Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

May 19, 2017

Look into my eyes, but also into my collection history.

Collecting ancient art can be an extension of a personal passion, a status symbol or a piece of cultural currency but it also serves as a defacto calling card for the current-day purchaser's own collecting ethics.

As this new video, produced by the UNESCO Beirut Office in the framework of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage project, underscores, conscientious and ethical antiquities collectors can and should demand that their source dealer or auction house provide a full and complete provenance record before making a purchase. 


UNESCO reminds collectors to keep an eye out for these red flags:

- Is there dirt on the object? 
- Does the object seem like a broken fragment of what could be a larger artifact? 
- Is there a reference number painted on the base of the object that could indicate it was looted from a museum? 
- Does the object's price seem too good to be true?

and finally...
- Can the seller provide you with the object’s provenance paperwork?

Likewise, ARCA reminds its readership that an object's reported collection history as reported by a dealer or auction house should not always be taken as complete or accurate.  Collection histories can, and often are, faked.

As this blog has reported frequently, many consignors and auction houses omit passages that sometimes reflect irregularities in acquisition or fail to advise would-be purchasers that an antiquity they wish to purchase has passed through the hands of a tainted individual or art dealer already known to have a reputation for illicit trafficking in the antiquities art market. 

The art market’s appetite for antiquities, and the profits to be had from this appetite, will always be a motivation for others to loot them.

It is ultimately up to the collector to demand ethical selling practices from the dealers or collectors they purchase antiquities from.  Prospective buyers should demand to see import and export licenses for the object they are considering and they should require the seller/consignor/auction house make those documents available.

The prudent purchaser should vet the trophy works that they purchase for their collections, cross checking all of the accompanying documentation.  Is there an export license? Does that document look authentic? Has the license been falsified?  Has the country of origin been falsified? Does the country of export match with the country of the object's origin?  Does the object have a find spot?   How far back does the chain of ownership go? and are there any other red flags like "property of an anonymous collector"?

Collectors should not discount the unacceptable buying and selling habits of those profiting from the ancient art market and they should especially be careful when purchasing antiquities from regions of conflict.

Just as property investors thoroughly vet the status and ownership of a property they are interested in, before entering into a business transaction, so should art collectors remember that it is their responsibility to conduct adequate due diligence on the artworks they purchase. 

March 19, 2017

Lecture: Criminals without Borders - The many profiles of the (il)licit antiquities trade.



For those interested interested in the realm of illicit trafficking who will be in Rome, Italy April 21, 2017 Lynda Albertson, ARCA's Chief Executive Officer will be giving a talk on "Criminals without Borders."

This one hour lecture, at 6:00 pm at John Cabot University will provide a brief overview of the profile of actors in the illicit art trade, giving examples of how those in the trade avoid detection and prosecution.

This presentation will discuss the motives of trafficking in art and antiquities, highlighting cases from source and conflict countries emphasizing that the trade thrives on commercial opportunity i.e., a means of dealing in high value commodities that are often poorly protected, difficult to identify and easy to transport across national boundaries.

Her presentation will examine specific case examples and will underscoring response mechanisms that work to proactively counter the illegal trade.

The discussion will highlight

--the interchangeable participants in the illicit antiquities trade
--varying motives/opportunities
--how connections through single interactions can form loosely based networks


Lynda Albertson is the CEO of ARCA — The Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a nongovernmental organisation which works to promote research in the fields of art crime and cultural heritage protection. The Association seeks to identify emerging and under-examined trends related to the study of art crime and to develop strategies to advocate for the responsible stewardship of our collective artistic and archaeological heritage. 

Ms. Albertson, through her role at ARCA seeks to influence policy makers, public opinion and other key stakeholders so that public policies are developed and based on apolitical evidence, and which addresses art crime prevention and the identification of art crimes in heritage preservation initiatives.

In furtherance of that, Ms. Albertson provides technical, scientific and regional expertise to national and international organizations such as UNESCO, CULTNET, ICOM, in furtherance of ARCA's heritage preservation mission.   For the past five years, Lynda has focused part of her work on fighting the pillage of ancient sites and trafficking of artifacts, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, conducting research on the illicit trade in antiquities in MENA countries. 

Ms. Albertson also oversees ARCA's inter NGO - Governmental engagement and capacity building in MENA countries in recognition of UN Security Council Resolution 2199, which among other provisions, bans all trade in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria and encourages steps to ensure such items are returned to their homelands. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM (CET)
Guarini Campus
Via della Lungara, 233

March 18, 2017

Exhibition - The Past Sold, April 3 - May 13, 2017


Beginning April 3, 2017 and running through May 13, 2017, the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, located on the campus of the University of Chicago, will host an exhibition on movable heritage.  The exhibition will highlight the importance of archaeological context, emphasizing that the movement of objects can be either positive; when removal is properly documented using approved methodology, or negative; such as when sites are plundered or destroyed.  It is that latter which renders them useless to archaeologists and historians seeking to understand and reconstruct the past from the remains of ancient cultures.

The exhibition's title The Past Sold, developed out of the Past for Sale research project undertaken at the Neubauer Collegium.  This initiative brought together experts in the field of heritage looting who shared issues of common concern regarding what is known about the looting of cultural heritage sites by both opportunistic and more systematically organised looters. 

The exhibit is designed to stimulate dialogue on the complexity of this important issue and encourages visitors to engage in the ethical debate of acquiring cultural heritage objects from around the globe.

Asking the important question "Where does the art you enjoy in any given exhibit come from?"  

The exhibit reminds us that sometimes whole sites are destroyed in the hunt for the best "marketable" objects and that individual objects on the less than transparent art market,  are often difficult to trace to the country of origin, never mind to the original site.  

The curators hope the exhibition will foster new conversations about the collection of pilfered objects of questionable origin. 

For information please see the exhibition webpage here. 

Exhibition Dates:
April 3 - May 13, 2017

Location
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
Exhibition takes place on the 1st floor gallery 
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois


Hours
11am-5pm, Monday-Friday

Contact
773-795-2329 (Front desk)
collegium@uchicago.edu

December 22, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016 - ,, No comments

A house dismantled - Beit Ghazaleh, the house of the Ġazaleh, غزالة‎‎

Beit Ghazaleh, the house of the Ġazaleh, غزالة‎‎. was named after the Ghazaleh family and is one the largest palaces in Aleppo from the Ottoman period.  Dating to the seventeenth century, the historic structure is located in the Al-Jdayde neighbourhood; a once-prestigious section of the city that sits adjacent to the old city of Aleppo. Between 2007 and 2011, well before the start of the ongoing  conflict, the palace underwent renovations carried out by Syria's museum authorities in preparation if hosting the city's Memory Museum.

Yesterday archaeologist student Obada Diar Bakerly posted recent photographs of Beit Ghazaleh to the Facebook Group "Aleppo Archaeology."  His photographs show the present condition of the external portion of the palace which seems to have suffered substantial damages during the intervening five years of war.

On July 4, 2013, the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield whose mission includes coordinating and strengthening international efforts to protect cultural property at risk of destruction during armed conflicts or natural disasters, included Beit Ghazaleh on its ‘no strike list’ of the 20 most important archaeological sites in Aleppo.

In February 2014 Syria's Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums (DGAM ) wrote of their own concerns for the building's future.



In August 2016 the head of Aleppo's Department of the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums, Eng. Khaled Masri, speaking to news journalists representing the SANA news agency reported that a DGAM inspection of the site showed that the building had sustained serious damage to the stone walls and ceilings, as well as its wooden ornamentation, a unique feature in Ottoman Aleppo. 

UNESCSO's dedicated pages for Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage state that the organisation has received reports that would suggest that the decorative elements inside the structure have been removed, possibly to be sold illicitly.  They have asked the public to be on the alert should they see anything similar being sold on the art market. 

Attached below are images provided by UNESCO, taken in 2010 of some of the rooms of Beit Ghazaleh. 







December 3, 2016

Geneva authorities report the confiscation of 9 artifacts from Palmyra, Syria, Yemen and Libya

Swiss authorities have confiscated nine archaeological objects originating from Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Through document records obtained by Swiss tribunal it has been determined that the objects were shipped to Switzerland between 2009 and 2010 and were stored at the Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève in their 6-story La Praille facility, located in a sprawling grey industrial building on the corner of a busy junction in southwest Geneva.

Back in September ARCA posted its own concerns about Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA attempt to reduce their risks surrounding the trade in stolen antiquities, both in terms of money-laundering and as a potential support for arms traffickers or terrorist groups. At that time, the free port was set to make changes that may or may not have been prompted to address this seizure, but still, in our opinion fall short of the thoroughly addressing the problem of storing looted artworks.

Originally set to be implemented this past summer, the new internal policy was implimented on September 19, 2016 and requires that anyone wanting to store ancient artifacts at the sprawling facility will have to undergo checks by an independent firm KPMG.  This group is tasked with investigating the validity of requests and the precise origins of any antiquities before the object is approved for transport to the complex for subsequent storage.  It should be noted that KPMG is a powerhouse accounting audit firm and in no way has had prior experience with this type of art-related transport auditing.

Back in October French finance minister Michel Sapin's, speaking on terrorism funding criticized security at Switzerland's free ports saying "there is a weak link, which is the existence of free ports."    And while it should be clearly noted that the recently publicized seizures in the tax-free zone predate both the Syrian and the Yemen conflict, ARCA agrees that controls by art provenance experts and not accounting experts would be a better means of addressing the continued problems seen at not just Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève but freeports as holding facilities for art world wide. 

The antiquities were discovered during an target-based Federal Customs Administration audit of the free port in April 2013 in a space rented by a private individual.  Presently that individual has not been publically identified.

In January 2015 Swiss authorities, through the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) confirmed the authenticity of the ancient objects, and have stated that some of the seized objects were shipped to the facility from Qatar (Items 1-6) and the United Arab Emirates (Item 7).  Swiss authorities have also stated that evidence gathered during the investigation has led the prosecutor to conclude that the goods seized were from looting and as a result, confiscation was ordered.  In addition a criminal case has been opened by the Tribune de Genève in March 2016 to be followed by Prosecutor Gregory Orci.

North-West Façade
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire
While the objects await permanent release to their countries of origin Swiss prosecutors have transferred the objects for safekeeping from Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève to the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire located at Rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206 Genève where they will be placed on public display.  

The objects have been identified by the Swiss authorities as follows with the following designations and in the order as they appear in official records.

Item 1 - A head of Aphrodite, origin Hellenic North Africa, Libya

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 2 - A priest wearing his miter head, origin Palmyra, Syria

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 3 - A circular table with decoration of ovals and head of ibex, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 4 - A praying [sic] origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen


Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 5 - anthropomorphic stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen


Item 6 - anthropomorphic stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen
Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 7 - A quâtabanite registration stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen


Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor 
Item 8 - Funerary bas-relief from Palmyra, Syria

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 9 - Funerary bas-relief from Palmyra, Syria
Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor

No longer simply Italian and Greek objects raising concern at the free ports, the Geneva port authority also recently relinquished a Nile Delta stele to Egyptian authorities following a two-year investigation after an inventory control by Swiss Federal Customs at the Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA facility at the Geneva airport.   The stele was identified as suspicious using the ICOM red list for Egypt and as a result was held pending authentication and then reported to Swiss prosecution for its irregularities. Criminal proceedings were conducted by the Attorney Claudio Mascotto and the object was returned in November of this year.

By: Lynda Albertson 

November 19, 2016

Conference: Iraq and Syria: Archaeological Heritage between Risks and Perspectives


CPAVO: Strategy-setting Conference of the Archaeologists of the Near East

Iraq and Syria: Archaeological Heritage between Risks and Perspectives

Location:  Palagio dei Capitani di Parte Guelfa, Florence, Italy

Dates:  16-17 December 2016

Cost:  Free, Deadline for Registration 04/12/16

Note:  The spoken language of the conference is Italian. 

The event, organized by CAMNES (Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies), in collaboration with the Municipality of Florence (UNESCO Office) and the Academy of Arts and Design of Florence, on the occasion of the anniversary of the inscription of the Historic Center of Florence in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which took place on December 17, 1982, is a part of active collaboration between the city of Florence and UNESCO and follows the latest initiatives, such as the third UNESCO Forum on cultural industries in 2014 and the recent global summit of Mayors 'Unity in Diversity 2015', after which the Charter of Florence was signed.

On the basis of what is reported in the Charter of Florence to the points set forth below this event will:

• support the UNESCO campaign #United4Heritage regarding the defense of the cultural heritage; encourage the establishment of scientific committees in support of the "Blue Helmets of Culture" - promoted by the Italian government - and support programs of international cooperation for the preservation and protection of heritage;

• make available to UNESCO and its National Commissions, Governments and local administrations a network of specialists, particularly in the field of conservation and heritage management, in order to activate a protection network of cultural and natural heritage, endangered by conflicts and natural disaster events;

CAMNES and the Municipality of Florence (UNESCO Office) have constituted a Scientific and Organizing Committee, which met in Florence on June 28th with the specific purpose to define and organize this upcoming event. The project behind this conference is based on the fact that the scientific community of archaeologists of the Near East is able to make an active and important contribution in addressing not only academic and field research issues, but most importantly those related to prevention, conservation and enhancement of archaeological and cultural heritage in contexts currently affected by conflicts, more specifically Iraq and Syria.

For these reasons they felt necessary to bring together all the scholars of this discipline – currently active, involved or potentially interested in projects of excavations and research in Syria and Iraq - with the aim of producing concrete proposals and projects based on the following topics:

HERITAGE AT RISK: elements related to specific contexts and issues pertaining to the critical assessment of specialists. Analysis of specific issues regarding archaeological sites, architectural monuments and museums in the affected areas, as well as preventive mode of action.

LOCAL STRATEGIES OF PROTECTION / OPERATIONAL MODELS: identification and development - including a critical approach to the past – of new research and conservation methodologies, which satisfy the changing requirements of action and the necessities imposed by specific contexts. Already implemented best practices/projects to be disseminated and shared in integrated projects developed jointly by various actors. Rules, laws and bureaucracy issues, including questions related to the illicit trafficking in antiquities. 

ARCHAEOLOGIST AS A SOURCE OF INFORMATION IN THE CONTEXT OF CRISIS: archaeology, as a social science, is strongly connected with the contemporary society. Archaeologists as "cultural mediators" – between, on the one hand, cultures of the past and present and, on the other, between the Western culture and those of  host countries - in addition to the official relations with the local authorities, operate completely immersed in the socio-cultural areas in which they operate; archaeologists’ privileged position, rendering them both witnesses and sources of information in times of conflict and crisis.

PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY and COMMUNICATION: analysis of critical issues pertinent to the relationship with local communities ("Local perception of cultural heritage") for the protection and enhancement of heritage. Development of communication and dissemination strategies based on activities undertaken and planned by archaeologists on-site.

STAKEHOLDERS: avenues of interaction with the scientific community and institutions in host countries (regarding both excavations and museums). Issues relating to training of the local staff.

For a detailed list of the event's Programme as well as details on the Scientific and Organizing Committee please see the CAMNES website here.


Posted BY:  Summer Clowers

October 5, 2016

Genuine (likely-fake) Ancient Roman Antiochia Syria Glass Vial Perfume Oil Unguent $299 on eBay

Tracking conflict antiquities and illicit antiquities sold via the internet is challenging, even for people who regularly try to monitor sites in their daily life or as part of ongoing research. Manual checks and automated link and keyword extraction crawlers can be useful for scraping data, but all too often it feels a bit like the arcade game whack-a-mole.  


Just when you think you might be on to a terrorist selling antiquities on eBay, surprise! You really have only found the non-terrorist-leaning dishonest individual with the same modus aperandi that you have already recorded ten times before, but now with a different user name.  

Take for example, this eBay auction which purports to be a Genuine Ancient Roman Iridescent Blown Glass Vial, what archaeologists call a piriform unguentaria. Ancient everyday vessels like these weren't intentionally iridescent.  They gained their rainbow'd look when the vessel became buried in soil.  Soil then leaches the alkali from the glass which, when corroded, can alter the glass object's surfaces to reflect light in such a way as to cause iridescence.

The eBay seller ancientgifts gives the following description for their item:

CLASSIFICATION: Ancient Roman Blown Glass Vial

ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Roman Empire (Syria), 1st Century A.D.

SIZE/MEASUREMENTS:
Height: 80 millimeters (3 1/4 inches)
Bowl Diameter: 11 millimeters (1/2 inch)
Neck Diameter: 8 millimeters (1/3 inch)
Top Lip Diameter: 16 millimeters (2/3 inch)

Weight: 5.99 grams

CONDITION: Very good, complete but likely repaired (professionally, probably by a conservator). Fairly uncommon style. Minor scratches and scuffs consistent with use and then burial in soil. Heavy layer of iridescence and soil deposits caused by prolonged burial in soil).

Surprisingly, this suggested "conservator-treated" piece still has soil clinging to it? Ancient objects that have surface deposits can contain important information on its use or provenance so IF the object actually passed through a conservator's hands, like the seller's object description implies, the potential significance of the soil deposits should have been evaluated and recorded, not merely left in place. Perhaps this teaser has been added to give the object the appearance of authenticity?

Not so surprisingly this genuine possibly-fake object comes without any provenance/collecting history.  This in spite of the fact that the object has one of this seller's typical 3 kilometer long descriptions which outlines the likely history of the object ad nauseam.  

But as eBay shoppers should know, provenance is difficult to produce when an object has recently been looted and equally hard to come by when a seemingly-authentic antiquity has no history at all because it isn't what it claims to be, or hasn't come from anywhere near where it has been suggested.

But who is the seller ancientgifts?

Looking through ancientgifts "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE" takes you on a not so foxy fox hunt that I doubt any, but the most well-informed savvy collectors, who actually bother with conducting due diligence would ever bother with.  The first click links you to his Ancient Gifts website at http://www.ancientgifts.biz. This link in turn leads you to a twitter profile: @ancientgifts which then lists another URL for a website claiming to be the SUSU - Student Association for Archaeology and Anthropology on which is posted the following claim.

Click to Enlarge
When searching with Google "Southern Urals State University Students Association for the Advancement of Archaeological and Anthropological Studies" doesn't return any URLs pointing to a legitimate organisation affiliated with the Chelyabinsk, Russia university.

The WHO IS registry however does give us some leads as the Registrant Contact Information for both of the seller's URLs is:

Name: Chuck Ordego
Organization: Timeless Treasure
Address: 3051 Hales Passage
City: Lummi Island
State / Province: WA
Postal Code: 98262
Country: US
Phone: +1.3607589932

Note the "d" in the last name "Ordego".

A check of directory assistance shows that the telephone number and residential address affiliated with each site are registered to Charles Edward Ortego (notice the "t" and not the "d"), his wife Anna (sometimes written as Anya) Ponomareva  who also goes by the name Anna Ortego and possibly a third individual, his elderly or deceased grandfather Carl Stube. 

"Ortego" is the last name "Chuck" or "Charlie" or "Charles" uses, according to his mother's blog and various legal records related to a lawsuit he filed on behalf of a Lummi Island homeowners association he is registered with.    His wife, according to one of her two Facebook pages, is from Chelyabinsk, Russia which might explain the Russian University nonsense or the certificates of authenticity they are willing to provide from the likely-fictitious university student group. 

Mr. Stube appears to be Chuck's mother's father, and as she is in her late seventies, and the only evidence of his existence I could find was a fifty year old photo that would make him at least ninety. I personally doubt if he is still living.

In any case, I think we can say for certain that Charles E. Ortego, who lives at a residence located at 3051 Hales Passage, Lummi Island, Washington along with his Russian-born wife are the most likely humans behind the username ancientgifts and I don't want to make this post more tedious than it already is by listing all the sites where you can find a correlation. 

The auction duo seem to "seed" their online sales with low value often-overpriced authentic objects alongside fakes and a mixed bag of inexpensive gemstones that Ms. Ponomareva Ortega advertises on two Facebook profiles and her Instagram profile.  

The couple claim that much of the proceeds they make will go to "The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe connected with Anthropology and Archaeology."

Not surprisingly we weren't able to verify any donations to that esteemed institution.

Looking over past reports from suspicious archaeologists Doug Rocks-Macqueen and Paul Barford it appears that Ortego and/or his wife have been selling tourist-grade trinkets of sketchy origin under a variety of usernames for more than a decade.

Sometimes irreputable sellers on eBay create shill accounts to bid on their own auctions to drive up the prices and sometimes they change user names when they have been outed publicly for fraud, hoping that angry buyers or hostile competitors won't notice or won't pursue them. 

Past online auction names that have been attributed to the individual(s) selling under the current username ancientgifts include:

southern_urals_state_saaa
southern_urals_saaa, and
s_urals_state_university
timelesstreasure4u
thegiftoftime

But regardless of how many names the seller has used now or in the past, he has been successfully working the system for more than a decade.

This doesn't say much for eBay's investment in policing their own auction site, where profit opportunity is high and old rules for committing fraud no longer seem to be applied.  Or if they are, they are applied selectively and very rarely when it comes to chasing dealers flogging low value ancient art.

But if you have any information on other user names used by this particular ancient art dealer, please send them our way and we can update his list.

If you have found your way to the ARCA blog doing your own due diligence as a potential eBay buyer/collector, consider yourself duly warned.  Any successful con game depends on the greed and deception (especially self-deception) of BOTH the conner and the connee.

Purchasing ancient art via the murky waters of an online trading community the size of eBay, is the perfect toxic cocktail for the uninformed novice collector. The site has all the trappings of honest tradesmen plying their goods in the 21st century but still very little in the way of deterring or prosecuting criminals and conmen.

Welcome to the Wild Wild Web. 

By: Lynda Albertson

July 13, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - ,, No comments

DGAM Syria reports damage to the National Museum of Aleppo

The Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM)in Syria has issued a report with images showing recent damage to the structural integrity of the National Museum of Aleppo.  One of the images shows what appears to be a an improvised artillery device made from a propane cylinder. 


Known as a "hell cannon" these improvised explosives carry a range of approximately 1 mile/ 1.6 km depending on the payload it is firing and have been used by opposition forces during the Syrian conflict.  

The Mari display section at the National Museum of
Aleppo after the October 2012 car bombs exploded
in Aleppo city centre
In October 2012 four car bombs were reported as having exploded near the museum, injuring some workers and curators. Those earlier explosions caused notable damage to the museum's infrastructure. During the explosion, windows were destroyed, as was the artificial roof, a lighting system and some of the showcases.   At the time of the earlier incident, the museums collection was still housed within the museum. 






May 14, 2016

Heritage Destruction in the Mediterranean Region

By Guest Editorial: Joris Kila, PhD
Cultural Adviser, The Hague Senior Researcher
Kompetenzzentrum Kulturelles Erbe und Kulturgüterschutz,
University of Vienna

This article is being released online in advance of publication in the IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2016 print issue. (www.iemed.org/medyearbook)

All over the news we see cultural property, the legal term widely used for cultural heritage, often connected to the cradles of civilisation, being damaged, smuggled and abused. Currently much devastation is taking place in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, more specifically the Mediterranean area, e.g. Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Within the size limitations of this article I will indicate some problems, causes and possible solutions regarding safeguarding cultural property. These examples will hopefully stimulate discussion, research and a more pro-active approach towards short and long-term solutions.

Problems and Deficiencies

Because of recent conflicts and upheavals, some of which are ongoing, substantial parts of the world’s cultural resources, which are not just artworks but also containers of identity and memory, have been lost or are under threat. In modern asymmetric conflicts, cultural property protection (CPP) is a complex and serious issue due to the variety of stakeholders with unbalanced interests, its multidisciplinary character and the potential sensitivity of heritage issues, which is often connected with local, national or religious identities. 

Since institutionalised CPP emergency activities as mandatory operations under national and international law are virtually absent, a small number of cultural experts, often acting as concerned private individuals without funding, took matters into their own hands to give a good example for official CPP institutions. This resulted in a modest number of relevant and innovative activities like undercover on-site emergency assessments and engagements with military stakeholders resulting, for instance, in cultural no-strike lists, as was used in Libya in 2011 and the development of CPP doctrines for military operational planning (Kila & Zeidler 2013, Kila & Herndon 2014).

Notwithstanding this, CPP should no longer be taken care of solely by the purview of this small group of concerned people. Phenomena like using cultural property to finance conflicts, iconoclasm, military aspects, CPP and global security, strategic communication (parties as protectors or destroyers of culture) and conflicting interests of old and new stakeholders need structural research and organisation. Furthermore, the links with identity, counterinsurgency, transnational organised crime and illicit trafficking, including its related transnational finance flows, heritage as a resource for local development and the overlap between cultural and natural resources need attention. Worldwide cooperation is also dependent on new stakeholders like military organisations, crime experts, tourism organisations and cultural diplomats. 

Although legal frameworks for heritage protection appear in place (e.g. The Hague 1954, the Rome Statute 1998), today’s state of cultural property in conflict areas clearly illustrates that the effectiveness of policies and strategies (to be) implemented by institutions tasked with CPP in the event of conflict are insufficient. Most institutions seem to lack pro-activity and tend towards bureaucratic and risk-avoiding behaviour (Wilson 1989, Kila 2012. Kila, Zeidler 2013). The latter relates to (over) politicising heritage because of sensitivity caused by identity, religion and economic issues. Consequently, essential developments concerning the changing status of heritage, its economic value, heritage protection as an instrument in counter-terrorism denying the enemy financial means to prolong a conflict and legal developments, e.g. the criminalisation of offenses against cultural property in international criminal law, are not studied in a coherent transdisciplinary context.

Organisations themselves claim lack of funding as a major reason for their indolence. In the meantime devastation continues, whereas the international cooperation, coordination and research that should drive transdisciplinary, interagency and emergency endeavours, as well as the necessary funding, is either lacking or misspent. In this context a recurring misconception is that although protection of heritage is important, aid to those in need because of conflicts and natural disasters should have priority. This line of argument does not hold water because one does not exclude the other. CPP and humanitarian aid are substantively and financially separate. No funds are withdrawn from monies allocated to humanitarian disasters when heritage is protected.

Europe and CPP

One could say that CPP including combating illicit trade in artifacts is not the specific capability of the EU. Certainly it is not stated per se in the treaties, but it does fall within several areas of EU competence. Examples of this are the internal market, freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) and culture along with common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

The EU probably has no CPP expertise capability but there are experts that can provide  knowledge on this. Stakeholders like NATO*,  Europol, INTERPOL and the International Criminal Court, all based in Europe, share identical problems (lack of cultural expertise and funding), so potentially this burden can be shared making it less costly and more efficient. An example: a potential step forward was made by creating the EU CULTNET,** in  theory a platform for networking, expertise and knowledge sharing. 

In 2015, the EU Parliament called on Member States to take necessary steps to involve universities, research bodies and cultural institutions in the fight against illicit trade in cultural goods from war areas. Instead of just calling the usual re-active institutions, and in an attempt to really act without delay, a task force including cultural experts with proven track records and strong networks is highly advisable. Such an entity can be created at short notice to provide expert advice for all stakeholders. Simultaneously Europe should start coordination, research and education regarding CPP and the implementation of (legal) instruments to safeguard cultural property.  Currently the  United   States  do more  than  Europe,  and unfortunately there is little cooperation with them on this topic; maybe this will change when Europe follows in taking responsibility for CPP in the context of conflicts.

The Mediterranean Region

Cultural heritage can suffer from multiple types of damage and offences related to conflict. Typical examples include collateral damage, vandalism, encroachment as part of development, iconoclasm and looting. In Libya and Syria all these phenomena occur simultaneously; Syria is already seriously affected and Libyan heritage is, for the most part, still under threat. 

Moreover, we should consider that, according to several sources, substantial numbers of artefacts looted and smuggled out of the Mediterranean region are likely hidden in secret depots. These will enter the market in the future. As the NY Times put it: "Long-established smuggling organizations are practiced in getting the goods to people willing to pay for them, and patient enough to stash ancient artifacts in warehouses until scrutiny dies down. ***

Some Case Examples

Syria

Many important sites, libraries, archives, churches and mosques in Syria were destroyed in 2015. All warring parties are guilty of devastation and illicit trade, but  IS  drew  the  most  attention. We all remember images of temples and graves in Palmyra being blown up by IS, not to mention the execution of Palmyrian archaeologist Khaled  al-Asaad in August 2015.

In Syria, we see the return of iconoclasm driven and legitimized as an excuse for eliminating perceptions of  heresy  as well  as the  'recycling' of antique monuments  originally  built  for defense, like Krak de Chevaliers, Palmyra's Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle or the destroyed Temple of Bel. Iconoclasm is not only directed at immovable heritage but also at written heritage making manuscripts and books equally at risk. 

The majority of today's warring parties are guilty of destruction intentionally or by accident while disregarding cultural  property's protected status under (inter)national laws. The increase in looting and illicit traffic of cultural property, the revenues from which are used to finance conflicts, implies that CPP can be a military incentive (force multiplier) denying the enemy the means to prolong a conflict. 

CPP should therefore be part of military operational planning processes (OPP). NATO could play a role in this, helped by cultural experts, by supplying CPP doctrine planning models to Member States. The ICC should investigate possibilities of prosecuting cultural war crimes in Syria through international criminal law and certain treaties that give the ICC jurisdiction in Libya. Cultural expertise is needed for organizations like the ICC and, therefore, funding has to be in place.

Libya

Present-day Libya is divided in two parts controlled by two rival 'governments ': in Tripoli and (recognized internationally) Tobruk. Negotiations are taking place under supervision of the United Nations to unite the country again. The latest news is the announcement of a new government of national accord temporarily based in Tunis. The Department  of Antiquities  in Tripoli is still active (January 2016) and has made urgent demands for international help in order to assess the nature  of the  threats  against  Libyan heritage in situ and to find simple and cheap solutions. 

Libya has five UNESCO World Heritage sites: the ancient Greek archaeological sites of Cyrene; the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna; the Phoenician port of Sabratha; the  rock-art  sites  of  the  Acacus Mountains in the Sahara Desert; and old Ghadamès, an oasis city. 

Sites like Leptis Magna are out in the open and exposed to all kinds of threats, especially theft and urban encroachment. The Benghazi area suffers from a lack of security, and Cyrene is not only threatened by looting, but  also by (illegal) commercial developments destroying precious heritage. 

At the end of 2015, pro-ISIL militants took temporary control of part of the town of Sabratha to free members seized by a rival militia. Libya's anti- government Islamic militants have aligned with IS and are active in the surrounding areas of Sabratha, which people fear will fall victim to iconoclasm and looting. 

Iconoclastic attacks have already taken place against Sufi tombs and mosques, amongst others, in Tripoli. Several international structures and organizations exist that could and should deal with CPP in Libya but they are not doing so (effectively) because they are (or feel) restricted often by their own governments, due to possible political implications.

Conclusions

Cultural heritage abuse and destruction are rampant. Old phenomena like iconoclasm are back in strength. Iconoclasm arose in Europe in the iconoclastic rage of 1566 in which the Calvinists destroyed statues in Catholic churches and monasteries. Apart from being driven by religious motives, the destruction of antiquities and cultural objects of heritage in the Mediterranean region seems to be used as a modern form of psychological warfare. Attacks on cultural heritage also show elements of cultural genocide and, as acknowledged by the United Nations, war crimes or even crimes against humanity.

Monuments and cultural objects stand for the identity of groups and individuals. lf you want to hurt a society or a nation at its heart or erase their existence from historical memory, then their cultural heritage is a grateful prey. The main concern is that there is presently no operational protection system being implemented based on international cooperation and coordination. Legal obligations and sanctions are not sufficiently implemented and enforced - for instance, cultural war crimes should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.  

Can we stop the destruction of our shared cultural heritage in the Mediterranean area? 

This is hard to say, but we, especially Europa, should now, more than ever, resist the dismantling of our shared identity and become pro­ active.

--Mr. Kila will be speaking at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Oriental Manuscripts Conference: "Facing the Chaos. Tangible and Intangible Heritage Protection in the XXI century" on May 19, 2016.




* Military organizations especially NATO do not have CPP expertise nor are they hiring experts to educate the military and to bring CPP into operational planning doctrines.
** Council Resolution 14232/12 of 4 October 2012 on the creation of an informal network of law enforcement authorities and expertise competent in the field of cultural goods  (EU CULTNET).
***Source www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/world/europe/iraq-syria-antiquities-ielamic-etate.html?_r=O accessed on 20 January 2016. 

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References

KILA J. and HERNDON C. "Military  involvement  in Cultural Property Protection: An Overview by Joris Kila and Christopher Herndon" in Joint  Forces Quarterly, JFQ 74, 3rd Quarter 2014 July 2014.

KILA J. and ZEIDLER JA "Military Involvement in Cultural Property   Protection   as   part   of   Preventive Conservation'  In   Cultural  Heritage in  the Crosshairs: Protecting Cultural Property during Conflict, Kila, J. and Zeidler, J. (Eds), Leiden­ Boston 2013. Conclusion, Joris D. Kila and James A. Zeidler ibid. Pp. 9-50 and Pp.351-353.

KILA J. Heritage under Siege. Military implementation of  Cultural  Property Protection following the1954 Hague Convention Leiden-Boston 2012.

WILSON J. Bureaucracy. What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do it, New York, 1989.

April 27, 2016

US Government sends H.R. 1493 to the US President’s desk for signature.

Late in the day, April 26, 2016 and with final House passage, the US government has approved its final amended version of H.R. 1493, "The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act" agreed to in the Senate by Unanimous Consent. The proposed law will now head to the US President’s desk for signature.

H.R. 1493 was drafted to deny ISIS Funding and to save Syria’s antiquities through the trafficking of its material culture.

The bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on March 19, 2015 during the 114th Congress, First Session by Representative Eliot L. Engel, [D-NY-16] via the House - Armed Services; Foreign Affairs; Judiciary; Ways and Means Committee and also referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  The bill calls for the protection and preservation of international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.  

Since that time the House and Senate have debated the bill separately and offered amendments (ultimately approved as amended by the Senate on April 18, 2016, before the bill went on to all of the US Congress for a full vote. The amended version includes a stronger "safe harbour" measure for Syrian antiquities and deleted a the proposed State Department "Cultural Property Czar."  

As both the Senate and the House have now voted approving the finalized amended version of the bill, it will now go forward to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, for his signatory approval.


ISIS earns tens of millions annually from looting and trafficking antiquities to fund terror.  A UN Security Council resolution passed in February calls on all nations to help defund ISIS by preventing trade in Syrian antiquities. 
America’s allies have already imposed import restrictions on trafficked Syrian and Iraqi artifacts.  Congress established similar restrictions for Iraqi artifacts in 2004 but has yet to act for Syria, leaving Syrian artifacts open to looting and trafficking by ISIS.
H.R. 1493
  • Imposes import restrictions on illicit Syrian artifacts to undercut looting and trafficking.
  • Provides for antiquities to be temporarily protected by U.S. institutions until they can be safely returned to their rightful owners.
  • Expresses congressional support for establishing an interagency coordinating committee to better protect historical sites and artifacts at risk worldwide. 
  • Improves congressional oversight of efforts to save cultural property.
This bill has been publicly endorsed and supported by the American Alliance of Museums, the American Anthropological Association, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, the Archaeological Institute of America, Preservation Action, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the United States Committee of the Blue Shield, and the U.S. National Committee of the International Council of Museums.

Once signed by President Obama and by imposing import restrictions on Syrian material culture, the U.S. will be joining the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the European Union in taking steps to protect trafficked antiquities from Syria.

A complete copy of the approved amended Bill is located here

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs welcomed the Senate passage of his legislation. 

On the House floor Chairman Royce spoke about combating ISIS’s destruction and looting of artifacts from the birthplace of civilisation.  Below is a video that includes Chairman Royce’s remarks.  A written transcript of his remarks can be found here




April 13, 2016

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - ,,, No comments

The Road to Recovery - DGAM in Syria Issues Initial Statement Regarding its Plans for Palmyra

This evening the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria issued a statement about their intent and vision for Palmyra and sent a copy to ARCA for dissemination.  This document can be read in its entirety here.

Before undertaking any substantial rehabilitation project on the ancient city it is reassuring to know that the country’s heritage management authorities are carrying out a comprehensive damage assessment in order to document the nature and scale of all the damage before deciding on a measured and scientifically valid strategy for conservation and preservation.

As with any good heritage management plan, if there is any sense of urgency it will be to carry out any needed emergency repairs to stabilise the historic site and to minimise or prevent further damage while a long term comprehensive recovery plan is being considered and developed.

When reflecting on calls to restore Palmyra to its former glory, the internet has been abuzz with people arguing that it is too early to begin to think about heritage.  While it is true that this conflict is sadly far from concluding, a peoples need to rebuild, to find normalcy where it is anything but, is not something that is date-stamped to begin solely once peace has been achieved.

Heritage damage in wartime is often symbolic of what has been lost.  Likewise the yearning to restore emblematic monuments to their former glory can be symbolic of a citizenry's own desire to pick up the pieces of their own lives and put them back together.

In 1940 the German Luftwaffe attacked Coventry in the English Midlands and the city decided to rebuild its mediaeval cathedral the morning after its destruction.  The Second World War also saw 85% of Warsaw's historic centre destroyed by Nazi troops and in 1946 the city initiated a 5 year campaign, (not without its detractors) carried out by its citizens, that resulted in a meticulous restoration of the city's Old Town, complete with recreated churches, palaces and marketplace.

For the Polish citizens of Warsaw who had lived through the horrors of war, the memory of how things were mattered more than authenticity.

Sometimes, the need to restore culture has does not even wait for reconstruction.   In 1993 Zubin Mehta conducted the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Mozart's Requiem inside the crumbling ruins of Sarajevo's National Library, its music reminding us that sometimes food and shelter from the bombardment and strive are not the only things that heal woulds and knit a community back together.

Whatever course of action is ultimately approved by the DGAM for Palmyra, it is my hope that the dedication of the department's team of professionals is not brushed to the wayside during the debate on what should be done and when and by whom.  Syria's heritage staff deserve encouragement and support, not magnifying glass criticism before conservation projects have even get under way.  The staff working for the DGAM are the people who know Syria's heritage needs better than anyone and certainly a lot better than those criticising their work safely miles away from the the day to day suffering during a protracted and bloody war.

If I could wish for anything, I would hope that local people, where appropriate, can be integrated into the rebuilding initiative as a means of healing for the fragmented community of Tadmur.  Being part of restoring heritage together could help the citizens of the modern city begin their own recovery and would also mitigate the "history is more important than humanity" rhetoric that often comes with these types of heritage undertakings.

Director General of the DGAM has affirmed that the
hypogeum of the Three Brothers, which dates back to 160 AD,in Palmyra stayed intact.

Regardless of what projects are ultimately selected and acted upon, it is important that the conservation or reconstruction work be “de-politicised.  Technical experts and conservators need to be able to get on with their work without pressure from political or other interest groups and so that they can focus on being sure that the heritage aid is integrated into a broader humanitarian recovery programme. In this way, and if handled delicately, reconstruction can be the first emotional bricks cementing a post-conflict reconciliation.

The people of Syria’s ability to recover from this conflict will owe much to their own cultural resilience, to people letting people get on with life on their own terms, and to not imposing our ideas onto their social and economic realities.  By remembering that cultural heritage can be a positive tool for reconciliation and social reconstruction, whatever gets decided will assuredly take into consideration the sensitivities of the Syrian people and their need to reestablish the familiar as symbolic symbols of things returning to normal.

The ancient city of Palmyra as a monument is not merely a reflection of the ancient past.  In a single desert location, Palmyra simultaneously tell us something about the country, the people who have for centuries populated the area, the city in all its former glory, and its many battles.  Battles fought in wars long ago and battles fought which are still rawly fresh and indelibly carved into our collective psyche.

Palmyra is as much a reflection of society's ability to survive as it is a message of hope for Syria's future.

Op Ed - Lynda Albertson

March 27, 2016

Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle and the Exigencies of War

Pre-Conflict Condition
Image Credit: Syrian Ministry of Tourism
The exigencies of war is oftentimes very unkind to mankind's cultural heritage, but especially so when its a historic battlement structure.  Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle, which sits on a high hill overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Site of of Palmyra in Syria is thought to have been built by the Mamluks.

This newly-liberated castle gets its current name from the Lebanese Maanite Emir, Fakhr al-Din (1590 - 1635), who himself is believed to have occupied the castle strategically during wartime and having extended the present structure from an earlier castle which stood on the rocky outcropping, perhaps dating from the 12th century.

Fakhr al-Din used the castle for a military vantage point to defensively test the limits of Ottoman rule, having expanded his area of territorial control from Mount Lebanon to as far east as the deep Syrian desert. Things didn't turn out so well for al-Din either as he was ultimately captured and subsequently executed by the Ottomans in 1635.

In evaluating the impact of the the current conflict on Syria’s cultural heritage, especially the use of heritage with tactical value like the Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle, there is much to consider legally.

The term ‘armed conflict’ is context-dependent in that the criteria for determining the existence of an armed conflict differ according to whether the armed violence is one fought between two or more states.  An international armed conflict (IAC) is defined by criteria derived from Common Article 2 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions as being between one state and one or more organised non-state armed groups.  

A non-international armed conflict (NIAC) is defined by criteria derived from treaty law as well as key ad hoc tribunals.  The term is used when a situation of violence involves one or more organised non-state armed groups or between two or more such groups.  When a conflict is deemed to be a NIAC it triggers the application of the law of armed conflict (LOAC).  LOAC and international humanitarian law (IHL) are often used interchangeably.

Legal qualification of the armed violence in Syria: a non-international armed conflict (NIAC)

The extent and sustained nature of armed violence, and the level of organisation of the various non-state armed groups fighting against one another or the current Syrian governing authority, have defined the situation across Syria as an NIAC as an armed conflict of a non-international character as of 2012. (See the assessment made by the International Committee of the Red Cross --ICRC).

Under the Hague Convention, as an official state party to the Convention and the First Protocol, the Syrian government is obliged ‘respect’ cultural property in their or other territory. The Convention prohibits their targeting cultural property, unless it is of ‘imperative military necessity’, a term subject to differing interpretations.  When a site is exploited by non-State actors, in situations where those structures prove to be militarily strategic to the opposing force, state military actors are still obliged to take into consideration precisely what substantive content of international law does and does not apply if targeting the site during wartime.

The Second Protocol, which Syria is not a State Party to further elaborates the provisions of the Hague Convention relating to safeguarding of and respect for cultural property and the conduct of the military during hostilities.  Both the First and the Second Protocols lead to the question of applicability of customary international law, of other sources of international law and local law and what they require of waring parties.

The collection of images below show one example of how one heritage site, specifically one with battle attributes that are considered militarily valuable to waring factions, can become a cultural causality of war.

Whether that damage was ‘imperative military necessity’ is something that will be debated for years to come. 

Pre-Conflict Condition
Image Credit: Christophe Charon/AFP
Inside the structure there are several levels and numerous rooms.  The best (and also most vulnerable) Military vantage points are from from the highest terrace to the south.

Pre-Conflict Condition
Image Credit: Syrian Ministry of Tourism
Photo taken January 2011
Image Credit: @lucialessi
Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016
Image Credit Syria DGAM
Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016
Image Credit: Twitter User 

Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016
Image Credit: Sham International
Images of the bridge, replacing the original drawbridge, which gives access over the moat to the castle gate.

2015 Image approaching Castle gate
Image Credit Da'esh
Post Conflict - Image Date March 26, 2016 I
Image Credit: Sham International
Post Conflict - Image Date March 25, 2016
Image Credit: Still from Drone Video Rossiya 24 TV