Quote of the Day

We do not want to empty the shelves of foreign museums. We want Greek antiquities to continue being ambassadors of our country around the world, But the antiquities trade must abide by ethical codes and legal rules.

Giorgos Voulgarakis, Former Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture

December 3, 2014

Did people really think Elgin’s removal of marbles was legal

Posted at 9:01 am in Elgin Marbles

I have been aware of this letter for quite some time, but due to the fact that most of the articles I post are from current news sources, it has not been mentioned on this site before.

Many claim that at time of the removal of the Marbles Elgin was merely doing the same as many others & that it was not called into question. There are various things that suggest this is not the case, but the argument is still pushed as fact by many supporters of retention of the sculptures.

A letter from Robert Adair (who was in charge of British affairs in Constantinople in 1809 – 1810) clearly in a response to a request from Lord Elgin. It appears that Elgin had asked Adair for a letter to help to bolster his claim for the Marbles, although as no copy of this request exists, it is hard to know exactly what the request was.

Adair’s reply to Elgin was clear – “that the Porte absolutely denied your having any property in those marbles. By this expression I understood the Porte to mean that the persons who had sold the marbles to your Lordship had no right so to dispose of them.”

From this wording, it seems fairly clear that to Adair at least (and he was a senior diplomat on the ground in the country that was supposed to have permitted Elgin to remove the sculptures), that Elgin had absolutely no legal entitlement to the sculptures whatsoever.

You can read a much more in-depth analysis of this letter, along with photos of the original on Theodore Theodorou’s website.

Below is the full text of the letter.

From:
AdairToElgin.com

July 31st 1811

My Lord

In answer to your Lordship’s enquiry respecting the marbles collected by your Lordship at Athens, and for leave to transmit which to this country I was directed by the Sec(retary) of State for foreign affairs to apply to the Turkish government, I have to inform your Lordship that Mr Pisani more than once assured me that the Porte absolutely denied your having any property in those marbles. By this expression I understood the Porte to mean that the persons who had sold the marbles to your Lordship had no right so to dispose of them.

At the same time I beg leave to add that this communication was not made to me in any formal conference with the Turkish ministers.

I have the honour to be,
my Lord,
your Lordship’s most obed(ien)t
and humble serv(an)t
R. Adair

November 24, 2014

Promakhos depicts a legal case for return of Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 8:17 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Events

More coverage of the Promakhos movie which is now scheduled to open in Greek cinemas from November 27th onwards.

Promotional image for the Promakhos movie

Promotional image for the Promakhos movie

from:
Kathimerini (English Edition)

Monday November 24, 2014
New film, ‘Promakhos,’ makes case for return of Parthenon Marbles

Two lawyers fight for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to Greece in a film produced by Greek-American brothers Coerte and John Voorhees, due to open at theaters on Thursday, November 27.

The brothers were in the Greek capital last week to promote “Promakhos,” which they have also written and directed, and spoke to the press about the project and what they hope it can achieve. John and Coerte are the sons of a US-based lawyer who has been an active campaigner for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens. Coerte studied history and classics at Georgetown University. “Promakhos” is their first film.
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November 17, 2014

ICOMOS support for Parthenon Marbles UNESCO mediation

Posted at 11:51 pm in Elgin Marbles

ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments & Sites has recently being holding their 18th General assembly in Florence, Italy.

During this meeting, a resolution (Resolution 18GA 2014/40) was passed to:

To support the mediation process proposed by Greece for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles on the basis of UNESCO’s 2010 mediation and to encourage both parties (Greece and United Kingdom) to open a fruitful dialogue aiming at a mutually acceptable solution.

ICOMOS 18th General Assembly

ICOMOS 18th General Assembly

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture

DRAFT RESOLUTIONS – ICOMOS 2014

Proposers
ICOMOS GREECE.
Dr. ATHANASIOS NAKASIS
PRESIDENT ICOMOS GREECE

ICOMOS GREECE.
Dr. ELENA KORKA
ICOMOS GREECE – International Issues
General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage
Hellenic Ministry of Culture

BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND JUSTIFICATION:

In the 19th century Lord Elgin removed integral architectural sculptures from the frieze, the metopes and the pediments from the Parthenon. The Parthenon Marbles that are on display at the British Museum make up approximately 60% of the total remaining sculptural material of the monument. The need for their reunification with the other 40%, now exhibited in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, is a cultural desideratum. It will be to the benefit of every visitor (scholar or not), who seeks to view the Parthenon and its historical environment. The issue of the Parthenon Marbles is continuously on the agenda of the Committee for the Promotion of the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) since 1984. Twenty two (22) Committees all over the world were founded in support of the reunification, while polls carried out through the years, show the high public interest on the issue.
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November 16, 2014

The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act

Posted at 10:08 pm in Similar cases

A new bill in the House of Representatives in the USA aims to limit ISIS funding, by prohibiting the import of Syrian antiquities.

Various studies have indicated that the trade in looted artefacts has played a key role in ISIS’s funding in recent months.

If the bill is passed, its remit is wider than the current ISIS situation in Syria & Northern Iraq, allowing it to apply to other areas of instability around the world, where looting is taking place.

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:
US Committee of the Blue Shield

Breaking news: bill in House to protect cultural property
The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act

Legislation to protect cultural property worldwide and curb ISIL funding by prohibiting import of Syrian antiquities was introduced into the House by Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ).

For Immediate Release

November 14, 2014

Contacts:
Tim Mulvey (Engel) 202-226-9103
Jeff Sagnip (Smith) 202-225-3765
Engel, Smith offer bill to preserve cultural preservation preservation, curb ISIL funding

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations today announced that they have introduced legislation to improve American efforts to preserve cultural property around the world and cut off one source of funding to ISIL. The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 5703) would take steps to coordinate efforts across government to preserve cultural artifacts where they may be threatened by conflict, instability, or natural disaster.
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November 15, 2014

Greek museum visitor numbers increase in 2014

Posted at 10:05 pm in New Acropolis Museum

The New Acropolis Museum remains the most popular museum in Greece, with 158,581 visitors during the period of measurement – an increase of 36.9% on the same period the previous year.

These figures are related to the Euro zone financial crisis on two levels. Firstly, as the Greek economy is gradually showing some signs of recovery, people are starting to think once again that it is a place worth visiting, rather than fearing that their holiday will be ruined by strikes.

At the same time, the economies of other countries in Europe are also starting to recover, meaning that people are taking weekend city breaks & trips abroad generally more frequently than they were over the last few years.

Acropolis Museum

Acropolis Museum

From:
Greek Reporter

Significant Increase in Visitors and Revenue at Greek Museums and Archaeological Sites
by Aggelos Skordas
Nov 12, 2014

A significant increase exceeding 20% in the attendance as well as the revenue of museums and archaeological sites across Greece in the first seven months of 2014, documented the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

ELSTAT data showed that 22.1% more people visited museums during the January-July period, while revenue increased by 28%. At the same time, the archaeological sites across the country saw a visitors’ increase of 22.9% compared to the previous period while revenue increased by 16.1%. It is worth noting that solely on July, 29.8% more people visited museums and 20.2% archaeological sites. During that month, revenue was increased by 33.4% and 13.8% at museums and archaeological sites respectively.
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Zahi Hawass faces allegations he facilitated antiquities thefts

Posted at 9:55 pm in Similar cases

For many years, Zahi Hawass took delight in being the official (and often controversial) representative of Egypt’s antiquities.

Since the fall of Mubarak though, many allegations have made about events that took place while he was in charge of the country’s antiquities.

former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass

former Egyptian Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass

From:
Guardian

Former Egyptian antiquities minister faces questions over theft from pyramid
Zahi Hawass denies claim that he helped German hobbyists steal samples from Great Pyramid at Giza
Patrick Kingsley in Cairo
The Guardian, Wednesday 12 November 2014 14.04 GMT

The world’s most famous contemporary Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass, has been summoned for questioning over claims that he helped three German hobbyists steal rock samples from inside Egypt’s largest pyramid. Hawass denies the charges, saying “there is nothing against me”.

In April 2013, the three Germans – two amateur archaeologists and a film-making accomplice – crept inside the inner sanctum of the Great Pyramid at Giza, the last the seven wonders of the ancient world to remain relatively intact.
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November 14, 2014

Neil MacGregor on the Parthenon Marbles – Greece responds

Posted at 11:40 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Following Kwame Opoku’s reponse to British Museum Director Neil MacGregor’s recent comments on the Parthenon Marbles, the Greek Ministry of Culture have also forwarded me their own response, highlighting the many inaccuracies & inconsistencies in MacGregor’s interview.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture (by email)

Response to comments made by Neil MacGregor in an interview in the Times on 7th November

1. UNESCO, which has invited the Greek and the British Governments to take part in a mediation process to resolve the issue, is an intergovernmental organization. However, the Trustees of the British Museum are not part of the British government. It is the Trustees and not the Government that own the great cultural collections of the country.

UNESCO is indeed an intergovernmental organization. It is hard to believe that a Government would discuss an issue it does not have competence on. It is hard to believe that if there were political will from the UK for the return of the Marbles to Greece the BM would resist this will. Negotiations conducted all those years with the good services of UNESCO were between the two States (Greece and the UK). Yet, a BM representative was always there. In any case the links at all levels between the BM and the UK Government are well known. Returns have already been effected in Britain on the basis of changes in the law such as the enactment of the Human Tissue Act 2004. This Act enabled the return of human remains located in UK museum collections (under the same status as the one applying to the Marbles). Those were unethically removed from Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Maori and Native Americans and were returned to their countries of origin. In this light persistence in formalities can only be used as an evasion of the real issue.
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Lord Elgin – enlightened liberator or avaricious looter?

Posted at 11:26 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

The heightened interest in the Parthenon Marbles following the visit by a team of lawyers to Athens has prompted many recent articles on the subject.

Here, Vicky Pryce & Dominic Selwood argue the cases on opposite sides of the restitution debate.

Remember to vote in the poll on the website at the top of the original article.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

From:
Prospect

Duel: should we return the Elgin marbles?
Did Lord Elgin liberate or steal these priceless historic artefacts? Our panellists battle it out
by Vicky Pryce, Dominic Selwood / November 13, 2014
Published in December 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine

About authors

Vicky Pryce (Yes)
Vicky Pryce is a Greek economist and former joint head of the UK’s Government Economic Service

Dominic Selwood (No)
Dominic Selwood is a historian and barrister

Yes
At the beginning of the 19th century, Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin, was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which occupied Greece. He entered the Parthenon in Athens and documented the sculptures, making moulds and casts. He bribed Turkish officials to allow him to engage in daily excavations before removing a large part of the marbles to Britain. Bribing occupying powers to purloin national treasures is not the sort of behaviour usually deemed worthy of a British Ambassador.

The looting that happened during the Second World War has, on the whole, been made good. No one accepts the right of those who occupied half of Europe to walk off with the revered relics of those subjugated nations in the 20th century. So why was it acceptable to do so in the 19th century?
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MacGregor and Cuno – in harmony over opposition to restitution

Posted at 11:07 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Neil MacGregor’s comments earlier this week about the Parthenon Marbles and why he believed that they should remain in his museum.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Modern Ghana

Feature Article | 14 November 2014 Last updated at 12:28 CET
British Museum Director Defends Once More Retention Of Parthenon Marbles
By Kwame Opoku, Dr.

“Yes. It’s not even a Greek monument. Many other Greek cities and islands protested bitterly about the money taken from them to build this in Athens.”– Neil MacGregor on the Parthenon Marbles.

On reading the recent statements of Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, regarding the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, I had to remind myself constantly that I was not reading an old article but a fresh report of an interview with Richard Morrison, in the British newspaper, the Times.

The director of the British Museum has not changed, improved or modified his position on the issues. (1) He is singing the same song as James Cuno even though in a different key. (2) We shall spare the reader the time and effort of going through all the untenable British arguments which have been discussed elsewhere. (3)
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Disputed artefact lists and looted artefact lists

Posted at 10:56 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Only a few days after publishing a list of disputed artefacts, the Guardian has now also published a list of looted artefacts..

Many of the comments I made in my introduction to the original piece still stand. It has been stated in the past that each artefact dispute is unique & should be judged on its own merits (i.e. the argument that return would set a precedent is unfounded). This lists shows just how diverse the category of looted artefacts is.

I’m also not quite sure how a list of the ten most notorious looted artworks can manage to omit the Parthenon Marbles.

The bust of Nefertiti in Germany's Neues Museum, claimed by Egypt

The bust of Nefertiti in Germany’s Neues Museum, claimed by Egypt

From:
Guardian

From Napoleon to the Nazis: the 10 most notorious looted artworks
Romans, Nazis, Victorian-era Brits, noughties cat-burglars – they have all stolen priceless works. Here are the most shocking art thefts of the last two millennia
Ivan Lindsay
Thursday 13 November 2014 17.31 GMT

Looting has been part of human behaviour since ancient times. The Romans did it in their very first conquest, in 396 BC. They stripped the city of Veii of anything valuable and established a template for looting that lasted over 2,000 years. It was only in 1815 that the Congress of Vienna made the first serious effort at post-conflict restitution of plundered art.

After the Romans it became standard practice for a victor to remove all treasure from the vanquished, to weaken their status. Booty also provided handy funds to pay for military campaigns.
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Indiana Jones: talented archaeologist or feckless looter?

Posted at 1:56 pm in Similar cases

Possibly the most well known archaeologist is Indiana Jones. Of course, he isn’t a real person, but for people who would not normally read articles on archaeology, he might be the closest that they would ever get to one.

The reality though is that the way he acts is more akin to being a looter than a true archaeologist. Real archaeology take far more time & effort, although it might not have quite the same number of fast moving action scenes as say Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What is particularly unfortunate though is that some archaeologists (Zahi Hawass – we’re looking at you) seem to feel a need to style themselves on Harrison Ford’s character).

Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom - original movie poster

Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom – original movie poster

From:
Salon

Sunday, Nov 9, 2014 11:00 PM +0000
“Indiana Jones would be considered a looter”: Why we’re obsessed with glamorizing archaeologists
The lives of real archaeologists are even stranger than fiction, and a whole lot harder
Laura Miller

Several years ago, while researching a story on biblical archaeology, I had the chance to talk to a leader in the field by telephone. At one point, he kindly provided me with a lengthy explanation of pottery seriation, the means by which archaeologists track the history of a particular site. Styles of pottery change over time and vary from culture to culture, so if an archaeologist excavating a heap of broken shards encounters a layer of pieces radically different from the one below it, it’s likely a sign that a new population had moved in. “I’m sorry,” the archaeologist laughed when he finished. “It’s pretty boring.”

To the contrary. “I get paid to look at people’s trash” said one of the itinerant archaeologists interviewed by Marilyn Johnson for her new book, “Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble,” and she wasn’t wrong. The man who told me about pottery seriation has spent his life studying broken crockery, after all. But the great and undying magic of archaeology is just how much ancient rubbish can tell us. Sherlock Holmes may have used his encyclopedic knowledge of tobacco ash to catch criminals, but archaeologists can use animal teeth and plant seeds to change our understanding of the world.
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November 11, 2014

Reborn Getty Villa for post Marion True era – now looting-wary

Posted at 2:05 pm in Similar cases

The Getty has come under heavy attack from Italy in the last 10 years over numerous allegations of looting.

Now, a change of management later, they are describing themselves as being “looting-wary”. This is a great step forward, although I’m not sure they would have ever publicly stated before that they were looting-heedless. Publicly, they always maintained their stance that due diligence had been followed, but this all fell apart with the raid on the warehouse of art dealer Giacomo Medici.

Aphrodite statue returned to the Getty by Italy

Aphrodite statue returned to the Getty by Italy

From:
Art Newspaper

Getty plans to redisplay the Getty Villa
Acquisitions and long-term loans will expand focus beyond Ancient Greece and Rome
By Jori Finkel. Web only
Published online: 03 November 2014

Timothy Potts, the first director of the J. Paul Getty Museum with a PhD in ancient art and archaeology, has had ambitious ideas for revamping the Getty Villa since taking on the job two years ago. Now, after the appointment of Jeffrey Spier as the senior curator of antiquities, he reveals how the Getty’s plans for the villa are starting to take shape. He also tells The Art Newspaper that the Getty is planning to expand its antiquities collection to embrace ancient Mediterranean cultures beyond the museum’s traditional Greek and Roman focus. To achieve this the Los Angeles museum is working to organise long-term loans from other major museums, Potts says, and to make new acquisitions.

In their first interview together, Potts and Spier discussed their vision for fully reinstalling the galleries of the faux-Roman villa on the edge of Malibu that is home to the museum’s Roman and Greek antiquities. The current arrangement is a legacy of the Getty’s former antiquities curator, Marion True. Unveiled in 2006, True’s thematic displays, for example “Gods and Goddesses” and “Athletes and Competition”, mix objects of different periods.
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