Skip to main content

Looking back over 2016

Source: Schinousa Archive
This has been a year when more of my focus has been on the economic impact of heritage including an analysis of the economic contribution of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece. Last year I anticipated further developments around Syria and Northern Iraq, as well as on-going pillaging of archaeological sites in England and Wales. I also suspected that Madrid and the Michael C. Carlos Museum would not be handing over their disputed objects in a hurry (and so they can continue to receive a mention here).

However, some of the themes that have emerged.

Westminster
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Cultural Property has been meeting in Westminster. One of themes was damage to the archaeological record in the UK. Part of its business has been to prepare the legislation in order to ratify the Hague Convention. The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill started its way through Parliament and some of the debate was instructive. Some of the honing of the wording is underway. Lord Ashton discussed the Bill at the Heritage Alliance Day.

Returns to Italy
The head of Hades was returned to Italy from the J. Paul Getty Museum in January reminding us that disputed cultural property continues to reside in major museum collections. Material from a warehouse associated with Robin Symes has been returned consisting of 45 cases. This includes material linked to Giacomo Medici. Some 350 items have now been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections. Some of the material returned to Italy featured in the catalogue for the Sicily exhibition at the British Museum. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen agreed to return a large number of objects to Italy.

Syria and Iraq
Channel 4 produced a programme on antiquities from Syria and Iraq. During the preparation for the programme the team identified a recorded lintel from Syria on sale in London.

Returns to Egypt
A relief of Seti I was returned from London, as was a relief from the temple of Hatshepsut. My overview of recent looting in Egypt was made available. Sarah Parcak is conducting important work on remote sensing to detect the extent of looting in Egypt (and elsewhere).

Greece
A network of suppliers was disrupted in Greece.

Parthenon Marbles
2016 marked the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum.

Metal-detecting in the UK
In January I observed that unauthorised and illegal metal-detecting had been taking place at one of the Roman Saxon Shore forts at Bradwell on Sea in Essex. Yet there is the public presentation of 'treasure hot-spots' without open acknowledgement that damage is being sustained to the archaeological record. An Anglo-Saxon find from Norfolk was declared Treasure.

Coins
Nathan Elkins published important work on coins and the market and specifically the ACCG Test Case. The BM has published a useful book on Hoards.

Due diligence
The conflict in Syria and northern Iraq has re-invigorated the debate about "due diligence" and auction-houses. Some of the commentators have overlooked some of the material appearing in London. I keep suggesting that we need to outline collecting histories for objects and to drop the use of the word "provenance". Two lots were withdrawn from Christie's in New York after concerns had been raised about their associations with Becchina and Medici. Christie's in New York sold a Roman mosaic in spite of concerns being raised about its earlier collecting history. In October the same auction house attempted to auction a sculpture that was identified from the Schinoussa Archive. An Attic amphora due to be auctioned at Christie's in London was identified from photographs taken during a police raid in Greece and subsequently withdrawn. Bonhams in London offered an ex-Chesterman terracotta that had been identified from the Medici Archive and subsequently withdrew it. This raised questions about the Chesterman Collection sold to a major UK university museum. Failure to address the issue undermined the position of dealers and galleries contributing to the discussions at the APPG on Cultural Property. This lack of due diligence also appears to apply to major museums that continue to acquire objects with incomplete collecting histories.

A Munich auction house offered a number of items with questionable collecting histories: some had been identified when they were offered by a gallery in New York.  A New York dealer has been charged in relation to handling material from south-east Asia.

Heritage Crime
Charges have been made over the theft of lead from churches in Norfolk. Dinosaur footprints on Skye were damaged.

Thefts from Museums
There was a theft from the Dunblane Museum.

Trafficking Culture
The Trafficking Culture project in Glasgow ended.

Publication Policy
The SBL published a new policy relating to publication of recently surfaced material.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.