Thursday, 22 February 2018

Where was/is Macedonia?

The bitter dispute over the name "Macedonia" has lasted more than 70 years

Eleni Chrepa and Slav Okov ,  'Inside the Bitter Dispute Over the Name ‘Macedonia’ ...',  . Bloomberg 22 Feb 2018.
A dispute between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia goes back more than seven decades, but now both neighbors have a political interest in finding a solution. The row isn’t over territory or where the border should be, it’s about what constitutes "Macedonia," the name taken by the small independent state that was born out of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Greece says the name Macedonia should refer only to its northern region, which was Alexander the Great’s stronghold in ancient times, and today is split into eastern, western and central administrative divisions. To Greece, Macedonia, historically and culturally, has nothing to do with any other country, including the republic to its immediate north.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Rejecting the Solutrean hypothesis

Duh... Rejecting the Solutrean hypothesis: the first peoples in the Americas were not from Europe

First, in addition to the scientific problems with the Solutrean hypothesis which I’ll discuss shortly, it’s important to note that it has overt political and cultural implications in denying that Native Americans are the only indigenous peoples of the continents. The notion that the ancestors of Native Americans were not the first or only people on the continent has great popularity among white nationalists, who see it as a means of denying Native Americans an ancestral claim on their land. Indeed, although this particular iteration is new, the idea behind the Solutrean hypothesis is part of a long tradition of Europeans trying to insert themselves into American prehistory; justifying colonialism by claiming that Native Americans were not capable of creating the diverse and sophisticated material culture of the Americas.
and in some states the pre-Colonial material culture is displayed in Natural History museums next to stuffed birds and butterflies.

US court forbids seizure of Iranian artifacts by Jerusalem bomb victims

US Supreme Court rules 8-0 that the Persepolis texts cannot be seized and sold in order to pay a civil judgement against the government of Iran for sponsoring terrorism. Only in America, I feel, would anyone think they 'could'.

' Rubin v. Iran: Supreme Court Says Persepolis Collection Will Stay at the Oriental Institute', Cultural Heritage Lawyer Thursday, February 22, 2018,

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

United States and Libya to Sign Cultural Property Protection Agreement

A US State Department press release tells us that United States and Libya will soon be signing a Cultural Property Protection Agreement
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs I. Steven Goldstein and Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Under Secretary for Political Affairs Lutfi Almughrabi will sign a landmark bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on cultural property protection on February 23, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at the U.S. Department of State.
As part of the ongoing cooperation between the United States and Libya’s Government of National Accord, the United States will impose import restrictions on categories of archaeological material representing Libya’s cultural heritage dating from 12,000 B.C. through 1750 A.D. and Ottoman ethnological material from Libya dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D. Restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and trafficking and are among the many ways the United States is combatting the financing of terrorism and disrupting the global market in illegal antiquities. These restrictions continue similar restrictions implemented by the U.S. government on an emergency basis on December 5, 2017. The cultural property agreement negotiated by the State Department under the U.S. law implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property underscores the United States’ commitment to our relationship with Libya, as well as our global commitment to cultural heritage protection and preservation. The United States now has similar bilateral agreements with 17 countries around the world, as well as emergency import restrictions on cultural property from Iraq and Syria.
Hat tip to Dorothy Lobel King

Our Pocketed Portable PASt

Historic England's revised version of Our Portable Past is just out today:
This statement sets out Historic England’s approach to surface-collected portable antiquities in the context of our own archaeological projects. Historic England also recommends the statement as a suitable model to follow for organisations that fund or authorise archaeological projects, and for land managers and individuals involved in giving consent for archaeological projects whatever the legal status of the site or sites involved. It is also statement of good practice for portable antiquities/surface collected material in the context of field archaeology and survey programmes (including the use of metal detectors).
We've come a long way from that first edition when they pretended that none of this applied to 'matal detectoriusts'. OK, artefact hunters, now read it and put it into (best) practice. PAS, how far are you going to go to promote its message among your pocketing 'partners'? I note:
Although Section 42 licences are only required for geophysical surveys and metal detecting on protected places, Historic England believes that the same principles and standards set out in the section above (‘Appropriate context for metal detecting (nationally important and designated sites)’) should apply to metal detecting on all previously recognised and important archaeological sites recorded in the Historic England Archive or in Local Authority Historic Environment Records, and on areas protected by other (non-archaeological) designations (eg SSSIs). The principles also provide a template for projects intended to discover, locate or characterise sites. Historic England advises all those planning metal- detecting surveys to consult the appropriate Local Authority Historic Environment Record and inform the Local Authority Archaeologist and local Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer (or Receiver of Wreck for underwater sites) before commencing their fieldwork. [...]  Particular issues arise from metal-detecting rallies. The potential loss of archaeological information through non-recording and the export without record of finds pose serious problems [...]
Note that the text does not say the holding of commercial collection-driven exploitation rallies is  problem in itself, just if the looted objects disappear. 

Digging up the Past for Cash in the Middle East, 11th April 2018

 I will be in England this spring talking at a University of Suffolk Heritage Futures Seminar and have chosen as a topic:
Collection-driven exploitation of the Middle Eastern archaeological record: Conflict antiquities, myth, realities and evidence
I've been blogging about it for years, now to put it all together in a short talk and then see what emerges from the discussion. Regular readers will know that I started off as a supporter of the 'antiquities finance terrorism, so we need to regulate the trade' model. Then I began to have questions, and then doubts (and not just about what we mean by that word 'terrorism')... I should acknowledge that Donna Yates (as I understand what she was writing) held all along that the evidence was not really there, and Sam Hardy has been assiduous in busting the myths and deconstructing glib narratives. Other colleagues have been just as staunch upholding them. Antiquities dealers and collectors are in total denial. The issue emerges as one of considerable complexity, and the debate about 'what it all means' will no doubt go on for years. Butas the terrible war in Syria and that in Iraq seem, sadly, to be entering another phase, perhaps it is time to take stock of what we know, what we think we know (but maybe don't), what we do not know but wish we did, and what we will probably never know (and yes, I do plan to cite Donald Rumsfeld). I use the term Middle East in the title, but cannot fail to mention both Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen, all outside the area as usually defined, but the way it is shaping up at the moment, the focus will be on what is happening right now in Syria and Iraq and how we should be reacting to it. And yes, I still believe that the antiquities trade needs regulating, no retractions there.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Lending Artefacts to US Museums Can Be Risky

Lobbyists for the US antiquities trade demand that when the US signs an MOU aiming to curb the entry of smuggled artefacts into the USA that it is made conditional on the partner countries allowing more artefacts into the USA on loan to public collections. A recent story illustrates why some of them might be reluctant to do so. Chinese authorities are calling for a heavy punishment for an American man charged with stealing a thumb from an ancient terracotta warrior statue on display at a museum in Pennsylvania. They have also demanded compensation for the damage caused to the US$4.5 million relic (Kinling Lo, 'China urges US to get tough on man who stole thumb from US$4.5 million terracotta warrior on display in a Philadelphia museum' South China Morning Post , 18 February, 2018).  The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia had borrowed ten statues from the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre. They have been on show in Philadelphia since September, and are part of a clay army of about 8,000 soldiers, charioteers and horses unearthed in Xian, capital of northwestern China’s Shaanxi province in the tomb of China’s first emperor Qin Shihuang (210-209BC). According to figures from the FBI, they are potentially worth US$4.5 million apiece.
Michael Rohana, 24, was charged earlier this month with breaking off and stealing the left thumb of the 2,000-year-old sculpture [...] on December 21. [...]  Rohana, who comes from the US state of Delaware, was attending an ugly Christmas jumper party at the museum when he and two associates managed to make their way into the “Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor” exhibition, the door to which was unlocked, the Beijing Youth Daily report said. According to surveillance camera footage, after the two other party guests had left the room, Rohana took a selfie with his arm draped over the shoulder of one of the statues. He then snapped off one of its thumbs, put it in his pocket and left. The theft went unnoticed until January 8, at which time the museum sought help from the FBI’s art crime team, who traced Rohana to his home on January 13. He was subsequently charged with the theft and concealment of a major artwork, and released on bail.
The cultural centre said it had loaned its exhibits more than 260 times to 60 different countries over the past 40 years, but had never before experienced “such a noxious incident”, according to the newspaper report. One also wonders about a museum's fake security which means that three people could be where they were not supposed to be (what, no alarms in your galleries Philadelphia?) and this was not detected for 18 days? This was on a day when there were people in the galleries (?) holding an 'ugly jumper party'? What kind of dumbdown 'museum event' is that? And the door to the closed gallery was unlocked? Why?

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