November 27, 2014

Christie's Auction House Withdraws Sardinian Marble Female Idol from Upcoming New York City Sale

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor and Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Last week Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis pointed to a Sardinian marble female idol that Christie's planned to sell in New York City on December 11, 2014 -- an image of the idol had been identified previously in the Medici archive (see ARCA post here).  Further information on the background of this object's less than optimal collection history was later posted on Professor David Gill's blog Looting Matters and on Nord Wennerstrom's website Nord on Art

In protest of this sale Italian Camera Deputy Unidos Mauro Pili from the Regione of Sardinia wrote to Italy's ministro dei Beni culturali Dario Franceschini, Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Esteri Gentiloni and to the US Ambassador of the United States to Italy, John Phillips demanding that immediate action be taken to stop the sale and to return the stolen goods to Sardinia.

Shortly thereafter, archaeologists in and around Italy formed a virtual protest group via social media provider Facebook also demanding the objects return.  This and other local interest action groups attracted more than 1000 followers. 

A few short minutes ago Deputy Unidos Mauro Pili released the following message. 
Poco fa la casa d'aste Christie's ha bloccato la vendita della Dea Madre ritirando dall'asta dell'11 dicembre prossimo il pezzo pregiatissimo della civiltà nuragica della Sardegna. Si tratta di un risultato importantissimo che segna un punto decisivo nella lotta ai furti d'opere archeologiche della Sardegna. Ora occorre andare sino in fondo per far restituire il maltolto alla Sardegna. Questo dimostra che la mobilitazione dell'opinione pubblica, dei media, e delle azioni parlamentari è utile ad accendere i riflettori su queste vergogne e bloccare queste vere proprie rapine al patrimonio della civiltà dei sardi.
The message indicates that Christie's has blocked the sale of the Mother Goddess, withdrawing it from its December 11th auction.  Deputy Pili further added that the blocking of this sale is a major achievement that marks a decisive point in the fight against theft of archaeological works of Sardinia.

A check of the Christie's New York auction side indicates the object has been removed from the online catalog for the upcoming sale proving that pressure at the state and local level can and does apply sufficient pressure to auction houses to lead them to do the right thing.  


November 26, 2014

Ar-Raqqah Museum in Syria continues to Suffer

Yesterday a report came in from the Syrian Arabic Republic - Ministry of Culture's Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) that a bomb dropped in Raqqa (ar-Raqqa, ar-Raqqah, Raqqa, Rakka), Syria near Arafat Square has done structural damage to the main facades of the Ar-Raqqah Museum as well as damage to the doors, shutters and windows.  To outline the damages we have included photos of the museum prior to and after this bomb strike.

This only adds insult to the already identified injury.  Previously DGAM reported that in Spring 2012 an armed group called Ahar al Sham had moved 527 artefacts under the pretext of protecting them. 

Then in June 2013 robbers seized an additional six containers that had been previously stored in the Raqqa Museum’s warehouse.  Through cooperation and negotiations with members of the local community three of these boxes were later identified in Tabaqa under the control of a group called “Cham free people”.  While the found boxes contained 104 artifacts ARCA hasn't been able to ascertain which pieces from the inventory were recovered.

A report of the archaeological heritage in Syria during the crisis from 2011 through early 2013 written by Professor Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim, General Director of Syria's Ministry of Culture can be read here. The 2013 report is available here.

The Museum of Raqqa was founded in 1981 and has been primarily dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cultural heritage gathered from excavation research from the Ar-Raqqah province.  Its collection includes objects from Tell Bi’a, Tell Munbaqa, Tell Sabi Abyad, and Tell Chuera, and includes artefacts that date from Roman and Byzantine eras as well as objects from the Islamic period (the epoch of Haroun al-Rachid) and from the period of more recent Bedouin domination.

Situated in north-central Syria near to where the Balikh River joins the Euphrates the city of Raqqa once dominated the northwest corner of the heartland of the Islamic Empire precisely because it was a major stopover point for those traveling through the Syrian desert to other important cities in the region making it integral for commerce.  Because of this strategic location Raqqa has always been hotly contested throughout its lifespan, perhaps now more than ever.   L. Albertson, ARCA CEO
 

November 24, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection & Provenance Research: A Perspective from Marc Masurovsky, director of the Provenance Training Research Program

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor

I sought out the perspective of Marc Masurovsky, director of the Provenance Research Training Program which will have a new session in Rome next month, on the Kunstmuseum Bern announcement regarding acceptance of the Gurlitt art bequest and its willingness to conduct research to determine if some works had been stolen during the Nazi-era (commonly accepted as 1933-1945).

Q: Today and agreement was reached that the Kunstmuseum Bern would conduct provenance research on the Gurlitt collection before moving the artworks from Germany to Switzerland. What is the process as you understand and what do you anticipate as the strengths and weaknesses?
MM: I thought Germany would handle the provenance. That's how I interpret most press reports from this morning. 
If this is correct, the research is being conducted by individuals hired by the German government under the auspices of the Gurlitt Task Force. 
Frankly, no one is certain about how the research is being conducted. If it were left to us, you'd have to make three distinct piles: auction acquisitions in the Reich, works de-accessioned from German State museums, and works acquired in occupied territories. Those piles lead you to different archives.  The most complex are the French records for works acquired in German-occupied France.  The fundamental weakness behind this process is its opacity and the refusal of the Germans to expand the scope of the research and reach out to those who know a thing or two about these types of losses.  From what we hear, there are only a handful of individuals covering the French archives.
Last but not least, the most complex items to research are the works on paper and especially prints and lithographs.  Who knows where those came from?  To ascertain whether or not they were looted, one would have to go through all files representing losses suffered by victims in France.  The task is staggeringly tedious and complex.

Gurlitt Art Collection and the Kunstmuseum Bern: Acceptance of Bequest comes with agreement to conduct provenance research

The press conference in Berlin today generated a great deal of media interest as to if and how the Kunstmuseum in Bern would accept the bequest of Cornelius Gurlitt -- a long-hidden collection of artwork mired in accusations of Nazi-looting.  The collection consists of around 1,300 works of art on canvas and paper including paintings and sketches by Chagall, Picasso, and Claude Monet.  The bulk of the cache was discovered in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment following a routine tax investigation.

Image credit: Hannibal Hanschke
Christoph Schäublin, the director and president of the Kunstmuseum Bern's board of trustees, said that after extensive deliberation Germany, Bavaria and the Kunstmuseum Bern had reached a formal written agreement viewable in German here to formally accept the Gurlitt collection.  Schäublin emphasized that artworks directly looted from Jewish owners during the Nazi era would not enter into the collection of the Kunstmuseum Bern and would be returned to their rightful heirs.  Works suspected of having been stolen, with no claimants currently identified would remain in Germany for the immediate future to allow for further investigation by the special task already established, with an emphasis on determining the provenance of each of the pieces.  An update on the status of the task force's research is expected sometime in 2015.

Melissa Eddy reporting from Berlin for The New York Times writes in "Kunstmuseum Bern Obtains Trove from Gurlitt Collection" that Schäublin described that a 'privately funded team of experts [would] comb the history of each piece before it came into the museum's possession' .... and that a public list would be made available soon.

German Culture Minister Monika Gruetters stated that she believed that the signing of the accord by all parties represented "a milestone in coming to terms with our history" referring to Germany’s responsibilities for losses under the Nazi regime.

Cornelius Gurlitt's 86-year-old cousin Uta Werner, applied Friday to the Munich Probate Court for a certificate of inheritance in connection with her deceased cousin's estate. Speaking tothe press on Friday through legal counsel she indicated they would be contesting Gurlitt’s fitness of mind at the time he wrote the will naming the Bern museum as his sole heir meaning any resolution in this restitution case could prove lengthy. 

Gurlitt Art Collection: Kunstmuseum Bern accepts bequest from Cornelius Gurlitt

The Kunstmuseum Bern announced today in Berlin that it will accept the art collection from Cornelius Gurlitt. Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO, live tweeted (Ergo Sum @sauterne) during the conference: 
The Kunstmuseum Bern accepts the Gurlitt collection. This was decided by the Board of Trustees of the Art Museum.... Regarding the Gurlitt collection Schäublin says their own research centre at the Kunstmuseum Bern must be considered....  Schäublin on Gurlitt Collection: "On the threshold of the art museum is not stolen art".... Kunstmuseum pledges to fully investigate artwork restitution claims fully.... Central point of the agreement to accept Gurlitt's art collection.... Works of art looted or suspicious do not tread Swiss soil.... Berlin, Munich and Kunstmuseum Bern have signed an agreement on the management of Gurlitt's estate.... Schäublin agreement in accepting Gurlitt collection: Objects with suspicion of being Nazi-looted art will initially remain in Germany....  Bavarian Minister of Justice on the joint Gurlitt accord: "The agreement with the Kunstmuseum Bern is an important step in German history."...  Gurlitt case: The German Minister of Justice says Switzerland is the "right place" for the disputed collection....  Gurlitt press release concludes. Many questions being raised by attendees on state of task force investigation and limbo nazi loot objects.
Here are also two Swiss news outlets that covered the conference (held in German):

http://www.srf.ch/news/panorama/live-aus-berlin-kunstmuseum-bern-nimmt-gurlitt-erbe-an

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/bern-museum-accepts-controversial-art-hoard/41129776

The artworks will remain in Germany while provenance experts study the collecting history of the paintings suspected to have been looted during the Nazi-era.

Here's the latest news from BBC on the Gurlitt art collection and the conference.

Here's a chronology from the German-English news source DW.

Here's a link to the Kunstmuseum's media release (in German).




Gurlitt Art Collection: An Interview with Art Recovery's Christopher Marinello on the eve of the Kunstmuseum's announcement on acceptance or rejection of the bequest by Cornelius Gurlitt

Christopher Marinello, founder of Art Recovery
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Sunday I spoke to Christopher Marinello -- who has presented on several occasions at ARCA's annual art crime conference -- and who is the founder of Art Recovery International.  I interviewed him on the eve of the anticipated decision of whether or not the Kunstmuseum in Bern will accept the art collection bequethed to them by Cornelius Gurlitt. The federal government of Germany, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture, and the Kunstmuseum are scheduled to hold a joint press conference on Monday, November 24, 2014 at 11:00 am CET in Berlin regarding the further handling of Cornelius Gurlitt estate.  Marinello represents the Rosenberg heirs seeking restitution of a Matisse painting from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, an action suspended when Gurlitt died and bequeathed the art in his possession to a Swiss museum.

Q: Monday morning the Kunstmuseum Bern will announce their decision to accept or reject the controversial Gurlitt collection. What do you think are some of the main issues they have had to consider and what will they try to address at the conference?

CM: I’m certain the Museum Board has considered the possible legal issues they may be facing as well as the cost involved in researching the group of paintings. Not to mention the publicity and potential reputational damage in being known as the Museum that houses the Gurlitt hoard.

Q: What is the position of your clients, the Rosenberg heirs, who have proved that Matisse was looted by the Nazis and yet are still waiting for the painting to be restituted?

CM: We are patiently waiting for the Museum to accept the Gurlitt bequest and honour their pledge to restitute any and all works deemed to have been looted by the Nazis.

Q: Could you speculate for a moment on why Cornelius Gurlitt picked the Bern museum? Did he have a relationship with them or was he just looking for an institution outside of Germany?

CM: There has been a lot of speculation on Gurlitt’s motives but it is clear, in my view, that he was looking to punish the German State for the treatment he received after his “collection” was seized.

Q: When Gurlitt was disposing of the art -- whom did he trust and do you anticipate further revelations about the collection?

CM: There will be a lot more revealed in the future on this topic. I don’t wish to comment further, if you don’t mind.

Q: What is the Gurlitt family's position regarding the collection -- is there a chance they can succeed in getting a part of the collection?

CM: The Gurlitt family has pledged privately to me, and publicly, to return the looted works to their rightful owners.

Q: How long of a process has this been for your clients and has it been caution that has slowed the restitution process?

CM: My clients have been waiting almost 75 years for the return of this picture and others. It has been over two years since this hoard was discovered by German authorities. I would say that this is a textbook example of how not to handle Nazi restitution cases. Caution or inane bureaucracy?

Q: Does the museum board have the authority to make binding restitution decisions once they take possession of the collection?

CM: Yes.

Q: What role do you anticipate that the Bavarian task force will have, if any, once the Gurlitt collection is accepted by the Bern museum?

CM: They may offer their assistance to the Kunstmuseum. We should hear more about this tomorrow.

Q: What kind of burden is placed on museums today in regard to Nazi-looted art in their collections?

CM: The Washington Principles and the ICOM code of ethics made it pretty clear what is expected of museums today. Review your collections. Conduct proper provenance research. Transparency has never been more important.

Q: What kind of assistance is available to museums regarding provenance research through organizations such as Art Recovery International or the Looted Art Commission?

CM: We offer our services at no cost to cultural institutions that are in need of assistance. Other organisations offer this type of service as well. Help is often available, all they need to do is ask.

Q: Is there a standard report accepted by ICOM to help clarify what is due diligence or satisfactory provenance on artworks in museums?

CM: There are standards set by ICOM and other organisations that museums can follow.

Q: As a lawyer and an art recovery specialist, what would you propose to expedite restitution?

CM: Generally speaking? The opening of archives, more transparency from museums in publishing their collections and their provenance, and more due diligence from every aspect of the art market. Genuine due diligence, not “optical” due diligence.

Q: What have been the lessons learned in the last year in regards to questions of Nazi-looted art in collections such as Gurlitt?

CM: 75 years later we are still facing the issue of Nazi looted art. Largely because the problem was never properly dealt with. Today, banking has become more regulated, the real estate industry is more transparent, yet the art world remains this one big secret. I have no doubt that there are more Cornelius Gurlitts out there. Public and Private collections must be more transparent and due diligence should be an absolute requirement as opposed to a 'best practice' suggestion for the well informed.

November 23, 2014

Essay: Do you think art collectors might be tempted to buy Syrian antiquities (looted or otherwise?). We say resoundingly, yes.

By Lynda Albertson

On November 22, 2014 the Syrian Arabic Republic - Ministry of Culture's Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) published two striking photos of three confiscated artifacts removed from the Taibul Tomb in the Southeast Necropolis at Palmrya.  Taibul (TYBL in his native Palmyrene) was a rich Palmyran merchant who commissioned a tomb for himself and his family in 113 CE in a necropolis five kilometres southeast of Palmyra.

The tombs in this ancient graveyard are subterranean.  To the untrained eye, the zone where Taibul's tomb and others are located originally looked like just another tract of stony Syrian desert. But with the combined work of Syrian and Japanese archaeologists who documented the site between 2001 and 2005 we have learned much about Palmyrene funerary practices, couches, sepulchres and loculi.   

Unfortunately, the finely-sculpted figures of
men and women where of interest not only to archaeologists and historians documenting the site but more recently also to tomb raiders. But were these thieves savvy enough to understand what will sell on the antiquities art market or were they simply opportunists, taking advantage of what they could easily access?  

Are funerary busts of interest to collectors?

And are they willing to pay large sums for them?

A quick search on the internet would lead one to believe so.  In a few clicks I found one relief listed on eBay through Aphrodite Ancient Art LLC with little identifying where the object originated from.  The auction page states only that it was part of an “Early American private collection, 1960’s”.  eBay lists this one for a steal.  Its auction price is an eye-popping $13,500. 
Aphrodite eBay Auction Item

In 2011 an uglier Syrian limestone relief also went on auction.  Listed as Lot 69 in Sotheby’s June 8, 2011 auction, the object's provenance was listed as Sarkis and Haddad, Beirut, early 1970s.  Despite its humbler appearance, it still managed to find a buyer and fetched a modest sum of $8,125.

Going back to the Aphrodite website, I found a second, Syrian funerary relief of two brothers.  This one listed the object as coming from Palmyra with a provenance of having been purchased from Sotheby's New York in June 2011.  Buy it while it still lasts and collectors can get two funerary figures for a whopping $22,500.

Given the fragility of the Palmyra tombs and the many heritage sites damaged, at risk, or already looted as a result of the Syrian conflict, I wonder if it would be wiser if the experts shifted their focus away from statistical analysis to something more concrete.  Instead of trying to quantifying how much money ISIS/ISIL may, or may not, be making off of blood antiquities perhaps we should be stressing that more attention and funding is needed to trace who the individual traffickers are, both upstream and down.  If we do, Syria's cultural heritage might have a less grim outcome.   As for journalists in search of catchy headlines; vandalized tombs make just as dramatic a statement as vague value estimates and they can be substantiated with actual witnesses and imagery confirmation.

Aphrodite Website Auction Item
Given the gargantuan task of protecting antiquities in the midst of a civil war,  I think its pretty remarkable that DGAM had photo images matched so quickly to identify these pieces and to inform the public of their findings.  And while I am not prepared to go out on a brittle limb and assume any of these reliefs on sale or recently sold have dirty provenance, I do think their presence in the fine arts marketplace makes a pretty strong case that Syrian heritage objects are of interest to collectors.  The fact that they garner hefty sums further underscores that we have only seen the tip of the Syrian antiquities iceberg. 

Petty subsistence looters may fence objects for paltry amounts, middlemen fighters may take their cut, and end traffickers may make a bundle selling to auction houses and galleries, but all this useless faffing about of trying to put an unquantifiable dollar sign on how much its making which opponent in this war is doing nothing to stop the flow whatsoever.

In the end percentages are less relevant than simply understanding that collection-worthy pieces like these seen at auction or those stripped from Palmrya will surely find their way into the world's antiquities art market.  Maybe not immediately, but with the lack of market transparency and self policing, surely in the future.

Traffickers are patient.  So are collectors.

November 22, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014 - ,, No comments

Brent Huffman's documentary "Saving Mes Aynak" will screen six times at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam Nov. 22-30

Image from Mes Aynak (Brent Huffman)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Brent Huffman's documentary Saving Mes Aynak will premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam this week. Here's a list of the show times. A synopsis of the film:
“Like a mother watching her child dying right in front of her.” This is how archeologist Qadir Temori describes his feelings about the excavations that are threatened with destruction, all because a Chinese company will mine for copper directly on the archeological site Mes Aynak in Afghanistan. Temori is here with an international team of experts and volunteers, braving the threat of terrorism to dig up stunning ancient treasures. According to him, they are comparable in scale to a discovery such as Pompeii. It’s a race against the clock, because the mining company has given the archeologists a limited timeframe to excavate the 2,000-year-old Buddhist structures and relics. As in the case of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, destroyed by the Taliban around the turn of the millennium, valuable archeological objects are in jeopardy once again, although for different reasons this time. “Our history and heritage will vanish along with the money,” Temori sighs, indicating that the country will see little of the huge sums paid by the Chinese company to Afghan government officials for the mining rights. But there is hope: a protest has been registered with UNESCO and the Chinese company has put its copper mining activities on hold, at least for the time being. Saving Mes Aynak shows the dedication of the archeologists and the vulnerability of their discoveries, captured here in all their delicate splendor. - See more at: http://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/project.aspx?id=DC944A3B-B213-4989-B99B-B72A46366BC9&tab#sthash.pFHrt1np.dpuf
And here's the link to the segment on the November 19 PBS Newshour by Frank Carlson, "In 'Saving Mes Aynak,' a real-life Indiana Jones fights to protect Afghanistan's Buddhist heritage".

Here are previous posts on the ARCA blog regarding Mes Aynak:

In this profile of Dr. Laura Rush, it is noted that the U.S. Military Army Corp of Engineers allocated one million dollars to support artifact preservation in Mes Aynak.

"Mes Aynak's archaeological wealth from the Bronze Age to ancient Buddhists threatened by excavation of world's second largest copper deposit" September 11, 2012

"Documentarian Brent Huffman Warns of Dangerous Precedent Being Set in Afghanistan if Mes Aynak is destroyed in order to mine copper" September 13, 2012

"Mes Aynak Archaeologists Given More Time to Remove Relics and Artifacts" January 7, 2013

"The Buddhas of Mes Aynak: Kickstart Funds Used to Purchase Computers and Cameras for Afghan Archaeology Office in Kabul" April 14, 2013

"American Institute for Roman Culture to Host Third Annual UNLISTED Conference on Archaeological Cultural Heritage" April 15, 2013

"Brent E. Huffman Presenting Special Advanced Screening of "Saving Mes Aynak" at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York on Dec. 18" December 15, 2013

"Fair Observer's Will Calhoun publishes two-part interview with documentarian Brent H. Huffman on "The Race to Save Mes Aynak" (February 3, 2014)

November 21, 2014

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis identifies rare Sardinian idol to be auctioned at Christie's December 11 in New York City

Image of the Sardinian idol from the Medici
archive (provided by Dr. Tsirogiannis)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

In the forthcoming December 11 auction of Christie's in New York, lot 85 'A SARDINIAN MARBLE FEMALE IDOL OZIERI CULTURE, CIRCA 2500-2000 B.C.', 'PROPERTY FROM THE MICHAEL AND JUDY STEINHARDT COLLECTION', is estimated at $800,000-1,200,000. Its provenance given by Christie's is: 'with Harmon Fine Arts, New York. with The Merrin Gallery, New York, 1990 (Masterpieces of Cycladic Art, no. 27). Acquired by the current owner, 1997.'

"The object appears in the Medici archive, smashed in 6 pieces, missing the upper left part of its head," according to Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a Research Assistant with the Trafficking Culture Project, housed in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow. "The Steinhardt collection has been previously connected with the acquisition of questionable antiquities."

The blog Chasing Aphrodite reported last November in "Steinhardt Redux: Feds Seize Fresco Looted from Italian World Heritage Site, Destined for New York Billionaire" that a second action had been taken against the antiquities collector: "The legal foundation for the case was created by Steinhardt himself twenty years ago with his failed effort -- fought all the way to the US Supreme Court -- to block the seizure of a golden libation bowl that was illegal exported from Sicily."

Dr. Tsirogiannis included an image from the Medici archive with the email announcing his discovery.

The Christie's catalogue can be downloaded here (first, press the button that says 'E-CATALOGUE'. The 150-page e-Catalogue advertises 192 lots (or objects) to be sold at Rockefeller Plaza the second Thursday of December. The objects (or 'properties' as described by Christie's on the page that lists the viewing dates prior to the sale) are from various collections. No further information is included about The Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection in the e-catalogue. The Steinhardts also collect Judaica (Jewish art).

According to Christie's, this Sardinian marble female idol "comes from the Ozieri Culture of Sardinia, which takes its name from the town in the north of the island where the first excavations took place. Only very few such cruciform female idols survive."


Editorial Essay on the Kunstmuseum Bern's Upcoming Decision on Whether to Accept the Gurlitt Collection

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

It appears that on Monday 24 November (or thereabouts) we will know whether the Kunstmuseum Bern will take on the Gurlitt collection. In an article in the New York Times on 20 November ("Nazi-Era Art Collection Appears to Find a Home" by Melissa Eddy), a number of sources are cited as expressing confidence that the Kunstmuseum will indeed accept Cornelius Gurlitt’s unexpected bequest made public at the time of his death in May this year: 
“Sources ... said it was likely that the board members [of the Kunstmuseum Bern] would gather in Switzerland on Saturday to decide on Mr Gurlitt’s gift. Stuart E. Eizenstadt ... now special adviser on Holocaust issues to Secretary of State John Kerry, said Thursday that it was his understanding that the museum would accept the offer.”
Image Credit www.worldjewishcongress.org
The magnitude of the challenges that will come with the collection should not be underestimated.  As the NYT article notes, many of the works are likely to be “badly in need of restoration”, and furthermore the resources required to, as the Kunstmuseum Bern will most likely have to do, determine the provenance of each item in the collection, will be significant.

In an open letter I sent to the Trustees of the Kunstmuseum Bern back in June published on ARCA’s Blog here where I suggested:
What should happen, and immediately after the acceptance of the inheritance, is the creation by the Kunstmuseum Bern of an independent, well-resourced international tribunal to determine the fate of each and every one of the many art works. The tribunal itself should consist of international jurists and others with a range of art-crime related skills, assisted by a staff of independent provenance researchers, cataloguers, art and general historians, claimant advocates, and dispute resolution specialists.

After identifying each art work, promulgating identifying and other characteristics widely, and proactively inviting and assisting claimant contact with the tribunal, the tribunal should resolve the fate of each art work by employing first a range of appropriate dispute resolution processes so as to reach an agreed, just and fair solution. Failing agreement, the tribunal should determine each individual case by giving due weight and recognition both to the relevant legal factors, but also and crucially to the moral aspects as well.

A transparent and just process as outlined would avoid heaping future injustice on the top of past wrongs. It would propel the Kunstmuseum Bern to the forefront of efforts to undo some of the great harms done 70 years ago, amid the chaos and confusion of war.
The NYT article quotes similar sentiments as being expressed by an attorney for Mr David Toren, an 89-year-old descendant of the Jewish industrialist David Friedmann, who has a strong claim to Max Liebermann's "Two Riders on the Beach,":
“ ... this presents a real opportunity for the museum to raise its international profile by doing the right thing with regard to the portion of the collection that was stolen by the Nazis.”
There is clearly more to come on this continuing story early next week.

Read the full New York Times article here.

Gurlitt Art Collection: Swissinfo.ch anticipates Bern museum will accept collection

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Michèle Laird for Swissinfo.ch in "The Gurlitt art collection no one -- and everyone -- wants" reported November 20:
Bern’s Museum of Fine Arts had planned to announce on November 26 whether it will accept the collection. It has now said the announcement will happen two days earlier - and in Berlin. The development supports the rumour that the museum will accept the collection, but leave it in Germany to allow for provenance research to be completed and potential claims to be addressed.
ARCA conference presenter Nicholas O'Donnell is quoted by Laird:
US litigation lawyer, Nicholas O’Donnell, who specialises in wartime restitution claims and produces Art Law Report, has been following the case closely. He believes that the Bern museum will accept the gift, but would likely request some kind of indemnification from Germany to face either the expense of receiving the collection, or restitution costs. “Germany must be considering the possibility just to get rid of the problem,” he told swissinfo.ch.
Laird quotes another ARCA conference presenter, Christopher Marinello, founder of Art Recovery International, on what 'masterpieces' may be restituted:
One such piece is the Matisse painting, considered to be one of the finest of the collection. Counsel to the Rosenberg heirs, the founder and director of Art Recovery International, Christopher Marinello and his team immediately set the wheels in motion to recover the painting when its existence became known. 
He joins the chorus of criticism against the “insensitive” task force, but praises the individual provenance researchers. In his opinion, they are excellent, but overwhelmed. “You can put together the best football team in the world, but without appropriate coaching and management support, it’s going to be difficult to win a match." 
Provenance research, Matthias Henkel of the German task force reminded swissinfo.ch during an initial exchange, is tremendously difficult and takes more time than anyone can imagine. It is now fairly certain that the one-year deadline to clarify the Gurlitt estate will not be met. 
According to Marinello, the Gurlitt bequest is a great opportunity for a Swiss institution to take the lead and make up for Germany’s deficiencies in this case. “I would urge the Museum of Fine Arts to accept the Gurlitt bequest and resolve the issues over the Nazi-looted works of art in accordance with the Washington Principles,” he stated.   

Artnet news highlights report in Le Point about France's anti-fraud brigade raid on the Musée de Lettres et Manuscrits on Nov. 18

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Artnet.com's headline yesterday: "€500 Million Ponzi Scheme Suspected at Paris Museum pointed to an "exclusive" article in LePoint.fr reported by Mélanie DeLattre, Christophe Labbé, and Laure Rougevin-Baville: "Descente de police au musée de Lettres et Manuscrits" (originally published Nov. 18 and updated Nov. 20):
The cosily niche books and manuscripts market may be about to be hit by one its biggest scandals in recent years. And Paris's Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, as well as its sister organization the Institut des Lettres et Manuscrits, is in the eye of the storm. 
Le Point reported that on November 18, France's anti-fraud brigade raided the museum and the various branches of Aristophil, a company owned by the museum's founder, Gérard Lhéritier. 
The company is suspected by the tax authorities and Tracfin—a public body fighting money laundering and terrorism financing—of “deceptive marketing practices," and “gang fraud." At time of writing, the Aristophil website as well as the websites for the museum and the institute appear to have been taken offline.
The Musée de Lettres et Manuscrits is a small building located at 222 Boulevard Saint-Germain (near Rue du Bac) in the 7th arrondisemont. I have often passed it walking from Cafe de Flore to Musée d'Orsay but in the last 20 years the closest I have come to entering the museum was to grab a pamphlet last January. The entrance itself is off of the street so I always thought the institution was a bit exclusive although according to the brochure, for less than 10 euros you could visit the collection from 10h - 19h every day with the exception of Mondays and three national holidays (Christmas, New Year's Day, and the first of May).

November 20, 2014

Judge Arthur Tompkins writes on "The Pope's personal library" in Britain's Guardian

ARCA lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins recently published in the Guardian a lengthy contribution about his 2011 visit to the Vatican Library (the Guardian piece is an edited version of a couple of posts previously published on the ARCA blog: here for Part One, here for Part Two, and here for Part Three).

Judge Tompkins describes the Pope's personal library, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, and his search for two manuscripts: Pal. Lat. 50, the Codex Aureus of Losch and MS Pal. Lat. 1071 for "De Art Venandi Com Avibus" literally "The Hunting of Birds", a Latin treatise on ornithology and falconry.

November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - , No comments

ARCA's 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Accepting Applications through January 1, 2015

ARCA's 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection is accepting applications through March 30, 2015. 

For a detailed prospectus and information on the application process interested individuals should contact us at: education@artcrimeresearch.org 
Inside the historical center of Amelia

The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) 2015 Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection program will be held from May 29 through August 15, 2015 in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy.

In its seventh year, this academically intensive ten week program provides in-depth, postgraduate level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical elements related to art and heritage crime. By examining art crime’s interconnected world, students experience an integrated curriculum in an interactive, participatory setting. The programs' courses include comprehensive multidisciplinary lectures, class discussions and presentations as well as field classes, which serve as the backdrop for exploring art crime, its nature, and impact.  

Each course associated with the program has been selected to underscore the value of, and necessity for, a longitudinal multidisciplinary approach to the study of this type of criminal behavior and enterprise.

This program has been designed to expose participants to an integrated curriculum occurring in a highly interactive, participatory, student-centered setting. Instructional modules include both lectures and “hands-on” learning in the form of case studies, presentations, in situ field classes and group discussions. At the end of the program, participants will have a solid mastery of a broad array of concepts pertaining to cultural property protection, preservation, conservation, and security.

Students explore such topics as:

                art crime and its history
                art and heritage law
                criminology
                art crime in war
                the art trade
                art insurance
                museum security
                law enforcement methods
                archaeological looting and policy
                heritage looting
                art forgery

Target:

This interdisciplinary program offers substantive study for post-graduate students of criminology, law, security studies, sociology, art history, archaeology, and history as well as art police and security professionals, lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade.

Important Dates

November 15, 2014 - Early Application Deadline
January 01, 2015 - General Application Deadline
March 30, 2015 - Late Application Deadline
April 2015 - Advance Reading Assigned
May 29, 2015 - Students Arrive in Italy
May 30-31, 2015 - Program Orientation
June 1, 2015 - Classes Begin
August 7, 2015 - Classes End
August 8-15, 2015 - Students Housing Check-out **
Nov. 15, 2015 - Thesis Submission Deadline

**Some students stay a few days to one week longer to participate in the August Palio dei Colombi, Notte Bianca and Ferragosto festivities.

For questions about programming, costs, and census availability, please write to us for a complete prospectus and application at:  education@artcrimeresearch.org.

November 13, 2014

Professor Duncan Chappell appointed to the National Cultural Heritage Committee in Australia

Professor Duncan Chappell at ARCA conference in Amelia
ARCA Lecturer Professor Duncan Chappell has been appointed to the National Cultural Heritage Committee which supports the operation of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which gave UNESCO's 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property "force" in Australian law.

The committee advises the Minister for the Arts on the maintenance of the National Cultural Heritage Control List and the operation of the National Cultural Heritage Account.

Professor Chappell is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, and one of Australia's pre-eminent experts in the field of illicit trafficking in cultural property. A former Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, he has published widely on art crime and the illicit trade in cultural property. In 2013, Professor Chappell was awarded the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.

Dr. J. Patrick Greene OBE was appointed as chair of the committee. Other members appointed: Mr. Joseph Eisenberg, Professor Marett Lieboff, Ms. Tina Baum and Dr. Graeme Were.

November 12, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - ,, No comments

Ankara, Turkey: Anonymous caller breaks open case in art theft investigation at the State Art and Sculpture Museum

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

In August 2012 Hurriyet Daily News highlighted a report produced by Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry that identified hundreds of works of art as missing from the State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara. Some of the works stolen were from highly valued Turkish artists such as Şevket Dağ, Şefik Bursalu, Zühtü Müridoğlu, and Hikmet Ona.  Experts and common citizens alike complained that the museum, like many in many countries, did not have an adequate inventory system in place.  This vulnerability, it was partially reasoned, worked in the thieves favor when they switched the original paintings with inferior fake ones. 
Image Rights: Ankara Scribbler

At the time the thefts were announced Hurriyet stated "A recent report by the ministry, which was later shelved away from public view to avoid a possible backlash, claims that 46 pieces from the museum's catalog were stolen and replaced with fake replicas........The authenticity of 30 more art works is also "highly suspicious," according to the report."

When the thefts were discovered the Culture Ministry was forced to examine 5,000 works of art in the collection.  Their findings indicated that a total of 302 objects were stolen, elaborating that 256 of the paintings/objects were listed as completely missing and 46 as having been replaced with forged replica, including 13 charcoal sketches by Hacı Ali Rıza.

Turkish news sites today report that arrests have been made as a result of an anonymous caller who spoke directly with the Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, breaking open the Ankara art theft investigation and leading to the arrest of three of 18 tentative suspects involved in the case.

Hurriyet Daily News reported that "those arrested are the alleged leader of the gang Ahmet Sarı, the security official of the museum Veli Topal, and antique dealer Mete Aktuna"

The news site went on to add that the thefts and forgery involve an organized network of criminals who lifted works of art from the museum primarily between 2005 and 2009 selling them through middlemen and fine art dealers, sometimes even in auction houses to unsuspecting buyers.

Hurriyet reported that “The female deputy director of the museum proposed Sarı to sell the original works in the museum’s depot. One included Hikmet Onat’s oil painting. Sarı sold it to an antique dealer in Nişantaşı for $210,000 and the antique dealer sold it to a famous businessman for $350,000. The painting is still in his collection. Another painting by Vecihi Bereketoğlu was also sold to an auctioneer and the auctioneer sold it to the son of a famous businessman,” According to the anonymous informant the crime syndicate stole the paintings and works of art from the museum between 2005 and 2009.

Dunya Bulteni, a Turkish language news site reports that the during the enterprise two oil paintings were sold for 10 thousand (currency not indicated) as well as numerous other museums objects, including one for 210 thousand dollars."
 
The fact that this group of criminals were able to operate so freely and for so long within Turkish borders and within the legitimate art market without detection reflects the country's heritage vulnerability as a trafficking conduit not just for its own works of art but also for objects originating from nearby nations such as Syria and Iraq where trafficking and looting have been reported. 

The Republic of Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself has stated  

"Terrorism in contemporary terms needs a strong financial support, high tech weapons and an expensive organization. There is no doubt that today’s terrorists are better financed and better utilize the financial institutions than before. There is a close connection between terrorism and organized crime. Illicit sources such as narcotics and human trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering or extortion are major revenue sources for terrorist groups. However, it is a well known fact that terrorist organizations resort beside illegal means to legal means to finance their criminal activities. Now, it has become clear that legal businesses and charitable organizations can also be utilized by terrorists for funding their activities."



November 8, 2014

Saturday, November 08, 2014 - ,,, No comments

The documentary "Mona Lisa is Missing" is now available on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Director Joe Medeiros' 2012 documentary "Mona Lisa is Missing" (formerly "The Missing Piece") is now available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon through US distributor Virgil Films:
This documentary examines the case of Vincenzo Peruggia, an unassuming house painter charged with stealing the "Mona Lisa" from the Louvre in 1911. (Netflix summary)
ARCA alumna Tanya K. Levrick reviewed the film in July 2012 on the ARCA blog here. The film was also produced by Joe's wife, Justine, and showed in Los Angeles last year.

Medeiros discusses the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece from Paris on the ARCA blog here.






November 6, 2014

Editorial Essay: “I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”

By Lynda Albertson

“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.” 

--attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche in a million places, but as the experts will tell you, it's not true.

I open this blog post with this pseudo quote from Nietzsche because it makes both my point and captures my feelings when I open a newspaper or turn to the Web for updates on conflict antiquities. In the rush to publish about atrocities to cultural heritage during war, some media outlets, possibly too eager to report the news first, do not take the time to verify facts, defaulting to simplistic headlines. This may be born out of a need to assuage their readership in a highly competitive and financially stretched market. Journalists are often pressured to churn out reports too quickly. But it times of conflict, this can be a deadly mistake. We don't need sensationalism or propaganda.  We need truth in journalism.

Yesterday I came across CNN’s Style page's photomontage of what it called “The greatest buildings you'll never see: 19 priceless monuments lost in battle”.  This photo report can be found under the slightly misleading URL descriptor "precious-monuments-lost-in-middle-east-conflicts".

I selected this article not because it is any worse than any other article being published by other news organization but because it had so many short "facts" that the average Joe citizen might assume as truth.  

My problem with many of the images and their accompanying descriptive texts in this, and other similarly-styled cultural heritage news reports, is that they represent information that is not wholly accurate or worse, for the sake of brevity, leave out important key components -- details that with a little more patience on the part of the green-lighting editors could have easily changed this from a  sensationalistic read-and-move-on piece into one that gives the reader more knowledge. Many people have a desire to know what nations in conflict zones are up against when wars are fought where the world's cultural heritage is at risk.

If harried journalists would consult experts, or at least take the time to data-mine the Web for collaborating imagery, we might have more knowledge about what is and isn't happening. I shouldn't have to read a news article and ask myself "did this really happen?".  Maybe in the case of conflict antiquities and heritage issues during war, we all should be reminded that that is, in fact, exactly what we should be saying to ourselves.

With the help of many, here is a bit more comprehensive information on the 19 images reported in the CNN article.  Feel free to write to me via ARCA's Facebook feed or my Twitter account if any of you have corrections or additional information to report.  I am not an expert on the Middle East so if there's something that needs tightening up, let me know. 

Great Mosque of Samarra, Iraq

CNN:

"Once the largest mosque in the world, built in the 9th century on the Tigris River north of Baghdad. The mosque is famous for the Malwiya Tower, a 52-meter minaret with spiraling ramps for worshipers to climb. Among Iraq's most important sites, it even featured on banknotes. The site was bombed in 2005, in an insurgent attack on a NATO position, destroying the top of the minaret and surrounding walls."
The Malwiya Minaret is perhaps the most famous and intriguing piece of architecture in Iraq but it was not destroyed. The pinnacle of the minaret was damaged during the explosion which rained debris on the minaret's ramp but overall the minaret sustained limited damage.  What the article doesn’t mention is that US troops used the summit of the heritage site as a sniper's vantage post from September 2004 until March 2005, only vacating the monument when ordered to do so by Iraqi antiquities officials. Insurgents bombed the minaret one month later. Military forces have also rethought their policies on using high heritage structures for vantage points.

The Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan

CNN:

"The Buddhas of Bamyan, Afghanistan - The most spectacular legacy of Buddhism in the war-torn country, among the tallest standing Buddhas in the world -- the larger at 53 meters, the other 35 -- had survived over 1,500 years since being carved out of sandstone. The Taliban considered the monuments idolatrous and destroyed them with dynamite."

Bamyan? Bamian? or Bamiyan?  CNN's fact checkers chose to go with "Bamyan" as the spelling for the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan.   In terms of accuracy I think it may have been better for the news agencies to refer to the site by the name utilized by UNESCO when describing the cultural Landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley.  Also the Buddhas popularly referred to as the "Solsol" and the "Shahmama" aren't buildings as the opening headline for the photomontage describes.  They are in fact monuments so lets give this one a pass as the descriptive content is otherwise accurate.

The ancient city of Bosra, Syria

CNN:

"Continually inhabited for 2,500 years, and became the capital of the Romans' Arabian empire. The centerpiece is a magnificent Roman theater dating back to the second century that survived intact until the current conflict. Archaeologists have revealed the site is now severely damaged from mortar shelling."

While the town located in Southern Syria's Da’ara governorate itself has sustained significant war damage, including mortar impacts near the ancient Roman theater, the theater itself appears to be ok. Satellite imagery analyzed for an April 2014 report conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) and the Smithsonian Institution, and in cooperation with the Syrian Heritage Task Force, the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) showed that there are no visible signs of damage aside from an earthen ramp constructed over a staircase located at the theater's Eastern entrance.

The Great Mosque of Aleppo, Syria

CNN:

"A world heritage site originally built in 715 by the Umayyad dynasty, ranking it among the oldest mosques in the world. The epic structure evolved through successive eras, gaining its famous minaret in the late 11th century. This was reduced to rubble in the Syrian civil war in 2013, along with serious damage to the walls and courtyard, which historians have described as the worst ever damage to Syrian heritage."

By "this" we can assume CNN meant the minaret and not the entire site.  Images of the mosque's courtyard have been widely circulated in the press.  Heritage for Peace gives a breakdown of the reported damages as "Minaret destroyed, al-Warka library burned, damage to the shrine of Zachariah, extensive damage to courtyard and some galleries".   While significant, I wouldn't say that one site realistically reflects the worse damage to Syrian heritage. 

Norias of Hama, Syria

CNN:


"These 20-meter wide water wheels were first documented in the 5th century, representing an ingenious early irrigation system. Seventeen of the wooden norias (a machine for lifting water into an aqueduct) survived to present day and became Hama's primary tourist attraction, noted for their groaning sounds as they turned. Heritage experts documented several wheels being burned by fighters in 2014."

Information from Hama indicates that one of the 17 Norias has been damaged, the Noria-Ga’bariyya, which had been previously rehabilitated in 2010 by Hama’s Archeological Authority.  According to the DGAM the restored modern wood wheel was heavily damaged at the top, but the original stone base remains intact. The full report is available in English here, and more completely in Arabic here.

Citadel of Aleppo, Syria

CNN:

"The fortress spans at least four millennia, from the days of Alexander the Great, through Roman, Mongol, and Ottoman rule. The site has barely changed since the 16th century and is one of Syria's most popular World Heritage sites. The citadel has been used as an army base in recent fighting and several of its historic buildings have been destroyed."
 
While a missile attack on August 11, 2012 damaged the citadel’s massive gate and destroyed the iron doors I found no collaborating information that its historic buildings inside -- the Ayyubid palace (built in 1230 and destroyed by the Mongols in 1400), two mosques, a hammam and a rebuilt Mamluk -- have suffered damages.

However, according to the AAAS report, significant damage has occurred south of Aleppo's citadel, the location of many historical government buildings. Structures near the citadel such as the city's Khusriwiye Mosque were demolished and the Grand Serail - the former seat of the Aleppo governor -- was heavily damaged.  In addition, the dome of the 15th Century Hammam Yalbougha an-Nasry was destroyed.

Aleppo Souk, Syria

CNN:

"The covered markets in the Old City are a famous trade center for the region's finest produce, with dedicated sub-souks for fabrics, food, or accessories. The tunnels became the scene of fierce fighting and many of the oldest are now damaged beyond recognition, which Unesco has described as a tragedy."

Aleppo’s sprawling Souq al-Madina, as the souks of Old Aleppo are known collectively, is purported to be the largest covered souq in the world.  It also hasn't gotten a break in this conflict. 


Thanks to a German posting in Wikipedia I have included their photo of a model that shows how substantial the Aleppo souq  which may help explain why knowing the exact number of losses is hard to estimate from the safe confines of our respective computers.  The labyrinthine souks stretches for eight kilometers an the number of quoted shops it held varies enormously and I have seen  numbers as high as 1550.  If anyone has any concrete data, I am happy to list it here as well as evidence of how much of the combined souqs have been damaged.


Deir Ez-zor bridge, Syria

CNN:

“This French-built suspension bridge was a popular pedestrian crossing and vantage point for its views of the Euphrates River. It became a key supply line in a battle for the city, and collapsed under shelling. Deir Ez-zor's Siyasiyeh Bridge was also destroyed.”

Again, not a building but it could be considered a monument.  Facts check out. In September 2014 Syria's state-run television said government forces were responsible for blowing up the al-Siyasiyeh Bridge over the Euphrates river.

Nimrud, Iraq

CNN

“The ancient Assyrian city around Nineveh Province, Iraq was home to countless treasures of the empire, including statues, monuments and jewels. Following the 2003 invasion the site has been devastated by looting, with many of the stolen pieces finding homes in museums abroad.”

To quote Dr. Donna Yates, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow's Trafficking Culture “Iraq's 'Nimrud Treasure', 613 pieces that made Tut's tomb, look like Walmart”, survived '03 looting in a bank vault.

While some objects originating from Nimrod (Kalhu) went missing from the Iraqi capital during the first conflict, we haven't much cultural heritage trafficking information from the actual zone itself. While the area is famous for depicting reliefs purported to show the first documented handshake in human history, recent clashes with ISIS in Nineveh left the Police Director of Nimrud and his son dead.

Despite media reports that looters have used chain saws to carve reliefs depicting scenes from daily life from the walls of the palace and selling pieces on the black market neither Paul Barford in his article "UNESCO on What is happening at Nimrud" or others seem to have come across photographic evidence to support those claims.  That’s not to say many important museums around the world don't have substantial collection pieces from Nimrud taken over a hundred years ago as well as pieces looted before the NATO invasion.  Science magazine also did some sleuthing reporting on the sale of trafficked Nineveh (Nimrud?) fragments in 2001.

Crac des Chevaliers, Syria

CNN

“The Crusader castle from the 11th century survived centuries of battles and natural disasters, becoming a World Heritage site in 2006 along with the adjacent castle of Qal'at Salah El-Din. The walls were severely damaged by regime airstrikes and artillery in 2013, and rebels took positions within it.”

Crac des Chevaliers castle, shows ”moderate structural damage" and the AAAS report describes  damage to a 6 meter gash in its southeast tower and three visible craters to the northern part of the castle.

Jonah's Tomb, Iraq

CNN

“It was entirely blown up by ISIS militants in 2014 as part of their campaign against perceived apostasy.”

This one is confirmed via  Dr. Sam Hardy’s detailed reporting on this the event as the confirmation of and destruction to the Shrine of Jonah/Mosque of Yunus were unfolding. If you are interested in conflict archaeology, I recommend following Hardy's academic website Conflict Antiquities.   If he posts something as fact, it's been checked and crossed checked.



In July 2014 Hardy reported that "it still was not clear how much damage has been done to Jonah’s Mound (Nebi Younis), the archaeological remains on top of which Jonah’s Tomb and the Mosque of Jonah were built." 

Khaled Ibn Walid Mosque, Syria

CNN

“The sacred mausoleum has been completely destroyed, and much of the interiors burned.”


Thanks to Heritage for Peace for pointing me to video footage of the mosque posted by the Association for the protection of Syrian archaeology. It shows that the Khaled Ibn Walid has been significantly damaged but doesn't reflect seem to reflect total destruction.

Northern Roman Necropolis, Palmyra


Palmyra, Syria

CNN

“It is feared that Palmyra has now been devastated by looting.”


How does "it is feared"  equate to the photo-montage's header of buildings or monuments lost in battle?  How about talking about the fact that the Northern Roman Necropolis in Palmyra has been damaged by road construction and the many earthen berms built to provide cover for opposing forces?

Armenian genocide museum, Syria

CNN

“The complex was destroyed by ISIS in 2014.”


Portions of the structure, although receiving damage remain.  A breakdown of the events leading to the damage can be found on the Conflict Antiquities website here.

Cyrene, Libya

CNN

“in the wake of Libya's revolution, vast tracts have been bulldozed including its unique necropolis complex.”

Many would argue that Libya isn’t in the Middle East but I will leave the politics of geography aside given Libya's ongoing conflict and cultural significance.  I have to say though that the photo chosen is misleadingly dramatic in terms of visuals even if the historic significance of the actual site damage can be seen here on the Archaeology News Network.   CNN would have done better to use The Art Newspaper's approach which specified that a mile-long section of the necropolis was flattened "in the hope of selling 500 sq. m parcels to real estate developers."


Museum of Islamic Art, Egypt

CNN

“Shortly after re-opening, a car bomb targeting a nearby police building caused catastrophic damage and forced the museum to close again.”

I wish news sites and even people like myself would try to avoid using unquantifiable terms like “catastrophic” or "significant" or "substantial" and simply list actual damages like UNESCO has in this report on the MIA’s hit.  It would give credit to the reader’s ability to discern for themselves what is or isn’t “catastrophic” though in this case, I agree.

Quaid e Azam residency, Pakistan

CNN

“The residency was attacked with rocket fire by a separatist group in 2013, and almost completely demolished. A new structure is being built on the site.”

The photomontage doesn’t make clear that the “new structure” is a rebuilt version of the Ziarat residency, restored to its original form under the directives of Pakistan's prime minister and the chief minister Balochistan at the cost of Rs 150 million.

Al- Omari Mosque, Gaza

CNN

“The walls, dome and roof were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes during the recent fighting in Gaza”

Some walls and roofing still standing as these photos attest though significant damage was sustained. 

'Old Beirut', Lebanon

CNN

“officials say just 400 of 1200 protected historic buildings remain.”


Thought this was a good image slide to conclude on.  By the time the Ta’if Accords were signed more than 150,000 Lebanese had died and 1 million individuals had been displaced or had fled the country.

In August 2014 the United Nations reported a chilling figure in the Syrian conflict listing 191,369 men, women and children reported as killed between March 2011 and the end of April 2014.  

Accuracy in journalism is important.  Monuments and cultural heritage and objects from our past are important, but people are the most important.