Monday, September 15, 2014

Bible Museum Coming to Washington, DC

The Washington Post is reporting on a new Bible Museum is coming to Washington, DC.   It will no doubt be a hit with evangelicals, but a lightning rod for unbelievers and those with an axe to grind against collecting and more understandable concerns about the destruction of mummy masks to harvest papyri.  One thing is for sure:  The Greens have generously funded academic research, a good thing by most accounts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Restitution a One-Way Street?

Given Italy's efforts to enlist the press and archaeological community to shame museums and collectors into repatriating artifacts long out of that country, one would think Italy would be at the forefront of returning art wrongfully taken from its own Jewish citizens during the Fascist era.  Not so according to a new report.  So, does the Republic of Italy at its allies in the archaeological lobby instead think restitution should be a one-way street?

Alleged Links Between ISIL/ISIS and Western Collectors Require Strict Scrutiny

Kate Fitz Gibbon, a former Cultural Property Advisory Committee member, has this to say about recent efforts to link ISIL/ISIS terrorism to Western collectors as the basis to support yet another embargo on the import of artifacts from present-day Syria.

Meanwhile, CBS News has outlined major ISIL/ISIS funding sources as "hot oil," extortion and donations from wealthy Gulf Arabs.   Alleged antiquity sales to Western collectors are not mentioned at all.

CPO hopes US government decision makers and mainstream media scrutinize claims that Western collectors are funding ISIL/ISIS terrorism far more seriously than they did for equally dubious claims that Western collectors benefited from the looting of the Iraq Museum or that Western collectors were driving looting in Revolutionary Egypt.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Zahi Hawass Behind Pyramid Botch Job?

Zahi Hawass' blog discusses the importance of the Step Pyramid and his heroic efforts to help save it from collapse with the help of an "all Egyptian team."  Now that it appears the job has been horribly botched, will he accept some responsibility?

Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities claim there is no problem at all and the archaeological lobby remains silent about this unfolding debacle.  No wonder.  This latest mess again calls into question their premise that the Egyptian military dictatorship is such a fine steward of all things Egyptian that undocumented artifacts should be repatriated to its tender loving care.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Egyptian Military Dictatorship Botches Pyramid Restoration Work

The archaeological blogosphere goes into high gear anytime any artifact is seized from a hapless peasant in Egypt, so one would think there might be at least some mention of a horribly botched restoration of one of Egypt's earliest pyramids.

Not so.

Instead of silence, archaeologists should be asking how this could have happened, and whether the restoration company was selected based on merit or their political connections and/or their willingness to pay bribes.

The fact archaeologists have consistently failed to do so with regard to this and other examples of poor stewardship again raises an important question:  Is the Egyptian state and its supporters in the archaeological lobby really interested in conservation or control?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Close Turkey's Border with Syria

As the nature and extent of reported looting by or under the protection ISIS/ISIL terrorists in Syria is debated in the press and in the archaeological blogosphere, no one seems to have suggested an obvious solution to any problem:  Turkey should close its border with Syria.

Turkey's Islamist government is already facing criticism for allowing jihadists free passage to and from Syria from Turkish soil.  Turkey, a member of NATO, has a very large and well trained army.  That force should be deployed to the border to both cut off the flow of jihadists to the war zone and confiscate any artifacts illicitly removed from Syria.

CPO submits this is a far more fair and effective solution to any looting problem than giving license to US Customs and Border Protection to seize any undocumented artifact just because it was made in Syria millenia ago.  More so because any funding ISIS/ISIL may receive from "hot antiquities" must pale in comparison to the $800 million the group evidently received from our supposed Turkish allies in return for shipments of "hot oil."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Archaeology and Dictatorship

As wild claims continue to be made about alleged connections between Western collectors and Middle Eastern terrorists, there has been far too little academic interest  about the far more direct and verifiable links between dictatorships and archaeologists.  Certainly, prominent American archaeologists acted as apologists for Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and more recently they also have supported a proposed import ban on cultural goods on behalf of Egypt's generals.  Hopefully, there will be some much needed interest in this important topic.  After all, this connection between retentavist dictatorial regimes and the archaeological lobby has led not only to restrictions on the ability of ordinary Americans to gain access to common historical artifacts, but has also skewed our view of history as these regimes select what parts of the archaeological record to highlight or even erase to suit their nationalistic purposes.