Sunday, February 4, 2018

Artifacts Repatriated and put back into Danger

"We send them back to be destroyed"

In the article "Two Suspects Arrested for Smuggling Relics from Syria into Lebanon" ( February 3, 2018), we are shocked to read:
Trafficked archaeological objects intercepted by security forces have filled warehouses in Beirut as conflicts in Syria and Iraq have raged on. But now many of those same storage rooms lie empty as Lebanon became the first country in the region to repatriate the looted artifacts to their countries of origin.
Each retrieved piece is examined by the DGA to determine where it came from. A list of objects is then submitted to the country of origin and, upon its request, a plan for repatriation is agreed upon. “If the competent authorities [in the country of origin] send us a repatriation request, we must comply with it,” Anne-Marie Afeiche, Director of the National Museum of Beirut, said in January 2017. “These objects are part of the cultural heritage of that country and we are responsible for their safety only as long as they are on Lebanese soil.”
It seems the notion of providing a safe haven for the cultural property of all mankind is a foreign one to her. Sending them back to war-torn Syria is the last thing they should be doing.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Britain's PAS - Rescuing History

James Fielding writes on " The PAS - Rescuing History:
The metal detecting community in England and some of the more enlightened practitioners of the actual art and science of real honest archaeology, as well as the British Museum no less, have come together to discover, document, recover, study, curate and display the neglected artifacts of an ancient age. And they are making fantastic inroads in mutual cooperation, as well as historic finds, with their marvelous Portable Antiquities Scheme or PAS for short. As a result, English history and the tangible remains thereof, have received a tremendous boost in popularity, with the citizens and certain savvy academics, sporting a newly renewed interest in the lives of those who lived thousands of years ago through their everyday objects and coinage.
Of course, none of this came easy, as the old guard, somewhat yellowed and musty, in archaeological circles, organizations and institutions fought tooth and nail against they still do here in America. The sounds of tiny gnashing teeth, an amazing side job in hysterically dissing artifact and coin collectors, along with the infantile name-calling habit, are still heard in certain puddles of these folks who choose to live in the academic basement of archaeological origins and practices. 
Mr Fielding astutely points out that despite this, there are some 21st Century archaeologists that have been turning to experienced metal detecting practitioners for help in racing the clock in recovering items being destroyed by chemical-based farming, road building, new structures and the like. Metal detectorists would do well to emulate this here in the United States before its too late.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Egypt’s Undemocratic Election

 If there was any doubt that Egypt’s upcoming presidential election will be neither free nor fair, the arrest of former military chief of staff Sami Anan shortly after announcing that he would run for president has made it crystal clear. The March vote will in no way confirm President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s popularity among the Egyptian people. This election campaign is merely an extension of the internal power struggle among the military and the regime’s security services, and it has nothing to do with democratic mechanisms worthy of the name.
(Sara Khorshid "Egypt’s Undemocratic Election" Foreign Policy January 24, 2018)

Years of extrajudicial arrests of activists and opponents, enforced disappearances and killings, lengthy political detentions, and plenty of prison and death sentences have left Egyptians craving an alternative. [...]  In the current moment of despair in Egypt, it seems easy to forget what everyone knows — that the army and its leadership have enjoyed an undemocratically privileged status and immunization from public or parliamentary accountability since Nasser and the Free Officers ousted the country’s monarchy in 1952. The only civilian to make it to the presidential office in modern Egyptian history, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted by the army in 2013
[...]  there will be no hope for democratization in Egypt without a dismantling of the regime’s kleptocratic powers and a radical reformation of the security agencies that have immunized themselves from real public oversight and accountability for decades. Many committed democrats tried to be optimistic when Morsi was ousted in 2013. They wanted to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist conservatism was gone and that Sisi wouldn’t dare to defy the people’s will again after he saw them take to the streets en masse in 2011 and 2013. They learned the hard way that they were wrong — that military rule is military rule and that a regime where the security agencies call the shots is the antithesis of democracy. 
We should show that we disapprove of such behavior among our 'allies', and refuse now to repatriate any heritage objects to this corrupt regime.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Virginia Water Ruins in Surrey, England.

Anyone taking a walk through the Great Windsor Park in Surrey, England, is met with an impressive sight. Through the thick coverts and oak trees, across the long lawns where deer scatter, the towering lines of roman columns loom into view. This is the Temple of Augustus, a piece of classical finery crumbling into the ground of the mossy valley. At first glance, the ruins look like they have stood on that spot for thousands of years. But if you strolled through this park at the beginning of the 1800s, they wouldn’t be there at all. They originated in Libya, 2,000 miles away. In fact, the story of how these ruins ended up in the grounds of Windsor Castle goes back to the heyday of the British Empire
Read more here: Paul Cooper, "How Ancient Roman Ruins Ended Up 2,000 Miles Away in a British Garden A brief tale of imperialism" Science Jan 10, 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Historical door at Giza Pyramids stolen

Al-Masry Al-Youm, "Historical door at Giza Pyramids stolen" January 15, 2018
 A theft was carried out at the Giza Pyramids’ cemetery of builders, which was opened for visitors in November for the first time since its discovery in 1990 by Egyptian archaeologist and former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass. The incident revealed continued neglect by officials of the Ministry of Antiquities. Although the Antiquities Ministry maintained secrecy regarding the theft, Al-Masry Al-Youm learned from informed sources that the theft included part of the door of the tomb of Nefer Theth [...] the supervisor of the Royal Palace [...] the perpetrator broke a piece of up to 30 centimeters from the door of the tomb.
The only punitive action taken by the Ministry of Antiquities was the transfer of the Director of the Pyramids’ area’s administrative security Mohamed Fatehy Mansour to another post. The perpetrator,  a resident of Nazlet al-Semman area, has been arrested. But even so, the Egyptians obviously cannot look after the cultural property they have and need to allow others to help preserve it for them away from their raghead incompetence.

The tomb itself is discussed here and here.

Egyptian Heritage Turns Into National Embarrassment

In late 2016, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities and Ministry of Tourism announced that they had spent a collective $US 40 million to renovate the Great Pyramids of Giza Complex in an attempt to make the area more accessible and enjoyable for visitors. Almost 16 months later, visitors and locals are asking: where did the money all go? In the 2016 statement, the Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Anany said that the $US 40 million would be spent on constructing an information centre by the end of the year, administrative building, and toilet facilities; installing ‘high-tech’ security gates at the entrance; installing rubish bins throughout the Complex; and moving vendors to a designated area. Yet, in two separate visits to the Pyramids in January of this year, Egyptian Streets has found that the Pyramids Complex remains unsafe, unclean, and confusing.
(Egyptian Streets, "Giza Pyramids: Egyptian Heritage Turns Into National Embarrassment" January 14, 2018)

There is still no information center to provide visitors with any information or guidance, the ‘high-tech’ security gates are basic x-ray machines and metal detectors which are found across the country, but at the time of the journalists' visit were not working at all. The toilets allegedly constructed at the Pyramids are simply portable toilets that were found to be unclean. It was found that the rubbish bins were  scarce and unmaintained, with bags filled with garbage left next to the bins. Around the Complex, littering continues to be a problem. Visitors are intimidated, harassed and coerced by vendors:
Vendors and owners of camels continue to harass tourists throughout the Complex, with a group of individuals often awaiting tourists the moment they pass through the ‘high-tech’ security gates. While the Minister of Antiquities promised that vendors would only be allowed to engage with visitors at a designated area, this continues to be an unsolved issue. Egyptian Streets’ reporter was followed for more than 20 minutes by one vendor who simply refused the fact that the reporter was not purchasing any over-priced souvenirs from him. Meanwhile, in video captured by Egyptian Streets, a group of vendors were witnessed loudly arguing in the shadow of the Great Pyramid after one of the vendors ‘stole a customer away’. This behaviour attracted negative attention, and even involved physical violence, yet police simply stood by and watched.  
The fact that the Complex remains in shambles shows a lack of appreciation and respect for the world’s last remaining ancient wonder. Perhaps more importantly, where did the $US 40 million go and why has nothing changed for the better?