Showing results 1 - 12 of 24 for the month of July, 2012.

July 25, 2012

Looted treasures returned to Afghanistan by the UK

Posted at 1:14 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the artefacts returned to Afghanistan, after being seized in the UK.

The Hindu

U.K. returns artefacts to Afghanistan
LONDON, July 20, 2012
Hasan Suroor

More than 800 historic artefacts — stolen from museums in Afghanistan some 20 years ago and smuggled abroad — have been returned to Kabul with help from the British Museum.

They include: a rare sculpture of Buddha, pieces of the Begram Ivories dating back to the 1st century B.C., Bronze Age carvings and medieval Islamic coins.
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Nigeria demands return of disputed artefacts acquired by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

Posted at 1:07 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Boston’s Musuem of Fine Arts has recently acquired an assortment of artefacts that were looted during the Benin massacre in 1897. Now, Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments is demanding their return.

Huffington Post

Boston’s Museum Of Fine Arts Urged To Return Looted Artifacts To Nigeria
Posted: 07/20/2012 1:56 pm Updated: 07/20/2012 1:56 pm

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the governmental body in Nigeria that regulates the nation’s museum systems, is demanding the return of 32 artifacts recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Consisting of various bronze and ivory sculptures looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897, the Director-General of the commission, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, states that the pieces were illegally taken by the British Expedition as spoils of war.

The MFA in Boston acquired the pieces last month as a gift from New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, who purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s. But the pieces were originally looted by British soldiers in the late 1890s, following the Benin massacre of 1897. In a statement made by Usman, the commission stated: “Without mincing words, these artworks are heirlooms of the great people of the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria generally. They form part of the history of the people. The gap created by this senseless exploitation is causing our people, untold anguish, discomfort and disillusionment.”
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July 23, 2012

How wikiloot could help to shut down the archaeological underworld

Posted at 12:55 pm in Similar cases

More coverage of the Wikiloot project – looking at the current problems of looting of ancient artefacts – and how some of the big networks involved in the illegal trafficking have been broken up because of chance discoveries.

Swiss Info

Jul 18, 2012 – 11:00
Closing in on the archaeological underworld
by Michèle Laird,

Switzerland has been cleaning up its free ports after a 1995 scandal on its home turf triggered a probe into looted antiquities. Globally, the fight to disrupt such criminal activity is stepping up with a Web experiment to share information.

Museums the world over still display archaeological treasures that sometimes are not legally theirs. While governments wrangle over their rightful ownership, looters continue to plunder sites to feed a prospering black-market.
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Turkey plans to embrace its multi-cultural past

Posted at 12:48 pm in Similar cases

More coverage of Turkey’s requests for the return of artefacts from various museums around the world. These requests form part of a wider cultural plan, to make more of the country’s culture, that includes the planned construction of a huge new museum in Ankara.


‘Art War’ Turkey Battles to Repatriate Antiquities
By Matthias Schulz

If one were to describe the current mood in Turkey in one word, it would be pride. Once decried as the “sick man of the Bosporus,” the nation has regrouped and emerged as a powerhouse. Turkey’s political importance is growing, and its economy is booming.

In cultural matters, however, Turkey remains a lightweight. To right this deficiency, the government plans to build a 25,000-square-meter (270,000-square-foot) “Museum of the Civilizations” in the capital. “Ankara will proudly accommodate the museum,” boasts Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Günay. “Our dream is the biggest museum in the world.”
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850 looted treasures repatriated to Afghanistan from UK

Posted at 9:11 am in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the ongoing attempts by the UK to return various Afghan artefacts, that have been seized by UK border officials. I’m unclear why the number of artefacts has altered significantly since the previous article I posted about it a few days ago.


Looted treasures returned to Afghanistan by British Museum
Dalya Alberge
Thursday 19 July 2012

The British Museum, aided by British police and the UK Border Force, has helped return to Afghanistan hundreds of looted antiquities seized from smugglers, The Independent can reveal.

David Cameron will announce in Afghanistan today that 850 treasures have been repatriated, having been passed to the British Museum for safeguarding following their confiscation in Britain over the last two years.
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Reflecting on what can be done to recover African artefacts

Posted at 7:44 am in Similar cases

Kwame Opoku looks at the reaction of Nigeria to the recent donation of looted Benin artefacts to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.


Wed 18 July 2012
Opinion: What can be done to recover African artefacts?
Opinion:Kwame Opoku (Dr) reflects on Nigeria’s reaction to the donation of looted Benin artefacts to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Submitted By: Kwame Opoku

“The exhibition is showcasing some of the works that made Benin (Nigeria) famous. It once again, reminds the world of a civilization truncated by the imperial forces of the colonialist. The works on show at this exhibition are some of the 3000 odd pieces of bronze and ivory works forcibly removed from my great grandfather’s palace by some Britons who invaded Benin in 1897. The British kept some of the loot for themselves and sold the rest to European and American buyers. These works now adorn public museums and private collector’s galleries, all over the world.”(1)

– Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin.

Nigerian authority reacts

As had been anticipated by many, the National Commission on Museums and Monuments, NCMM, the Nigerian authority responsible for the preservation and conservation of Nigeria’s cultural heritage has reacted to the donation by Robert Owen Lehman of 32 looted Benin artefacts to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
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July 20, 2012

Excavating the wreck of the Mentor – Lord Elgin’s ship that carried the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:18 pm in Elgin Marbles, Greece Archaeology

Excavations of Lord Elgin’s Ship, the Mentor, which was wrecked of Kythera, have continued this year, following on from the successful work that was done last summer.

The article below is a computer translation. If you follow the link at the start, you can read the original Greek version.

Ta Nea

Under the microscope the wreck of archaeologists carrying the sculptures in England
Published: Friday, July 13, 2012
Last update: 07.13.2012 14:29

The hull of the ship that transported the sculptures in England and sank southwest of Kythira, in 1802, excavations revealed the Inspectorate of Underwater Antiquities. We also found dozens of items crew with great historical value.

The ship “MENTOR” was sunk in September 1802 at the entrance of the port of Avlaimona. This ship is always the motivation of the research on the possible discovery of other sculptures in the sand. The underwater survey lasted 17 days.
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July 17, 2012

Subhash Chandra Kapoor’s role in the looting of India’s heritage

Posted at 1:10 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

India, like many countries has suffered heavily, both in the past & in modern times, from looting of its ancient heritage for profit by art dealers, who sell it on to private collections. In recent years however, they have started to make more efforts to put a stop to this trade – culminating in the arrest of dealer Subhash Chandra Kapoor in Germany & his subsequent extradition to India to face charges. Kapoor is accused of smuggling eighteen 18 temple idols from Tamil Nadu.

Intriguingly, the article refers to an artefact in the British Museum – that was returned to India, following a legal case. It does not elaborate on how this was possible however, as it appears that such actions would be in conflict with the anti-deaccessioning terms in the British Museum act, unless there are other relevant points to the case that have not been mentioned.

The Hindu

CHENNAI, July 15, 2012
The murky trail of stolen antiquities
A. Srivathsan

When antique dealer Subhash Chandra Kapoor, 61, arrested in Germany and extradited to India for his alleged role in spiriting away 18 temple idols from Tamil Nadu, was produced before the Ariyalur court on Saturday, it marked the second most sensational development of its kind in the country. It also pointed once again to the inscrutable ways of the idol-smugglers and their ruthlessly creative potential.

The trail of the biggest such racket revealed so far was traced back to Jaipur. In July 2003, after a year-long surveillance, the police arrested Vaman Narayan Ghiya, the owner of a handicrafts shop in the Rajastan capital. His shop was only a front; in reality it was a hub of illicit trading in antiquities.
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Nigerian & US museums in conflict over looted artefacts

Posted at 1:03 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

During the British led Benin massacre of 1897, thousands of artefacts were looted by the soldiers carrying out the raids. The most well know of these are the Benin Bronzes in the British Museum, but there are many others too.

All Africa

Nigerian, American Museums Lock Horns Over ‘Stolen’ Artefacts
By Chika Okeke, 15 July 2012

Thousands of Benin artefacts were illegally looted by the colonial masters and European troops during their invasion of the Benin Kingdom. CHIKA OKEKE writes that about 32 priceless objects currently in Museum of Fine Art Boston U.S.A. risk repatriation on account of their failure to meet all legal standards.

The kingdom of Benin artefacts illegally kept in various museums across Britain and the United States of America have been a source of tourist attraction to both visitors and the Citizens. The artefacts are elaborate and hardly can strangers reproduce the original ones that are popular in Benin Kingdom.
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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement return 14 looted paintings to Peru

Posted at 8:05 am in Similar cases

When one hears about looted Peruvian artefacts, the tendency is to assume that we are always talking about Inca treasures, such as the ones recently returned by Yale University. The country has cultural heritage the dates from ancient times to the later years of the Spanish colonial period however – none of which is immune to being smuggled out of the country destined for private collections.

Immigration & Customs Enforcement

News Releases
July 12, 2012
Washington, DC
ICE returns stolen and looted art and antiquities to Peru

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 14 stolen and looted cultural paintings and artifacts to the government of Peru at a repatriation ceremony at the Embassy of Peru in Washington, D.C. The items were recovered in five separate investigations by special agents of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York; West Virginia; Wilmington, Delaware; and Austin and Houston, Texas.

Returned to the Peruvian people were nine religious paintings, a monstrance and four archaeological items that date back more than 2,000 years. The return of this cultural property is the culmination of a long, hard fight by HSI, INTERPOL and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices from the District of Delaware, the Southern District of New York, and the Southern District of Texas. Participating in today’s repatriation were ICE Director John Morton, Peruvian Ambassador to the United States Harold Forsyth and U.S. Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Also in attendance were INTERPOL Washington Director Timothy A. Williams and representatives from the Southern District of New York and District of Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Offices; U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Center; Smithsonian Institution; and HSI special agents from the respective investigative offices.
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Mercedes-Benz 500K Spezial car looted by the Nazis siezed at Essen Techno Classica Car fair

Posted at 7:55 am in Similar cases

In another case, that exemplifies the wide range of items that can be subjected to looting, in this case, a Mercedes-Benz 500K Spezial car.

Apart from the fact that the case is interesting in that it isn’t about the usual paintings / sculptures, it raises various other questions from a legal viewpoint – which are picked up on in the article.

Oostward Kunstrecht

Looted Art, Art Theft
Wartime claim on old-timer still valid?

On 29 May 2012, the Hamburg District Court rendered an important decision in a matter concerning a vehicle that was taken from Germany in 1945 by U.S. soldiers. The car, a Mercedes-Benz 500K Spezial, had been acquired by Hans Friedrich Prym in 1935. This unique and valuable car disappeared when Prym had been imprisoned by the allied forces. The Mercedes at some point in time after the Second World War resurfaced in the United States, in any event around 1976. The old-timer was put up for auction in 2011 in California, as the heirs had come to learn. The auctioneer allegedly refused to hand-over the vehicle. Mr. Frans van Haren, a Dutchman, acquired the old-timer at the auction.

The car after the auction was shipped to Germany to be displayed at the Techno Classica Car fair in Essen in March 2012, at which point the German authorities seized the car.
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The structural and philosophical problems confronting the Universal Museum concept

Posted at 7:43 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Dr Tom Flynn was one of the speakers at the London Colloquy on the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, where, rather than speaking about the reasons for returning the Parthenon Sculptures, he confronted one of the main arguments given by the British Museum for keeping them here – that of the Universal Museum.

Tom Flynn

The Universal Museum
by Dr. Tom Flynn
London, 2012

Well, you should be ashamed of yourselves, assembling here in a sinister conspiracy to dismantle our Universal Museums, to rob us of the cultural treasures that have contributed so much to the legacy of the European Enlightenment. Just think for a moment of the implications of what you’re doing — if you have your way the great cultural institutions of Europe and North America — the British Museum, the Louvre in Paris, The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago — these noble collections will be dispersed to the far corners of the earth, delivered into the hands of nations and cultures driven by rabid nationalism who lack the curatorial skills and the museological expertise to care for their material heritage. If you succeed, our classical temples to world culture will stand empty or will be turned into multiplex cinemas, football stadiums or basketball courts. The reputation of this once proud nation will be damaged beyond repair, tourism will cease, and as a people we will be forever impoverished.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it? I’m exaggerating to make a point, but that is essentially the message that is being circulated by those striving to resist the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. If the British Museum were to accede to the calls for return, the fabled floodgates would open, leading to a veritable deluge of repatriation requests. It would be a slippery slope that would lead inexorably to a mass exodus of objects, a wholesale denuding, a great emptying, a hollowing out. Or would it?
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