Showing results 13 - 24 of 1,598 for the category: Similar cases.

March 8, 2015

The Cyrus Cylinder, the FCO, human rights and irony

Posted at 11:49 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The Cyrus Cylinder is often proclaimed by many as the world’s first charter of human rights. Various false translations circulate online, adding further credibility to these assertions. Even Neil MacGregor, the British Museum’s Director described it as “The cylinder, often referred to as the first bill of human rights”. According to the British Museum’s own website, The reality is that although it does describe some human rights, it is not unique, but it in fact reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms. The fact that this might be the first such declaration that survives does not make it the first declaration.

Whether or not it is a declaration of human rights could be a never-ending debate, but the fact is that many perceive it as such and as a result, ascribe all sorts of proclamations to it that are not present in any of the official translations. It should be noted that this is by no means unique to the Cyrus Cylinder – the Magna Carta has long suffered a similar fate. These documents may or may not be the foundations of later declarations, but some of what they are claimed to contain is patently untrue.

Notwithstanding the above, the area of Human Rights is an ever shifting canvas. To my mind, one important right should be that of a people to have access to their own cultural heritage. It is afterall what gives them and their nation its identity, as well as being something that they can be proud of. It could be seen as a the provenance of a culture.

The Cyrus Cylinder, though acquired legitimately, was like the Parthenon Marbles, taken with authorisation from the Ottoman Empire, from a location within Modern Iraq, but has a clear association with Cyrus The Great, a ruler associated with The area known today as Iran. Currently it is housed in the British Museum, but Iran has at various times disputed its ownership, although when it has been loaned to them, no attempts have ever been made to break the terms of the loan agreement. Many, particularly within Iran, would continue to argue that it is a part of their heritage and such they have a right of easier access to this key element of their past.

To me, all the above makes the following statement on the Foreign and Commonwealth’s office particularly muddled.

Essentially, they are using the Cyrus Cylinder (under its premise as an early declaration of human rights), as an introduction to criticising the current human rights record of a variety of countries. We are annoyed that these countries do not play by our rules, but at the same time, we are happy to wrong many of them, by continuing to ignore the disputes surrounding our own possession of their cultural property. Various countries on their list (of concerns about human rights violations) are also on the list of original owners of disputed artefacts. Just at a quick glance, Egypt continues to request the return of the Rosetta Stone, Nigeria the Benin Bronzes and Ethiopia the Magdala Treasure.

I am not saying that the human rights records of any of these countries is remotely acceptable, or criticising the FCO’s methodology in compiling their list. Surely though, using an item of disputed cultural property to introduce this is not the best way to do it? while we are pointing fingers, we must not forget that our credibility is being judged by these same nations on other issues, issues that remain very real and important to them as part of their quest to maintain their own cultural identity.

The Cyrus Cylinder, currently housed in the British Museum

The Cyrus Cylinder, currently housed in the British Museum

From:
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Human Rights and the Cyrus Cylinder
March 3, 2015

Next week the Foreign Office will release its annual report on Human Rights and Democracy. It will showcase some of the work the UK has been doing to promote human rights around the world over the course of our current parliament (ie. the last five years), paying special attention to the value we place on civil society. It will also look in detail at 27 “countries of concern”, in which we consider there to be the most serious violations and abuses of human rights, and 10 “case study countries”, where the focus is on one particular ‘theme’.

Human Rights are sometimes portrayed as a “Western” concept or invention (usually most vociferously by those committing the most serious violations). This is, in fact, a misreading of centuries of history which led up to the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Way back in 539 B.C., the armies of Cyrus the Great, the first king of ancient Persia (modern day Iran), conquered the city of Babylon. In doing so, and as he prepared to govern his new territory, he declared that slaves would be free, people had the right to choose their own religion, and that different races living in the city would be treated equally. He recorded all of this on a baked-clay cylinder (known today as the Cyrus Cylinder and resident in the British Museum) – an ancient record that has been recognised by many as the world’s first charter of human rights. It is translated into all six official languages of the United Nations and its provisions mirror the first four Articles of the Universal Declaration.
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March 5, 2015

The British East India company – putting looting into the lexicon

Posted at 1:46 pm in Similar cases

A lot of the stories of artefact repatriations focus on state sponsored looting, such as the massacres in Benin or Beijing’s Summer Palace. A second category is that of private individuals such as the Seventh Earl of Elgin who were also involved in the pillaging of ancient relics, although not normally on such a large scale as it is hard for a single person to have the same impact as an army.

There is a third category though, one which brought us the word Looting – a Hindustani slang phrase for plundering. The word rapidly entered the English vocabulary via the British East India Company, one of the world’s first multinational corporations. While the British East India Company & their unprecedented levels of looting have thankfully now gone, the problem still exists, although it manifests itself in different forms, such as terrorist groups & warlords who like the EIC maintain their own private armies & relatively unencumbered by laws will happy loot ancient sites for personal gain, or merely to deprive others of the ability to see the relics that were once there.

Mughal emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, transferring tax collecting rights to the East India Company.

Mughal emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, transferring tax collecting rights to the East India Company.

From:
Guardian

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders
William Dalrymple
Wednesday 4 March 2015 05.59 GMT

One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.

The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.
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March 4, 2015

British Museum returns artefacts to their country of origin – temporarily

Posted at 1:53 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The British Musuem is loaning various artefacts to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The artefacts were taken by Captain Cook while he was exploring Australia.

Various Aboriginal groups want the items returned permanently though.

One thing that loans such as this do prove, is that even though the British Museum insists that the artefacts are better located in the British Museum, there is a tacit acknowledgement that there is a significance to exhibiting them in their country of origin, even if it is only temporary. If Australian artefacts can return in this way, then why can’t they make a similar loan of the Parthenon Marbles?

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861

From:
ABC News (Australia)

Indigenous artefacts collected by Captain Cook set to return for exhibit in Australia
Updated February 26, 2015 19:11:43

The National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra says a controversial exhibition will see Indigenous souvenirs collected by Captain James Cook return to Australia for the first time in 245 years.

The British Museum in London will loan 150 Indigenous exhibits for display, including the shield and spears thought to be taken by Captain Cook from Botany Bay in 1770.
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February 27, 2015

Bronze Statuette returned to Oliveriano Archaeological museum

Posted at 1:57 pm in Similar cases

A bronze statuette stolen from an Italian museum has been returned after it was identified at an Auction in New York.

Bronze statuette of Hercules from Oliveriano Archaeological Museum in Pesaro

Bronze statuette of Hercules from Oliveriano Archaeological Museum in Pesaro

From:
BBC News

25 February 2015 Last updated at 16:13
Stolen art returned to Italy from New York

An ancient statuette and an 18th Century painting have been returned to Italy, having turned up in New York decades after being stolen.

The painting, The Holy Trinity Appearing to Saint Clement, is by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, a Venetian artist born in 1696.
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February 24, 2015

Germany sued in US courts over Nazi looted Guelph treasure

Posted at 2:02 pm in Similar cases

Once again, the courts of the District of Columbia seems to be one of the destinations of choice for litigation involving Nazi loot.

In this instance, the items in question are the Guelph Treasures, which two claimants were sold under duress by their ancestors in 1935 to the state of Prussia, then overseen by high-ranking Nazi Hermann Göring. The treasures are currently displayed in Berlin’s Bode Museum.

Part of the Guelph treasure currently on display in Berlin

Part of the Guelph treasure currently on display in Berlin

From:
Wall Street Journal

Germany Is Sued in U.S. Court Over Medieval Treasure Acquired by Nazis
By Mary M. Lane
Updated Feb. 24, 2015 12:13 a.m. ET

BERLIN—A year after Germany pledged to bolster its efforts to return art stolen by the Nazis, Jewish claimants to medieval relics valued at millions of dollars say the government isn’t living up to its promise.

Two claimants to a collection of medieval Christian treasure filed a suit in the U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday against the German government and the government-controlled museum that owns the artifacts. They allege their ancestors sold the collection, known as the Guelph treasure, under duress in 1935 to the state of Prussia, then overseen by high-ranking Nazi Hermann Göring.
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Virtual technologies as a solution for cultural property disputes

Posted at 1:44 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Kwame Opoku has written an interesting response to Paul Mason’s recent article suggesting that virtual reality and 3D printing could be a solution to the Parthenon Marbles problem.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Kwame Opoku (by email)

CAN MODERN TECHNOLOGY HELP RESOLVE DISPUTES ON RESTITUTION OF CULTURAL ARTEFACTS?
Kwame Opoku
20 February 2015

There is no doubt that modern technology can contribute a great deal to arts and education generally in spreading knowledge about the cultures of the world. For example, a child in Nigeria can learn a lot about Africa if she has access to Internet, IPhone or IPad. She can learn about African History, the drinking habits of the English, German family relations, Ghanaian Music and Dance. She could also learn about Yoruba cosmology, costumes and sculpture. But it still remains to be established whether modern technology could help resolve thorny problems of restitution of cultural artefacts.

Paul Mason has in an article in the Guardian, ”Let’s end the row over the Parthenon marbles – with a new kind of museum” has suggested that technologies such as virtual reality and 3D printing could make the physical location of ancient artefacts less important:
“However, the rise of digital technology should allow us to imagine a new kind of museum altogether. The interactive audio guides and digital reconstructions found in some museums should be just the beginning. It is now possible to extend the museum into virtual space so that exhibits become alive, with their own context and complexity. Hard as it is when you are managing a business based on chunks of stone and gold, we should challenge museum curators to think of their primary material as information.”
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February 18, 2015

UN Security Council resolution to protect Syrian Heritage

Posted at 2:03 pm in Similar cases

Its great that the UN has taken an interest in the looting of Syria, although as pointed out before, a lot of misinformation also surrounds the issue.

On the other hand, it is criminal that it takes so long to acknowledge that it is going to be a problem. With both Iraq and Egypt still fresh in people’s minds, it was clear that if the rule of law is removed, then the looting begins not long after. There are already international laws about purchasing of looted artefacts (although not all countries are signed up to them). What is needed is more control over the dealers that act as a conduit for artefacts out of war zones into the hands of private collectors. Without a market for the items, there might still be destruction in Syria, but the looting with the intent of profit would all but disappear.

The ruins of Apamea in Syria in 2004, before the current conflict

The ruins of Apamea in Syria in 2004, before the current conflict

From:
Artnet

UN Bans Export of Antiquities To Target Islamic State Revenue
Hili Perlson, Tuesday, February 17, 2015

UNESCO has published the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199 that condemns the destruction of cultural heritage and adopts legal measures to counter illicit trafficking of antiquities from Iraq and Syria. The resolution decidedly targets Islamic State revenues, and threatens to place economic and diplomatic sanctions against countries and individuals that enable terrorist groups to profit from trade in antiquities, oil, and hostages.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, welcomed the new resolution, calling its adoption “a milestone for enhanced protection of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria.” The measures stipulated in the document extend to Syria “the prohibition of trade of cultural objects already in place for Iraq since 2003,” she added.
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February 16, 2015

Aboriginal leaders want British Museum to return more artefacts

Posted at 10:17 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

A few years ago, the law in the UK was changed to allow certain artefacts to be returned to their country of origin.

The 2004 Human Tissue Act had its origins in controlling the unauthorised storage of body parts of deceased patients by hospitals, but section 47 of the act covered a very different, yet tenuously related subject – the repatriation of human remains.

Following a successful campaign by Australian Aboriginal groups, a decision had been made by the British Government to make changes to the law, to allow artefacts that involved human remains (i.e. they were human remains, or part of them was composed from human remains) to be returned to their countries of origin. This change in the law was a major step forward, as for the first time it over-rode the 1963 British Museum Act, opening a new route by which items could be de-accessioned from the institution.

After the need for changes to the law were identified by a working group led by Professor Norman Palmer (who has recently been associated with the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles), the Museums that held artefacts that might be affected by any change in the law, all wanted to limit any potential losses to their collections. As a result of this, various limitations were invoked within the act. Firstly, there was a 1000 year limit – artefacts older than this were not covered – a move that safeguarded any Egyptian mummies held by Britain’s major museums. The second limitation was a much more major distinction that of bones versus stones. It was argued that bones (i.e. human remains) were one category of artefact, whereas stones (i.e. pretty much everything else that was inanimate) constituted an entirely different category. While there are reasons that human remains should perhaps be seen in a different light, the move was arguably more about safeguarding large tranches of the museum’s collections, than it was about any real ethical distinction.

In the years since the Human Tissue Act came into force, there have been many instances of human remains being returned, from museums all over Britain. The returns have not just been to Australian Aboriginal groups, but also to many other indigenous peoples around the world.

During this time though, the stones versus bones argument never entirely disappeared. Aboriginal groups were pleased with the return of human remains, but to them, many other items in Britain’s museums held equally important cultural significance. The British Museum is now loaning some of the Aboriginal items in its collection to the National Museum of Australia, leading to new claims that some of these items should be returned. As the Aboriginal groups point out, these items tell a story about them and their culture, not a story about England.

Minor successes in this field have already been achieved, such as the Kwakwaka’wakw mask returned on a renewable loan basis, but these have been few and far between. To achieve what the Aboriginal Groups want would require another change in the law. This should not be considered as an insurmountable challenge – a few years after the 2004 Human Tissue Act, MP Andrew Dismore introduced the Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution Act, which punched a new hole in the anti-restitution clauses of the British Museum Act – this time allowing the return of items looted during the Nazi Era.

With each new special case, the legitimacy of more artefacts within the British Museum’s collection comes into question, leading to further pressure for changes in the law to give the potential for long running restitution cases such as that of the Parthenon Marbles to be resolved.

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861

From:
Guardian

Indigenous leaders fight for return of relics featuring in major new exhibition
Paul Daley
Saturday 14 February 2015 00.03 GMT

When Gary Murray contemplates the thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects held in the vaults of the British Museum in London, he strikes a simple analogy.

“All of these things that belong to our people in Australia – they don’t tell a story about the Queen of England, do they?” he asks.
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February 12, 2015

Syria and the looting of antiquities by ISIS

Posted at 2:13 pm in Similar cases

Many photos have appeared in recent months showing the extent of looting and vandalism by ISIS in Syria and Northern Iraq.

Attempts are now being made to prevent this, which is a great step forward.

Many reports however also claim that the looting is the terrorist organisation’s second largest revenue stream after oil, although this link is as yet completely unproven and most likely incorrect, as proved by Jason Felch’s article here.

Archaeologists Rene Teijgeler and Isber Sabrinelooking for looted antiquities at a market in Gaziantep, Turkey

Archaeologists Rene Teijgeler and Isber Sabrinelooking for looted antiquities at a market in Gaziantep, Turkey

From:
Wall Street Journal

Culture Brigade
Syrian ‘Monuments Men’ Race to Protect Antiquities as Looting Bankrolls Terror
By Joe Parkinson, Ayla Albayrak and Duncan Mavin

TURKEY-SYRIA BORDER—In a hotel basement on the Turkish side of this combat-scarred frontier, a group of unlikely warriors is training to fight on a little-known front of Syria’s civil war: the battle for the country’s cultural heritage.

The recruits aren’t grizzled fighters but graying academics, more at home on an archaeological dig than a battlefield. For months, they have journeyed across war-torn regions of Syria, braving shelling, smugglers and the jihadists of Islamic State. Their mission: to save ancient artifacts and imperiled archaeological sites from profiteers, desperate civilians and fundamentalists who have plundered Syria’s rich artistic heritage to fund their war effort.
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February 6, 2015

3D printing – now everyone can copy ancient artefacts

Posted at 2:06 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Producing replicas of artefacts is often touted as a solution to ownership disputes – both parties can have a version. Of course it then raises a question of who gets to have the originals. Or, if both are equal then why either party would mind not having the originals.

There are many copies of the Parthenon Sculptures, made from a smaller number of first generation casts, but if they are indistinguishable, then one has to wonder why the British Museum has from time to time proposed that Greece should be completely happy with casts, when they themselves are unwilling to give up the originals.

A copy has its own history from when it was made & how it was made, but this is a completely different history to that of the originals. As evidenced in many cultural property disputes around the world, provenance is critical in many different ways. A piece of rock from the moon, even if of identical composition to one on earth has an inherent importance because of where it originated and what we can learn from that.

That said, copies have their own value, in allowing people to study items from a physical artistic point of view more easily & the prevalence of 3D printing is going to make this sort of research more commonplace in future.

The British Museum allows some artefacts to be downloaded and 3D printed

The British Museum allows some artefacts to be downloaded and 3D printed

From:
Charlotte Observer

3-D printer copying of sculptures: Is it legal?
By Ariel Bogle
Posted: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015

Almost every physical object, from a spoon to Edgar Degas’ famous dancer sculptures, can be scanned and uploaded onto the Internet as a file, ready for download by anyone with a desktop 3-D printer. But like the digitization of music and books before it, the migration of objects of art and design online brings with it the baggage of America’s frustrating intellectual-property regime.

A cast of Michelangelo’s famous 16th-century sculpture of Moses sits on the campus of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. Jerry Fisher, who lives in the area, decided to create a 3-D printable version of the artwork using photogrammetry – analyzing 2-D photos of an object and turning them into a digital 3-D model.
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February 2, 2015

The 8th Lord Elgin and ransacking of Beijing’s Summer Palace

Posted at 1:56 pm in Similar cases

Regular readers of this blog will know that Thomas Bruce, AKA the Seventh Earl of Elgin, who removed the sculptures from the Parthenon, was not the only one in his family with a reputation for pilfering historic artefacts.

His son, the Eighth Earl of Elgin was responsible for the ransacking of Beijing’s Summer Palace and the fallout from this single event still causes controversy and tension between Britain and China today, whenever one of the artefacts is put up for public auction.

The full documentary is available to listen to on BBC’s iPlayer.

Some Bronze Zodiac heads looted from the Summer Palace have now been recovered and are on display in Chinese Museums

Some Bronze Zodiac heads looted from the Summer Palace have now been recovered and are on display in Chinese Museums

From:
BBC History Magazine

2 February 2015 Last updated at 08:52
The palace of shame that makes China angry
By Chris Bowlby BBC News, Beijing

There is a deep, unhealed historical wound in the UK’s relations with China – a wound that most British people know nothing about, but which causes China great pain. It stems from the destruction in 1860 of the country’s most beautiful palace.

It’s been described as China’s ground zero – a place that tells a story of cultural destruction that everyone in China knows about, but hardly anyone outside.
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January 28, 2015

Korean artefacts return from LA County Museum of Art

Posted at 2:16 pm in Similar cases

Two Korean artefact purchased by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are being returned after being identified as having been illegally removed from the country by a US soldier.

Official seal of Queen Moon-jung

Official seal of Queen Moon-jung

From:
The Korea Times

Two stolen Korean artifacts to be returned home after 65 years
January 26, 2015

Two stolen artifacts will soon return to South Korea after 65 years.

The official seal of Queen Moon-jung, as well as a seal of King Hyeon-jong, were illegally taken by an American soldier during the Korean War.
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