Thursday, April 10, 2014

Egypt's Face to the World

While the archaeological community seeks to make archaeologist Monica Hanna the Face of Egypt when it comes to "emergency import restrictions," we must not forget Ms. Hanna is in effect doing the bidding of a military government that has presented quite another face to the world.

Looting in Egypt may or may not be a serious problem, but the question remains why should American collectors and the small businesses of the antiquities and numismatic trade be made to pay for a mess entirely of Egypt's own making?


Paul Barford said...

That is extraordinarily unfair and ungallant, even for you. What, actually do you know about Ms Hanna's political views? Shame on you. Shame on your paymasters for financing such slime.

tell me, are you so naive that you think the Sissi-coup happened without US connivance?

Cultural Property Observer said...

I'm afraid archaeology is not separate from governance, particularly for Arab strongmen. Of course, Ms. Hanna can and should publicly separate herself from the human rights abuses of the Egyptian military government, but I don't expect she will, nor do I expect her to so given who is running the show over there. Still, if she does CPO will be the first to note such personal bravery on this blog.

And I'd again note there are no paymasters for this blog. CPO's readers of course would still like to know about your own relationship to UNESCO and other government financed archaeological groups. Do tell.

Wayne G. Sayles said...


Are we not better served by a military government in Egypt than by the Muslim Brotherhood? Is it not possible, liberal press reports notwithstanding, that the three journalists are guilty as charged? I don't think the State Department, for all their supposed and claimed expertise, has any idea at all how to handle the situation in Egypt and the press is useless. They should both just keep out of it and let nature take its course. This "nation building" atmosphere in Washington is just one more example of the arrogance that U.S. government has become accustomed to and it affects every facet of our lives. Hanna is just an overrated pawn, like Harrison Ford.

John H said...

Yours Mr Tompa is fair comment and you raise an equally fair question that indeed requires an answer.

But what I find so extraordinary is how Barford has the wretched nerve to call you ungallant, when he himself has been supremely ungallant in his comments about
US archaeologist Lisa MacIntyre.

His lack of chivalry and the depths of his hypocrisy are clearly demonstrated in his comment. A thoroughly obnoxious little man.


John Howland

Cultural Property Observer said...

This Washington Post opinion is also worth reading in this regard:

Of course, we should not only hold Egypt to the standards of democracy, the State Department should hold itself accountable to the law-- recent reports the an Egyptian MOU is a done deal suggests once again that State could not care less about the significant substantive and procedural constraints found in the CPIA. In doing so, our own State Department-- which constantly lectures others about the rule of law-- is violating it itself and to the disadvantage of US Citizens.

kyri said...

hi peter,i agree with paul, monica hanna is a hero.she has been shot at,had death/rape threats and been the target of much abuse,she is not responsible for the human rights abuses of the military.i also agree with wayne,im no friend of the muslim brotherhood and egypt is better off without them.hear is a utube piece ,only 4 mins of monica in action.the whole programe is 30 mins long and worth watching if you can find it online.

Cultural Property Observer said...

HI Kyri, I never said she was responsible for the government's human rights abuses, just that she is supporting the government's efforts on import restrictions. I agree tomb raiding in particular is not a good thing, but the fact that there is looting there brought on by unrest of Egyptians' own making shouldn't mean there should be restrictions on American collectors. I did note she said in her short excerpt that stability is needed in Egypt, and while that is a good thing, that is the same code word the military is using to justify its own excesses.

Unknown said...

First I would like to note that your actual wording (with your response to Kyri) was "Ms. Hanna is in effect doing the bidding of a military government..." -- this implies that she is working for the government or in cooperation with the government in some way, yet from what I have followed of her work she has not had any connections to the government, nor does her organization.

Additionally, how are US collectors being "made" to pay the price of something that is of "Egypt's own making" as you put it. According to the CONVENTION ON CULTURAL PROPERTY IMPLEMENTATION ACT (see specific section below) -- there is nothing that says the political or social, or even stability issues of a nation are of concern -- just the looting of antiquities. You noted to Kyri that antiquities looting was a problem -- according to the Act, as the information states below. Why do you think that you should profit form the economic suffering of a nation's population? You can still purchase antiquities, even go to Israel to get them- but as long as they were excavated after the 1970 UNESCO convention. Why do you want to own blood antiquities? Do you feel pride owning something that someone had to suffer or fall victim in order for you to purchase?

(a) EMERGENCY CONDITION DEFINED.-For purposes of this section, the term "emergency
condition" means, with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of any State Party, that such material is-
(1) a newly discovered type of material which is of importance for the understanding of the
history of mankind and is in jeopardy from pillage, dismantling, dispersal, or fragmentation;
(2) identifiable as coming from any site recognized to be of high cultural significance if such site
is in jeopardy from pillage, dismantling, dispersal, or fragmentation which is, or threatens to be,
of crisis proportions; or
(3) a part of the remains of a particular culture or civilization, the record of which is in jeopardy
from pillage, dismantling, dispersal, or fragmentation which is, or threatens to be, of crisis proportions; and application of the import restrictions set forth in section 307 on a temporary
basis would, in whole or in part, reduce the incentive for such pillage, dismantling, dispersal or

Cultural Property Observer said...

Note any broad emergency restrictions (compared to site specific ones) must be found to reduce the incentives for pillage, but if pillage stems from political unrest and poor stewardship, that cannot be the case. i.e., if the Egyptian Government is the author of its own problems restrictions won't help and only hurt US citizens and businesses.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate some of your insights into this topic, but saying that "Ms. Hanna [Dr. Hanna, as other people have pointed out] can and should publicly separate herself from the human rights abuses of the Egyptian military government, but I don't expect she will, nor do I expect her to so given who is running the show over there." just reveals that you haven't done your homework, and is snarky to boot.

Dr Hanna's Twitter account is one of the first results a basic internet search of her name throws up. Looking at it gives you a pretty good idea of her views, and it is clear that she has spoken out loudly about the human rights abuses of the past and present Egyptian governments, as well as against looting and destruction of archaeological sites. So - with this in mind - please can you "note her personal bravery on this blog", as you said you would?

And perhaps future posts could contain less of the ad feminam slurs against people whose political views you disagree with, not to mention some basic research on the facts.

It does not do the cause of collecting much good to have it accompanied by poorly thought through attacks like this. The devil will be in the detail of the MOU, but action will be needed in Egypt and abroad to curb looting. The licit market should be enough for us.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Based on your statement, I paged through Dr. Hanna's account. Nothing jumped out at me about her criticising the government about its mass trial of Minya rioters or the arrest of journalists or other things that have provoked criticism by the Press and the US State Department for that matter. Perhaps they are in Arabic and not in English. In any event, she certainly did not go out of her way to criticise the military government during her Wilson Center talk. In fact, she tried to avoid a question directed towards Government involvement in looting. The questioner (who appeared to be associated with the Center) however would not let her avoid it in the end. She finally said the Mubarak regime was involved, but she still avoided criticising the current miltary government on this point. (See subsequent blog.)

But as I said, I have no expectation she will be a human rights crusader. And that's never been the issue. The fact is that she is pressing the agenda of the Sissi Military Government with regard to Egyptian antiquities. If you disagree, please explain. You and other supporters of collector hating archaeologists (incuding Dr. Hanna) obviously want to change the focus from that simple fact that was the focus of this blog. But that's not going to disuade me-- Dr. Hanna is doing what she can to take away the ability of Americans to collect Egyptian antiquities. And for that, she's not going to get a pass-- archaeoloigical hero or not.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how far you bothered to look, but in the last three weeks, she has posted in English about people detained by the current regime; the new protest law; police violence against demonstrators; torture in jails; and sexual harassment. Google translating some of the Arabic tweets shows she has done the same in Arabic.

I agree that, as you say, her stance on human rights and any other political views she might have is irrelevant to the point of her work on looting in Egypt - but you were the person who first raised it! Don't try to sidle away from this rather nasty slur on her.

I am not against collecting objects which left one country legally and were sold in another country legally. If you look at Dr Hanna's twitter feed again, you can see her posting pictures of objects in American museums which did just that.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I actually didn't raise it first. I just said she was doing the bidding of the Military Government by pressing for import restrictions. If she is a civil rights crusader as you suggest, as I mentioned previously good for her.

But the fact remains she is acting in concert with the Government's agenda. You quoted a response to some criticism-- where I also said I did not expect her to be a human rights campaigner.

I suspect based on her comments at the Wilson Center that she's okay with museums holding Egyptian artifacts as long as they have a provenance predating 1970. Her comments about collectors were hostile to say the least.