that banned the export of Turkish artefacts from Turkey.
The Turkish authorities said that it “set an example top the auction community, whole stressing the importance of transparency in the art market”.
Of course, what it also demonstrates is how easy it was to buy and export such items in the 1960s, when the authorities were less bothered by cultural heritage than they are now – another argument for not applying new laws retroactively.
Art Dealer Sues Getty Museum for $77 Million
courthousenews.com: January 16: Phoenix Art of Geneva has filed a claim against the Getty Museum for $77m. The claim states that after it helped rehabilitate the museum’s bad reputation for buying looted art, the Getty failed to honour its commitments to Phoenix as part of deal the latter brokered on the Getty’s behalf to acquire part of a multibillion-dollar collection of ancient Roman statues.
Greek Archaeologist Prevents Illicit Sale of Antiquity in New York
USA Greek Reporter: January 17: More publicity for anti-trade campaigner Christos Tsirogiannis in his ongoing exploitation of the Becchina Archive, to which the trade does not have access. This time, he highlights a Roman marble sarcophagus on sale in a New York gallery. Although the article states that the item came from the Becchina collection, it stops short of saying it was stolen, instead reporting that “Under mysterious circumstances, the sarcophagus, which was stolen from Greece, ended up in one of the largest antiques galleries in the world”. However, it is not so cautious in the headline, which dubs the sale ‘illicit’.
Tourist attractions revenues decline from US$220mn to US$38mn: minister
Egypt Independent: January 18: Further evidence of the importance of antiquities to Egypt’s tourism revenues: Revenues from historical tourist attractions decreased to US$38 million in 2015, compared to US$220 million in 2010, Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anany announced in a statement Tuesday.
The number of tourists who visited Egypt in 2010 registered 15 million, compared to 6.3 million in 2015, the minister added.
The decreased inflow of tourists to Egypt has significantly affected the revenues of tourist attractions, which in turn affects funding for projects conducted by the Antiquities Ministry, said Anany.
Islamic State destroys famous monument in Syria's Palmyra: antiquities chief
Reuters: January 20: Satellite imagery and Syria’s antiquities chief Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim confirm that after recapturing Palmyra, ISIS has destroyed two of its most distinguishing features: the façade of the Roman theatre and the Tetrapylon.
The strange case of the ancient Assyrian curse and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
Daily Telegraph: January 21: An interesting case where Lebanese dealer Halim Korban is suing the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London for compensation and the return of the black basalt stele depicting King Adad-Nirari III, valued at £800,000, which was seized in 2014 just as it was due to come up for sale at Bonhams. Korban’s claim states that the stele is his and was acquired legally. The article reports that at the time of the due sale, Bonhams had stated it was "given as a gift from father to son in the 1960s" and that although no details about how it left Syria were available, it was confident of its provenance. Korban wants £200,000 in compensation for loss and damage. The Met Police say they continue to hold the stele legally as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. We await further details.
A no-strike list may shield Yemen’s ancient treasures from war
New Scientist: January 23: Tens of thousands of new archaeological sites have been discovered in Yemen by researchers who are now drawing up candidates for a “no-strike list” for combatants in the latest attempt to protect its treasures from the war.
Despite protests from UNESCO, some strikes seem to have targeted historic sites that are of no strategic value, says Peter Stone, chair of the UK Committee of the Blue Shield, an NGO that seeks to protect cultural property in time of conflict.
To ramp up the pressure, academics from the University of Oxford’s Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project are producing a cultural heritage list which they say the US Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS) will put forward to the Saudi-led coalition to use as a no-strike list. It should be ready in a few weeks.
Between 400 and 2,000 sites will make it onto the suggested no-strike list. Whether the combatants will pay heed is another matter.
“We have got some relatively good evidence that these lists work,” says Stone, citing NATO aerial strikes in Libya in 2011, which managed to avoid some important monuments.
The USCBS says today’s military has the scope to spare cultural property “as never before” because of precision aerial bombing techniques.
“To be effective, however,” it says, “no-strike lists should be made available to military operation planners, and especially targeting experts, who must be willing – or convinced – to incorporate the information into their targeting plans.”
Looted Syrian antiquities for sale in Denmark: police
The Local: January 24: This article is a classic case of overblown hype. Note the headline. As you work your way through it, you realize that it is not quite what is claimed. In fact, by the end, what you discover is that A Koran apparently being offered is a fake; a set of medicine bottles dating back to the 1700s that might be worth a lot of money are only allegedly being offered and, finally, none of them are actually in Denmark but rather photos of them have been circulated instead. On top of that, assuming those distributing the photos actually have access to the items in them, there is no evidence put forward to show that they are actually from Syria. In other words, this appears to be a complete non-story but is illustrative of what is being published these days. Ivan Macquisten has left a suitable comment in the Comments thread under this article.
Why US museums and the antiquities trade should work together
Apollo Magazine: February issue: This article by Gary Vikan, the trade-friendly former director of The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, sets out some excellent arguments for the way ahead. Best of all is his proposal for dealing with orphan works, which fits largely with what we have been arguing as a sensible compromise.
This article is worth reading in full.
Akko Police Seize Stolen Archaeological Artifacts
Breaking Israel news: January 31: This article reports that dozens of archaeological artefacts that are thought to have been stolen have been seized over the weekend in Akko, northern Israel. Some date back to the Bronze Age. The pieces include glass and coins as well as pots and other vessels.
Suspects were questioned and released on bail as the investigation continues.