December 1, 2010

Tutankhamen treasures to return ot Egypt’s following Met Museum ownership decision

Posted at 2:04 pm in Similar cases

Further coverage of the decision taken by the Metropolitan Museum in New York to return nineteen artefacts to Egypt. The items were all originally located in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Return of two of the artefacts & acknowledgment of Egypt’s ownership of them was first mooted prior to the World War Two.

Wall Street Journal

Egypt Hunts Ancient Artifacts
New York’s Metropolitan Museum Says It Will Give Back 19 Items as Archaeologist Lobbies for Returns

CAIRO—Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s larger-than-life antiquities chief, is hunting for treasures from some of the richest known troves—the world’s prominent museums.

In an increasingly public campaign, Dr. Hawass is lobbying international museums to return some of Egypt’s most important archaeological artifacts. These include the Rosetta Stone, displayed for more than 200 years in the British Museum, and the Zodiac of Dendera, housed in the Louvre in Paris.

“I’m going to fight. I’m going to go and tell the world that these countries have no right to these antiquities,” Dr. Hawass said in an interview.

His most recent victory was the announcement Wednesday that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York would return 19 items, including a bracelet and a small bronze statue of a dog, that were excavated from the tomb of King Tutankhamun and held by the museum for decades.

“These objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the Government of Egypt,” said Met Director Thomas Campbell. The items will remain on display in New York City for several months before being returned to Egypt in June 2011.

Dr. Hawass called the return “a wonderful gesture” and praised the Met for its “ethical behavior.”

His repatriation campaign has resulted over the years in the return of more than 5,000 antiquities to Egypt, Dr. Hawass claims. The items he is seeking are intended to fill a new national museum in Cairo set for completion in 2013. The 935,000-square-foot Grand Egyptian Museum will cost an estimated $550 million, house more than 100,000 artifacts and will be “one of the flagship institutions in the world,” the archaeologist said.

Dr. Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Antiquities, said he envisions the Rosetta Stone, a 196 B.C. text used to first decipher hieroglyphs, as the “natural centerpiece” for the new museum. He also seeks return of a Ramses II statue on display in Turin, Italy, and a statue depicting the architect of the Great Pyramid in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Dr. Hawass is something of a global media icon, following a series of heavily hyped TV specials and a carefully cultivated public persona. His recent History Channel series, “Chasing Mummies,” depicted him as a sort of burly denim-clad Indiana Jones in a trademark leather Stetson hat. The archaeologist earned his Ph.D. in Egyptology in 1987 from the University of Pennsylvania and returned to Egypt the same year. He was appointed director of the Giza Plateau, which includes overseeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx. He was named head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in 2002.

Imperious and relentlessly self-promoting, Dr. Hawass also has become a polarizing figure in the insular ranks of international archaeology, and may soon become more so. Some critics accuse him of hogging credit for other people’s work and placing good television over sound science.

“I think Egyptologists kind of laugh and shrug their shoulders at Zahi,” said one British archaeologist, who has worked with Dr. Hawass.

But few seem to doubt the sincerity of his antiquity-repatriation effort, which has become a personal mission for the 63-year-old. Now, he is expanding his campaign. In April, he hosted a conference bringing together more than a dozen countries around the cause of repatriation of national treasures. Several participants, including Libya, Greece and Nigeria, submitted wish lists of items they want returned.

Even colleagues sympathetic to Dr. Hawass question whether such institutions will ever set the dangerous precedent of giving in to his demands. “If one object is given back to Egypt, then maybe Benin will want something and all the museums of the world will empty out,” said Salima Ikram, an Egyptology professor at the American University in Cairo.

The Rosetta Stone, for example, passed into British hands in 1801 when the British defeated Egypt’s French occupiers. There is no legal precedent for forcing the British Museum to give it up now.

Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, said the international legal framework regarding antiquities repatriation is murky.

A 1970 Unesco accord commits signatory countries to ban traffic in stolen antiquities, and sets standards for provenance. But many items on the Hawass wish list fall outside the purview of that accord.

Dr. Hawass’s toughest legal battle may be over the Rosetta Stone, because it was a spoil of war. The main modern example of legal proceedings to return spoils of war relate to World War II. Tribunals at the Hague have forced Germany and Russia to return items looted from private art collections. But that example isn’t relevant to Dr. Hawass’s campaign, Dr. Teeter said, because the 1954 Hague Convention regarding looted cultural property doesn’t cover actions before World War II. She declined to comment on Dr. Hawass’s chances of getting the Rosetta Stone.

Esme Wilson, a spokeswoman for the British Museum, said the institution has never received an official demand for the permanent return of the Rosetta Stone—merely requests for short-term loans that she says are under consideration.

In the absence of legal legitimacy, Dr. Hawass has two primary weapons at his disposal: rallying public opinion and denying institutions the right to conduct digs or research in Egypt.

Dr. Teeter credits Dr. Hawass and his counterpart in Italy, Maurizio Fiorilli, with instilling a new sense of caution and attention to detail in the international antiquities world.

The second tactic has been used by Dr. Hawass to more effect. In 2009, the Louvre agreed to return several ancient wall frescoes he demanded, but only after he blackballed Louvre-associated archaeologists from working in Egypt.

In the past, European institutions holding Egyptian antiquities have expressed concern that the Egyptian government wouldn’t be able to preserve and protect these historic treasures. The argument gained some credence in late August when a Van Gogh painting valued at $50 million was stolen in broad daylight from a museum run by the Ministry of Culture.

Dr. Hawass contends the new national museum will have state-of-the-art preservation systems.

Agence France Presse

New York museum to return King Tut relics: Egypt
By Samer al-Atrush (AFP) – 3 hours ago

CAIRO — Egypt’s antiquities council said on Wednesday that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has agreed to send back treasures taken from the tomb of the famed pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The museum agreed to recognise Egypt’s right to 19 relics in its possession since early last century, the council said in a statement.

The artefacts, which include a bronze figurine of a dog with a golden collar and a sphinx, part of a bracelet made of semi-precious lapis lazuli, will be returned next year and go on display in 2012, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said.

“Thanks to the generosity and ethical behaviour of the Met, these 19 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun can now be reunited with the other treasures of the boy king,” Hawass said.

He said the artefacts will remain on display in the United States until mid-2011.

Met director Thomas Campbell said in a statement on the museum’s website that its Egyptian art department “produced detailed evidence leading us to conclude without doubt that 19 objects, which entered the Met’s collection over the period of the 1920s to 1940s, originated in Tutankhamun’s tomb.”

He said that they were being returned because of special rules drawn up at the time for the Tutankhamun dig.

Unlike other archaeological discoveries at the time, some of which the Egyptian government allowed excavators to keep, the treasures found in Tutankhamun’s tomb were meant to stay in the country.

Fifteen of the 19 relics are “bits and samples,” the Met statement said. The remaining four, including the dog figurine and the sphinx, are “of more significant art-historical interest.”

Tutankhamun is believed to have died more than 3,000 years ago when he was about 18 years.

His tomb, which included a gold coffin and mask, was discovered in 1922 by English archaeologist Howard Carter.

The dog figurine, which stands less than an inch high, and the blue sphinx bracelet piece were inherited by Carter’s niece as part of his estate.

Two other items, part of a handle and a beaded collar, were found in Carter’s Luxor house, the entire contents of which were bequeathed to the Met.

The agreement with the museum is the latest victory for Hawass, who has doggedly campaigned for the return of some of the country’s best known artefacts from abroad.

Hawass, who says he has brought back at least 5,000 relics since he became head of the antiquities council in 2003, earlier this year oversaw a conference of countries including Greece and China that also want looted treasures back.

Last year, Hawass secured the return by the Louvre Museum in Paris of fresco fragments chipped from a tomb after he threatened to call off its excavations.

He has been campaigning for the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum and the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti from Berlin’s Neues Museum.

Art Daily

Metropolitan and Egyptian Government Announce Initiative to Recognize Egypt’s Title to Objects from Tut’s Tomb

NEW YORK, NY.- Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, announced jointly today that, effective immediately, the Museum will acknowledge Egypt’s title to 19 ancient Egyptian objects in its collection since early in the 20th century. All of these small-scale objects, which range from study samples to a three-quarter-inch-high bronze dog and a sphinx bracelet-element, can be attributed with certainty to Tutankhamun’s tomb, which was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings. The Museum initiated this formal acknowledgment after renewed, in-depth research by two of its curators substantiated the history of the objects.

Mr. Campbell stated: “Research conducted by the Museum’s Department of Egyptian Art has produced detailed evidence leading us to conclude without doubt that 19 objects, which entered the Met’s collection over the period of the 1920s to 1940s, originated in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Because of precise legislation relating to that excavation, these objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the Government of Egypt. I am therefore pleased to announce—in concert with our long-time colleague Zahi Hawass, who has contributed so greatly over many years to the recognition and preservation of the historic treasures of Egypt—this formal acknowledgment that title to the objects belongs to Egypt.”

“This is a wonderful gesture on the part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Zahi Hawass. “For many years the museum, and especially the Egyptian art department, has been a strong partner in our ongoing efforts to repatriate illegally exported antiquities. Through their research, they have provided us with information that has helped us to recover a number of important objects, and last year, they even purchased and then gave to Egypt a granite fragment that joins with a shrine on display in Luxor, so that this object could be restored. Thanks to the generosity and ethical behavior of the Met, these 19 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun can now be reunited with the other treasures of the boy king.”

Dr. Hawass also announced that the objects will now go on display with the Tutankhamun exhibition at Times Square, where they will stay until January 2011. They will then travel back to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they will be shown for six months in the context of the Metropolitan Museum’s renowned Egyptian collection. Upon their return to Egypt in June 2011, they will be given a special place in the Tutankhamun galleries at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and then will move, with the rest of the Tut collection, to the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza, scheduled to open in 2012.

At the time that Howard Carter and his sponsor, the Earl of Carnarvon, discovered the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun (reigned ca. 1336-1327 B.C.), the Egyptian government generally allowed excavators to keep a substantial portion of the finds from excavations undertaken and financed by them. However, during the decade that it took Carter and his team to recover the thousands of precious objects from this king’s tomb, it became increasingly clear that no such partition of finds would take place in the case of the Tutankamun tomb.

Owing to the splendor of the treasures discovered in the tomb, conjectures soon started nevertheless, suggesting that certain objects of high quality, dating roughly to the time of Tutankhamun and residing in various collections outside Egypt, actually originated from the king’s tomb. Such conjectures intensified after the death of Howard Carter in 1939, when a number of fine objects were found to be part of his estate. When the Metropolitan Museum acquired some of these objects, however, the whole group had been subjected to careful scrutiny by experts and representatives of the Egyptian government; and subsequent research has found no evidence of such a provenance in the overwhelming majority of cases. Likewise, thorough study of objects that entered the Metropolitan Museum from the private collection of Lord Carnarvon in 1926 has not produced any evidence of the kind.

The 19 objects now identified as indeed originating from the tomb of King Tutankhamun can be divided into two groups. Fifteen of the 19 pieces have the status of bits or samples. The remaining four are of more significant art-historical interest and include a small bronze dog less than three-quarters of an inch in height and a small sphinx bracelet-element, acquired from Howard Carter’s niece, after they had been probated with his estate; they were later recognized to have been noted in the tomb records although they do not appear in any excavation photographs. Two other pieces—part of a handle and a broad collar accompanied by additional beads—entered the collection because they were found in 1939 among the contents of Carter’s house at Luxor; all of the contents of that house were bequeathed by Carter to the Metropolitan Museum. Although there was discussion between Harry Burton (a Museum photographer based in Egypt, the Museum’s last representative in Egypt before World War II broke out, and one of Carter’s two executors) and Herbert Winlock about the origins of these works and about making arrangements for Burton to discuss with a representative of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo whether these works should be handed over to Egypt, that discussion was not resolved before Burton’s death in 1940. When the Metropolitan Museum’s expedition house in Egypt was closed in 1948, the pieces were sent to New York.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Possibly related articles

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment

We want to hear your views. Be as critical or controversial as you like, but please don't get personal or offensive. Remember this is for feedback and constructive discussion!
Comments may be edited or removed if they do not meet these guidelines. Repeat offenders will be blocked from posting further comments. Any comment deemed libellous by Elginism's editors will be removed.
The commenting system uses some automatic spam detection and occasionally comments do not appear instantly - please do not repost comments if they do not show up straight away