May 14, 2008

Denmark denies looting artefacts from Bahrain

Posted at 1:23 pm in Similar cases

Danish officials have issued denials that expeditions from their country during the 1970s were involved in the illegal looting of artefacts from Bahrain.

Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)

Denmark denies theft charges
14th May 2008

DANISH officials yesterday hit back at allegations that their country stole some of Bahrain’s ancient national treasures.

Shura Council members Huda Nonoo and Faisal Fulad demanded artefacts discovered by Danish teams during expeditions in the 1970s be returned immediately during its weekly meeting on Monday.

The members pledged to meet Danish government officials, MPs and representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to negotiate the return of the objects.

The Moesgard Museum website says it has “a considerable collection of artefacts from Bahrain and other localities around the Arabian Gulf”.

However, museum’s Near East Department head Flemming Hojlund told the GDN from Hojbjerg, Denmark, that the only pieces not already returned were pot shards of no financial value.

“It is a serious allegation and not something we like to see in the newspapers,” said the archaeologist, who has travelled to Bahrain several times for excavations.

“Nothing illegal has ever taken place between Denmark and Bahrain. I do not understand how such rumours can start.”

Mr Hojlund said officials had been fully co-operating with the Bahrain National Museum on such issues since the 1950s.

“On excavations of ancient settlements, shards from broken pots made of burnt clay were unearthed in large quantities and most of them were thrown away,” he said.

“Some shards were brought to the museum for study.

“The Bahrain National Museum has a very large collection of pot shards from different periods of Bahrain history. Other museums like the British Museum and Moesgard Museum also have collections that are useful for teaching students about the culture history of the Gulf.”

Mr Hojlund said Denmark has an agreement with Bahrain government in which it is entitled to keep half of the artefacts that its archaeologists discovered during earlier excavations, which was standard practice around the world.

However, he said despite its legal entitlement, the European country had not evoked this clause because of the strong friendship between both countries.

Shura Council member Mohammed Radhi yesterday stood by his claims, alleging Denmark had yet to return some golden artefacts.

He said a former Bahrain government minister travelled to Denmark in 1986 and saw the artefacts himself and insisted those he saw had not been returned.

“I spoke with some of the people who accompanied him and they assured this to me,” said Mr Radhi.

Officials at the Denmark Embassy in Riyadh said they had been unaware of the controversy until it appeared in yesterday’s GDN.

A spokeswoman said officials had requested clarification on the situation from the government headquarters in Copenhagen and could not comment until they received a response. She added this could make comment until next week. Bahrain National Museum officials were unavailable for comment.

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