Showing results 1 - 12 of 346 for the tag: Looting.

June 21, 2015

UK to ratify 1954 Hague Convention on Cultural Property

Posted at 9:40 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

I’m not holding my breath on this one, as it is not the first time that I have heard this, but the UK Minister of Culture John Whittingdale says that the UK will introduce legislation to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

For many years now, various excuses have been given for not ratifying the treaty, despite pressure from archaeologists, NGOs and many within Parliament.

The current status, although not correctly reported in many news sources, is that the UK signed the convention in 1954, but has yet to ratify it. This groups us with Ireland, Andora and the Phillipines, ass all other countries that signed were also happy to ratify it.

The current impetus to finally ratify this document is no doubt related to the press coverage of the actions of ISIS in Syria and Northen Iraq. One wonders though why the looting following the deposing of Saddam Hussein in the second Gulf War (or many other similar cases prior to that) was not enough to convince the UK of the importance of the document.

It is a step in the right direction, but there are still many more steps that ought to be taken – not least ratifying the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects

Claims are sometimes thrown about, that the reason for not ratifying was that it would help facilitate the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, although I have never been entirely certain that this was the case. I am assuming that the government (which is opposed to the return of the Marbles) will have looked into the legalities of this particular aspect in detail already.




Britain signs convention on protecting treasures in war zones
Toby Helm
Sunday 21 June 2015 00.05 BST

It’s come years late, but the culture secretary is to pledge the UK to helping save historic and artistic artefacts under threat in conflict-torn countries

Britain is to end years of indecision by ratifying an international agreement aimed at preventing the loss of cultural and historic artefacts in conflict zones, amid growing outrage at the destruction by Isis militants of ancient sites in Iraq and Syria.
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March 23, 2015

The man who returned the Bird of Prophecy to Nigeria

Posted at 1:58 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Mark Walker inherited a bronze sculpture from Nigeria that had been taken from the country by his Grandfather during the Benin Punitive Expedition.

After coming into possession of one of the Benin Bronzes, he had to think what to do with it next. He thought ahead to what would happen to them when he died. His children did not want them, and he did not want them to be sold at auction. Instead, he got in touch with the Richard Lander Society, who facilitated the return for the sculptures to the descendants of the rulers of Benin.

It seems that in more and more stories, while individuals feel a need to do the right thing, by righting historic wrongs, museums and other institutions seem far less compelled to do so. This is despite the fact that as places of education, one would expect that they would be the ones to be taking a moral lead in such situations rather than dragging their heels.

Eight hundred items from the Benin Punitive Expedition are still held in the British Museum in London. Other institutions around the world house many more. In all cases, Nigeria also claims rightful ownership.

The "Bird of Prophecy" returned to Benin City by Mark Walker

The “Bird of Prophecy” returned to Benin City by Mark Walker

BBC News

26 February 2015 Last updated at 00:09
The man who returned his grandfather’s looted art
By Ellen Otzen BBC World Service

At the end of the 19th Century British troops looted thousands of works of art from the Benin Empire – in modern-day Nigeria – and brought them home. One soldier’s grandson inherited two bronzes but recently returned them to their original home.

“It’s an image that’s deeply ingrained in my memory. The dead body seemed unreal. It’s not a picture you can easily forget,” says Mark Walker.
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March 15, 2015

James Cuno, ISIS and cultural heritage preservation

Posted at 9:11 pm in Similar cases

James Cuno has in the past regularly staked his claim as one of the most hardline retentionists in the US museums world.

In his latest missive to the New York Times letters page, he tries to argue that many of the current problems with looting are actually the fault of UNESCO conventions on cultural property. His line of reasoning is that cultural property laws keep the artefacts in their country of origin – thereby making it easier for other factions within the country to seize / destroy them. There are too many flaws to this argument for me to list. Fortunately Kwame Opoku has taken the time to write a far more comprehensive dis-assembly of Cuno’s arguments than I would have managed.

Isis militants attack ancient artifacts with sledgehammers in the Ninevah Museum in Mosul, Iraq.

Isis militants attack ancient artifacts with sledgehammers in the Ninevah Museum in Mosul, Iraq.

Kwame Opoku (by email)

Does Dr Cuno really believe what he writes?

After my last article, I swore not to comment anymore on Dr.Cuno’s statements in order to avoid any impression that I was unduly concentrating on the opinions of one scholar. (1) However, it seems the U.S. American scholar is never tired of presenting views that most critics would consider patently wrong. Could we just keep quiet when a most influential scholar expresses an opinion that is obviously wrong? In his latest letter to the editor of the New York Times, 11 March,2015,James Cuno, President and Chief Executive of the J. Paul Getty trust, Los Angeles declares

”The recent attacks on the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq underscore a tragic reality. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization encourages — and provides an institutional instrument for — the retention of antiquities within the borders of the modern state that claims them. That state, very sadly, also has the authority to sell them on the illegal market, damage them or destroy them.
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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.


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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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

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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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


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 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

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 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

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 22, 2015

SCOTUS rules against Norton Simon Museum looted art apeal

Posted at 9:35 pm in Similar cases

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Norton Simon Museum, which aimed to prevent a court case brought by the heir of Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker.

The appeal claimed that the claims made by the heir (Marei von Saher) conflicted with the US policy of resolving war-related art disputes and therefore with its right to conduct foreign affairs. The rejection of their appeal clears the way for von Saher to bring litigation against the institution, in an attempt to rectify the consequences of the forced transaction with Göring during the war.

You can read some more information about the background to the case here.

Adam and Eve, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Adam and Eve, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Art Newspaper

By Laura Gilbert. Web only
Published online: 20 January 2015
Supreme Court rejects Norton Simon’s appeal in looted art case

The US Supreme Court today, 20 January, declined to hear the Pasadena-based Norton Simon Museum’s appeal in a case contesting its ownership of a life-size pair of paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Adam and Eve, around 1530, belonged to the Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who fled the Netherlands in 1940 after the Nazi invasion.

The Supreme Court’s rejection allows Goudstikker’s heir, Marei von Saher, who has been battling for the paintings in federal court since 2007, to continue her lawsuit. It also leaves standing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that pursuing her claims does not interfere with the US government’s conduct of foreign affairs.
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December 5, 2014

Christies halts sale of disputed Sardinian bronze age pagan icon

Posted at 10:50 am in Similar cases

Following growing levels of protest, Christies has put on hold the sale of a 4,500 year old Bronze Age statuette, thought to be worth over $1 million.

Sardinian politician Mauro Pili has led the campaign, asking the Auction House to provide more details of who the vendor is, and requesting that the seller proves that they are the legitimate owner of the artefact.

Disputed "mother goddess" icon from Sardinia

Disputed “mother goddess” icon from Sardinia


Mother Goddess auction: Christie’s halts sale of ‘stolen’ $1m Bronze Age pagan icon after Sardinia campaigns for its return
Michael Day
Rome – Tuesday 02 December 2014

A campaign in Sardinia to reclaim a 4,500-year-old pagan idol from a US auction house is gathering pace ahead of its scheduled sale next week, as Italy steps up the fight against the theft of its precious cultural patrimony.

Christie’s in New York had listed the marble religious artefact Dea Madre, or Mother Goddess, dating from about 2500BC, for sale on 11 December. Auctioneers hoped to sell the Bronze Age statuette for as much as $1.2m (£770,000). But campaigners claimed an initial victory today after hearing that the sale had been put on hold.
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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

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

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

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


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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