Friday, February 27, 2015

Destruction at the Mosul Museum: Who Cares?

Assyrian Christian minorities in Iraq and Syria and its diaspora  do.

Archaeologists both here and in the Middle East do (though some apparently can't help themselves and must find a way to take swipes at collectors as they mourn for what is lost) .

Collectors and Museum professionals most certainly do, despite what some archaeologists may think.

And based on news reports at least, presumably the Western World does, though the scope of the tragedy may not be fully appreciated.

But what of the Islamic world in general and the Islamic inhabitants of Syria and Iraq in particular?

Do they really care or might they even view Western outrage over the destruction of artifacts over lives as misplaced or even worse?

And depending on the answer what does that say? 

Committee for Cultural Policy Report on Destruction in Mosul

The Committee for Cultural Policy's report on the destruction of ancient statuary in Mosul again reminds us that decision makers should focus on preservation not repatriation and conservation and not control.

As the CCP observes,

The destruction at Nineveh is an excruciatingly painful example of the losses that could result from a policy that demands all art from source countries remain there. The notion that all art belongs in source countries is not only anti-humanist; recent events have made clear that it is also reckless in the extreme. Art – the tangible history of humankind – is at risk. No nation’s artistic heritage should be held in a single place. Yet international museums are being told not to collect or preserve at a time when art itself is most vulnerable.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Richard B. Witschonke Passes Away

Richard (Rick) Witschonke has passed away after a long illness.  Rick was a consummate collector. As a successful businessman, he had the means to afford the "best," but also focused on the "least" in the interests of putting together a complete collection of Roman Republican coins.

This academic interest in Roman Republican coins ultimately led him to volunteer his time and energies with the American Numismatic Society, where he served first as a Trustee, before working as a curatorial assistant, and helping to run the Society's renowned Summer Seminar for young academics.

Rick also tirelessly tried to bridge the widening gap between collectors and academic archaeologists, a sincere effort that should endear his memory to both camps.

For a nice tribute to Rick, see Ursula Kampmann's piece in Coins Weekly.  He will be much missed.

Antiquities in ISIS' Hands: For Sale or For Destruction?

Fox News and AP have posted pictures from a very troubling video of ISIS Militants smashing ancient statuary in the Mosul Museum.  If verified, this is yet another tragic loss of Iraq's ancient cultural heritage.  The video and other similar news of such destruction should also raise a simple question.  Are ISIS militants really interested in funding their jihad with ancient artifacts as the archaeological lobby and the Assad regime claim?  Or, given their iconoclastic views of Iraq's pre-Islamic past, would they rather just smash them?

For more on CPO's views on the root causes of this tragedy see here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Archaeo-Blogger Defends Sensationalist Reporting

Archaeo-blogger David Gill has taken Chris Maupin, a knowledgable antiquities dealer, to task because Maupin has questioned sensationalist reporting by the BBC.  That BBC report repeats the oft cited claim that looting provides a major ISIS funding source.  Gill maintains that Maupin's critique is unfair.  After all says Gill, the reporter and his producer evidently attended an academic conference which discussed the issues!   But we should also be skeptical of academics with an axe to grind.  And there is every reason to be particularly dubious of "proof" originating with sources friendly to the Assad regime.  As we've already seen, that murderous regime is keen on attributing looting to ISIS for its own political purposes.   In any case, the values of looted material from Syria casually thrown about appear highly inflated.  Under the circumstances, Maupin's concerns about sensationalist reporting are warranted and he should be praised, rather than condemned for his efforts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Data Archaeology, Remote Sensing and 3D Printer Technology Offer Solutions for the Future

New technology may bring an end to the "cultural property wars" of the late 20th-early 21st centuries. Data archaeology and remote sensing will allow governments to ascertain what land is really archaeologically sensitive and which is not.  Protective efforts may be focused on the former while the latter will be open to building projects and recreational metal detecting.  Meanwhile, 3D printer technology  will allow source countries to produce copies for display and sell off originals to collectors for a handsome profit.  Such monies that are obtained can then be used to fund archaeological research and preservation efforts.

But how will the archaeological lobby react?  Will it go with the flow or remained mired in the mentality of the "cultural property wars" of the past? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Assad Regime to World: You Must Deal with US

More evidence, if any were needed, that the Russian sponsored UN Resolution purportedly aimed at cutting into ISIS' funding is really little more than a Russian inspired effort to help buttress Putin's ally, Assad.  As far as the Assad regime sees it, the resolution supports its claims to any artifacts that are seized, and helps undercut Turkey,  its former friend.  Never mind that Assad's military stands accused of involvement in looting sites like Apamea and Palmyra, and bombing early Sunni religious sites into oblivion.