A small bell taken by Global  Marine Exploration found off the coast of the Dominican Republic

A small bell taken by Global Marine Exploration found off the coast of the Dominican Republic

Lydia Barbash-Riley, a student and Editor-in-Chief of the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies has an interesting piece examining the impact of globalization on underwater cultural heritage management in the Dominican Republic:

This Note addresses the management of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) in the Dominican Republic as a case study of the effects of two aspects of globalization on cultural and environmental resource management in the developing world: the international convergence of values and the horizontal delegation of state power to private actors due to economic constraints. This Note posits that even as the global community of states moves toward a consensus on the ethical management of the UCH, this convergence combined with the global trend of horizontal delegation may incentivize some lesser-developed countries to deal with the economic pressures of resource management by permitting treasure hunting. To examine this phenomenon, this Note addresses national and international laws protecting the UCH, including Dominican laws and their actual consistency with the 2001 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. It then discusses how management in the Dominican Republic is not always in accord with either the country’s own laws or the 2001 Convention to illustrate both the impacts of globalization on management of the UCH when government resources are scarce, and the resulting need for an extralegal, community-based solution. This Note concludes with a suggestion that the Dominican government, Dominican communities, and international actors consider a variant of Common-Pool Resource Management known as Living Museums in the Sea incorporated into a Multilevel Environmental Governance framework as a potential solution to counteract the economic pressures on governments to allow treasure hunting while providing for long-term preservation of the UCH in this and other developing countries.

  1. Lydia Barbash-Riley, Using a Community-Based Strategy to Address the Impacts of Globalization on Underwater Cultural Heritage Management in the Dominican Republic, 22 Ind. J. of Global Legal Stud. 201 (2015).

flyer-eI’m very much looking forward to participating in this Friday’s conference at the Capitoline Museum in Rome marking the 20th Anniversary of the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Property. If you haven’t registered yet, and happen to be in Rome, I’m afraid registration is closed. But I’ll be offering some thoughts on the conference when I get back home next week.

 

 

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I happened on two opposing viewpoints on the import restrictions on ancient coins in my inbox this afternoon. The first, written by Nathan Elkins, critiques from an archaeological perspective the test case brought by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild. The case attempted to challenge the breadth of import restrictions against the import of ancient coins, “Ancient Coins, Find Spots, and Import Restrictions: A Critique of Arguments made in the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild’s ‘Test Case’,” Journal of Field Archaeology 40.2 (2015): 236-243. From the abstract:

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) has launched multiple legal challenges aimed at undermining import restrictions on ancient coins into the United States in bilateral agreements with foreign countries.  One key component of the ACCG’s argument is that the State Department has inappropriately restricted certain types of coins according to where they were made rather than where they are found, as mandated by the 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.  Although the ACCG has thus far been unsuccessful, it has not been pointed out that existing import restrictions on coins, in fact, have been written to include coins that tended to circulate locally and that are found primarily within the borders of the country with which the bilateral agreement is made.  The ACCG’s argument is thus on shaky ground.  As the ACCG continues to press ahead with new litigation, it is worth drawing attention to realities and probabilities of ancient coin circulation as they pertain to protected coins.

 

An opposing view is offered by Wayne Sayles, Executive Director of the Ancient coin Collectors Guild, ‘Ideology, governance and consequences from a collector’s point of view‘, Internet Archaeology 33. From the abstract:

This article is a condensed version of the background paper created for an Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) presentation at the 2010 CBA, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, and Newcastle University conference in Newcastle, England. It presents a view shared by many American collectors and independent scholars. The ACCG, a member of the International Numismatic Council, is a registered non-profit organisation within the United States but enjoys the active support of members worldwide.

 

 

Presenter Gianna Toboni, Image Courtesy of HBO

Presenter Gianna Toboni, Image Courtesy of HBO

Tonight at 11 EST on HBO, the VICE series takes on the problem of antiquities looting in the Middle East. A typical VICE episode combines two 15-minute reports with great camera work and a good investigative approach. As others have pointed out, the series does a terrific job showing us reports of what is happening in, say, Kashmir, or with human trafficking in China. It leaves to the audience to answer the question: what do we do about this?

In its 15 minutes running time the report on antiquities looting breaks new ground. It manages to take us from the site of the looting, starting with economic conditions, and finishing with the middle men who sell these objects all the way through to the customs warehouses and auction houses in New York. Its an ambitious arc to tackle, but the producers manage to give a complete picture of the many problems which lead to the looting of archaeological sites and the way segments of the trade skirt the rules. A middleman even gives us an estimate of how little the looters themselves make off an object which is smuggled abroad.

The primary focus is Egypt, and starts with the souvenir stalls at the Pyramids at Giza who are hungry for customers. Tourism we are told has all but ended in Egypt. It is the economic condition in the region, combined with the overstretched/inept/corrupt authorities inability to police sites that make it possible to loot. And the objects find willing buyers at auction houses and on the internet by using falsified histories. The program even manages to interview some looters, follow some down a massive (and dangerous) looters pit, and shows us the sad room where the antiquities ministry in Egypt is attempting to repatriate the huge volume of material which has left the country. Even Zahi Hawass makes an appearance doing what he does best, giving a great line to the camera, lit from below, in his favorite “Indiana Jones” hat, exclaiming how important it is to save all this material.

The camera work is stunning, showing us looting and the devastation it leaves behind so quickly that the viewer who is unfamiliar with the sites and locations will have a hard time keeping up. And maybe that is the point. As many of my colleagues look to tie terrorism and other nebulous evils to the antiquities trade, the VICE report does one better. Rather than make these cheap connections which are sure to evaporate with the advent of the next global threat; by showing us the daily lives of Egyptians and the incalculable loss to our collective human history; the people and history demand more attention, more resources, and better policy. Its well worth seeking out, and will bring a rare thing to the problem of antiquities looting, a well-reported and accurate picture of a troubling problem which is only getting worse.

The report is timely too, particularly as the Middle East Institute and the Antiquities Coalition are co-sponsoring a conference in Cairo from May 13-14 to discuss the economic and cultural impact of antiquities looting in the region.

Here’s a taste, a short interview with Monica Hanna at Abal Sir Al Malaq Cemetery, with a disturbing number of looted graves, with human remains and  burial shrouds laying out in the open where looters discarded them.

 

mummy

I’ll be presenting a short paper on the Ka-Nefer-Nefer forfeiture case at the Society for American Archaeology Annual meeting this Saturday morning. Our panel is scheduled from 8-10.15 A.M. in the Golden Gate 4 room of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

Here are the other scheduled papers:

Antiquities, drugs, guns, diamonds, wildlife: toward a theory of transnational criminal markets in illicit goods
Simon Mackenzie*

The Kapoor Case: International collaboration on antiquities provenance research
Jason Felch

Alternative Strategies in Confronting Looting and Trafficking in Defense of Peruvian Portable Heritage
Alvaro Higueras

The Ka Nefer Nefer and Federal Intervention in the Illicit Antiquities Trade
Derek Fincham

Geospatial strategies for mapping large scale archaeological site destruction: The case from Egypt
Sarah Parcak

Bones of Contention: Further Investigation into the Online Trade in Archaeological and Ethnographic Human Remains
Duncan Chappell & Damien Huffer

The ruin of the Maya heartland: successes, failures, and consequences of four decades of antiquities trafficking regulation
Donna Yates

Syria: Cultural Property Protection Policy Failure?
Neil Brodie

Morag Kersel will also be presenting a paper on her project Follow the Pots

Destruction of an unidentified king of Hatra by militants in 2015

Destruction of an unidentified king of Hatra by militants in 2015

I argue in a Saturday Op-Ed that one way to think about the iconoclasm of so-called Islamic State militants is to value the art they would destroy:

The Islamic State militants destroy art to send a powerful and destructive message: that learning, beauty and the transformational power of art has no place in any so-called Islamic State. We can expose the lie in this message in one simple way: by supporting ancient and contemporary art from the region.

Our city demonstrates how effective an ambassador art can be. Houston stands proud as one of America’s emerging cities for terrific art from all over the world, especially art from the Middle East. Works of art that formed the Houston-based FotoFest 2014 Biennial are currently on display at the Emirates Palace Gallery in Abu Dhabi. Also, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has an outstanding collection of Islamic art spanning the 9th to early 20th centuries; beautiful calligraphy and other decorative art that demonstrates the region’s commitment to learning and beauty.

We should encourage the MFA and other museums to responsibly display more works of Islamic art from this troubled region. By countering the vile message of the Islamic State by consuming and valuing Islamic art, we value and preserve what they would destroy.

The full piece is here.

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Anna Somers Cocks thinks so:

 

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An Assyrian lamassu being removed under the direction of Austen Henry Layard

An Assyrian lamassu being removed under the direction of Austen Henry Layard

Daniel Silas Adamson has an outstanding longread which lays out the 19th century history of the three figures who were largely responsible for rediscovering Assyrian civiliztion: George Smith, Hormuzd Rassam, and Austen Henry Layard. He also puts the current destruction of art by the so-called Islamic State in context. Here’s a terrific account of the emergence of the epic of Gilgamesh:

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“Bardo Museum – Carthage room” taken by Bernard Gagnon in 2005 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The BBC is reporting that 19 people, including 17 museum visitors have been killed in an attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis. Many other visitors were trapped in the museum. No group has claimed responsibility yet, but two gunmen were killed, and there may be some involved in the attack still on the run.

The New York Times reports this afternoon that:

The attack began at a time when hundreds of visitors were on their way into the museum. Interior ministry officials said the gunmen were armed with grenades and assault rifles. Gunfire was first heard around 12:30 p.m.

Helicopters buzzed over the area in the afternoon, and Tunisian state television said they were evacuating people from the area, possibly including those injured in the attack.

The site of the attack, the National Bardo Museum, is in central Tunis near the national Parliament, which was evacuated as police officers responded to the attack and surrounded the area.

The identity and motivation of the attackers were not immediately clear. No group had claimed responsibility for the attack by early evening. An Interior Ministry spokesman said that the gunmen had probably been Tunisians, but their nationality had not been confirmed.

This museum is one of the major cultural institutions in Tunisia. It contains roman mosaics, antiquities from ancient Greek civilizations, and Islamic art.

The empty frame which once held "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum

The empty frame which once held Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum

25 years ago tonight, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum suffered a devastating loss to its collection. 13 works of art led to a FBI investigation, and a new Federal Criminal provision. But the works themselves are still lost. Today brings a slew of examinations of the theft and the subsequent investigation.

Stephen Kurkjian, an investigative reporter for the Boston Globe, and author of a new work on the theft, has an extended portion of the book at the Boston Globe. He recounts many details of the efforts in 2013 that many speculated would lead to a break in the case: Continue Reading…