Quote of the Day

More damage was done to the Parthenon in 1801-2 than in the previous 2,200 years.

Melina Mercouri, Former Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture

November 5, 2004

Britain to negotiate return of Ethiopian Tabots

Posted at 2:43 pm in Similar cases

Ethiopia wants the British Museum to return a collection of sacred tablets, that are currently kept locked in a vault at the museum.

Big News Network

Friday 5th November, 2004
Brits negotiate future of sacred tablets

The British Museum is negotiating the return of tablets known as tabots that represent the Biblical Ark of the Covenant and are sacred to Ethiopian Christians.

The Art Newspaper said Thursday the tabots were part of the Maqdala treasures seized in an 1868 punitive expedition to Ethiopia — then known as Abyssinia — by British troops that led to the suicide of Emperor Tewodros. Much of the loot wound up in the British museum in what one former director described as a less than glorious episode.
Read the rest of this entry »

November 2, 2004

Chinese jewelry stolen from British Museum

Posted at 3:17 pm in British Museum

The British Museum tells us that the Elgin Marbles are looked after better in London than they would be in Athens. The number of incidents involving artefacts disappearing from the museum might suggest otherwise however.

BBC News

Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 15:17 GMT
Chinese jewels stolen from museum
Items of rare medieval Chinese jewellery have been stolen from the British Museum in London.

The 15 pieces were stolen by a thief believed to be masquerading as a visitor to the museum on Friday.

“We believe the theft took place while the gallery was open to the public as no alarms were activated and there was no sign of a break-in,” said police.
Read the rest of this entry »

Ebay to block sales of looted art

Posted at 3:16 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The trade in looted artwork is in the news a lot at present, largely due to the action that took place in many archaeological sites & museums in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government.
The British Museum have now requested that Ebay take steps to limit the use of their auction service for the illegal antiquities trade, although it is having trouble defining exactly how things should be classified as legal sales.

New York Times

Museum Asks EBay to Block Some Sales

Published: October 30, 2004

LONDON, Oct. 29 – For centuries, London has served as an international market for the treasures and antiquities of empires.

Thus the looting of Iraq’s National Museum and numerous archaeological sites of Mesopotamia has incited British parliamentarians to crack down on the illicit antiquities trade – this time of its own national treasures. The pieces are recovered by a record number of Britons (about 10,000 each weekend) who scour field, forest and shire with metal detectors in hopes of finding some mud-encrusted relics.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 27, 2004

Birmingham barrister says that handing back the marbles is not an option

Posted at 2:05 pm in Elgin Marbles

In this article Peter Andrews QC, a Birmingham barrister, argues that Britain has a completely valid legal claim of ownership over the marbles. This whole article misses the point however, as the current Greek requests for the return of the marbles specifically makes no mention of the legality of the acquisition, or the issue of ownership. What they are asking for is for the marbles to be returned to Greece – to be displayed in Greece. The Greek government has previously stated publicly that they would be willing to accept them on a permanent loan. So the entire article whether right or wrong in its assertions (I am not a lawyer, so will not try to analyse this aspect, as others are far better able to do this than me) is essentially arguing over an aspect of the case that is irrelevant & only of incidental interest.
Does being legal necessarily make an action the right thing to do? Or does it mean that the action should no longer be questioned in any way?

ic Birmingham

‘Handing back’ the Elgin Marbles is not an option

Oct 27 2004

The Elgin Marbles are arguably the finest example of surviving ancient Greek sculptures in the world and yet they reside in the British Museum and not The Parthenon.

Arguments over whether they were saved by an heroic collector or plundered by an opportunist villain have lasted almost 200 years.

Birmingham barrister Peter Andrews QC examines the legal argument surrounding Britain’s retention of the stones The Elgin Marbles constitute one of the most famous and prestigious collections of ancient Greek sculptures anywhere in the world.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 20, 2004

The Ethiopian Tabots hidden in the British Museum

Posted at 1:55 pm in Similar cases

Eleven tablets, taken from Ethiopia by the British, now sit in a vault at the British Museum, but none of the staff there, including the director are allowed to see them.

The Independent

Hidden in a British Museum basement: the lost Ark looted by colonial raiders
By Terry Kirby, Chief Reporter

19 October 2004

On a shelf in a locked basement room underneath the British Museum, are kept 11 wooden tablets; they are covered in purple velvet. And no one among the museum’s staff – including Neil MacGregor, the director – is permitted to enter the room.

The tablets – or tabots – are sacred objects in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the most important of the 500 or so priceless Magdala treasures, looted by Britain from Ethiopia in 1868 and now held in this country. For almost two decades, the only people allowed access have been Ethiopian church clergy; it is considered sacrilegious for anyone else to see them.
Read the rest of this entry »

Where are Uganda’s artefacts?

Posted at 1:53 pm in Similar cases

In the case of the Elgin Marbles, the British Museum has some level of claim over their ownership, although many people dispute its validity. In the case of the Luzira head from Uganda however, they have absolutely no claim over its ownership, yet refuse to return it after it was lent to them for studying, claiming that it would deteriorate if returned.
Apart from anything else, I find this argument insulting to the Ugandan’s, in its implication that even if they wanted to, they could not manage to obtain a single climatically controlled space in their museum for the display of this head if required.

The Monitor (Kampala)

Where Are Uganda’s Artefacts?
The Monitor (Kampala)
October 17, 2004
Posted to the web October 18, 2004
Patricia Nanteza

Everything in a museum has historic importance and deserves potent protection. If you have been to the Uganda museum, it may not have impressed you but it still stores all our pieces of ancient memories.

However some of the most important and controversial items are missing. But what are they? In whose custody are they and why? One of the most important yet missing items from the museum is the Luzira head.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 18, 2004

Stolen relics returned to Egypt

Posted at 12:30 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Looting of Egypt has been a problem, both in the past & at present, as the return of the stolen goods mentioned in this article illustrates, compared to the Rosetta Stone which still remains in Britain.

BBC News

Friday, 15 October, 2004
Stolen relics go home to Egypt

More than 600 Egyptian antiquities flew back to Egypt from the UK on Thursday, four years after they were stolen and smuggled out.

Wadia Hanna from Egypt’s prosecutor-general’s office said the items were stolen before being shipped to London via Switzerland.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 8, 2004

British Museum visitor figures now available online

Posted at 9:12 pm in British Museum

For a long time the British Museum, in its assertions that more people see the Elgin Marbles there than would see them in Athens, have relied on out of date figures for the number of visitors to the museum.

A new government website makes available regularly updated figures, although with a free admission museum such as the British Museum, I don’t know how accurate this data is & moreover many of the people may be repeat visitors (if it is free for re-admission, then why not go out for lunch somewhere else – but does this mean that you are counted twice?).
Another flaw in the figures, is that they are giving data for the entire museum, whereas clearly in a vast non-linear museum such as the British Museum it is unlikely that any visitors visit every single gallery (as was determined by the previous polls of visitors linked to from this site.)

The actual figures are available here

Department of Culture, Media & Sport (press release)

5 October 2004

Culture Department To Publish Regular Monthly Figures For Visits To Its Museums And Galleries

From this month, the DCMS is to publish regular statistics for visits to the museums and galleries it sponsors. These will appear on our website at the beginning of every month.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 4, 2004

Ethiopia requests return of looted treasures

Posted at 7:40 pm in Similar cases

Ethiopia has been involved in a long running dispute over the return of the Axum Obelisk from Italy, but has also requested the return of other treasures from a number of countries including Britain.

The Independent

04 October 2004
Give back looted treasures, Ethiopia tells the world
After decades of political wrangling, Italy agreed to return the Rome Obelisk to its home. Now Addis Ababa wants Britain to send back its ancient relics, including some held by the Queen, writes Meera Selva

Wander around Axum, a sleepy town in northern Ethiopia, and it is impossible to ignore the giant pit that has been dug right in the centre of town. It is to be filled with the Rome Obelisk, a 1,700-year-old carved granite stone that was hauled away by the Italians in 1937 during Mussolini’s brutal occupation of the country.
Read the rest of this entry »

October 2, 2004

EU funding requested for New Acropolis Museum

Posted at 12:08 am in New Acropolis Museum

The New Acropolis Museum is definitely going ahead. However the incoming ND government have concerns about the cost, or more specifically how they are going to find the money.


Thursday September 30, 2004
New Acropolis Museum Budget grows to 129 million, Greece seeks EU funding

Athens has started the process for securing European Union financing for the New Acropolis Museum, the Culture Ministry said yesterday. The project, with which Greece had hoped to pressure the British Museum into returning its Elgin Collection of fifth-century BC sculptures from the Parthenon, was supposed to have been ready in time for the Olympics but never got off the ground. According to the ministry, it will now cost 129 million euros, with 85 million provided by Brussels. The initial budget was 94 million. The museum is to be built in Makriyianni, under the ancient citadel.

October 1, 2004

New Acropolis Museum to receive EU funding

Posted at 2:20 pm in New Acropolis Museum

Now that the New Acropolis Museum is definitely going ahead, the Greek Government is hoping to include it in the list of projects financed by the 3rd Community support fund.

Hellenic Embassy Press Office

New Acropolis Museum to be included in 3rd Community Support Fund
30 September, 2004

The new Acropolis Museum will be included in the list of projects to be financed by the 3rd Community Support Fund. The technical report for the museum as well as a cost/benefit analysis has been sent to the Ministries of the Economy and of Finance respectively. The museum will cost approximately 85 million euro, 50% of which amount will by funded by the EU and 50% by Greece.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Culture, a re-structuring of the Board of Directors of the Organization for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum is in progress as is the reissue of a presidential decree regarding its operation. Re-structuring of the museum’s management as well as the supervision of the project will also take place, deemed essential if the New Acropolis Museum project is to be approved by the EU.

September 11, 2004

British Museum to loan Iran Cyrus Cylinder

Posted at 2:35 pm in Similar cases

The British Museum is to Loan (for the second time) the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, following controversy in the 1970s when it was lent previously. This does however conveniently gloss over the question of how it ended up in the British Museum in the first place.

Persian Journal

IRAN – “Cyrus The Great” Cylinder Coming Home
Sep 10, 2004, 22:53

The British Museum is to lend Iran one of its most famous antiquities, which is regarded as the first charter of human rights, 30 years after its loan to the Shah triggered a fierce diplomatic row.

The inscriptions on the clay drum known as the Cyrus Cylinder detail the conquest of the Babylon of Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar by the 6th-century BC Persian king, Cyrus the Great. It was the Iraq/Iran war of the time.
Read the rest of this entry »