Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finders Not Keepers: Yale Returns Artifacts To Peru

Between 1912 and 1915, Yale explorer Hiram Bingham III excavated thousands of artefacts from Machu Picchu — an Inca site perched high in the Andes Mountains. They were taken back to Yale University in Connecticut for study under a decree of the Peruvian government, but for 100 years they remained in Yale (in the Peabody Museum in New Haven) where they were at the centre of a long-running international cultural property custody battle. Many of those objects have now been returned to Peru, the university is giving back thousands of ceramics, jewellery and human bones to the International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture.

Yale anthropology professor Richard Burger points out that "The Machu Picchu situation and dispute was really fundamentally different from other repatriation issues", unlike many art and artifact disputes, this one was not about stolen goods. Sharon Flescher, executive director of the International Foundation for Art Research, explained that "They were never allegedly taken in violation of patrimony laws, or clandestinely dug up [...] This was really much more of a contractual dispute". Peruvian officials contended that the materials were loaned to Yale for research.
After World War I, the university returned some of the artifacts, but argued that the school could keep the rest under the laws of the day. Over time, Peru's demands grew louder. Machu Picchu is an iconic place for the Peruvian people, and the idea of bones and artifacts from Peru being held in the U.S. took on a powerful symbolism. In 2008, Peru's government filed a lawsuit against Yale. Negotiations intensified, and a letter from Yale alumni urging their alma mater to return the artifacts helped move the process out of the courts. Peruvian historian Mariana Mould de Pease was happy to avoid the expensive legal route. She says Yale alumni played a key role in "getting this matter where it has to be — in the academic world." In November 2010, Peruvians held a demonstration in Lima demanding that Yale return the artifacts taken by Bingham.
The dispute was finally resolved through two separate agreements. The first, between Yale and the Peruvian government, established that the university would return all of the objects by the end of 2012. The second established a partnership between Yale and the San Antonio Abad University in Cuzco to share stewardship of the collection. The schools will also collaborate on academic research. This agreement shifts the emphasis from the issue of the ownership of the objects to stewardship and preservation and research and exhibition.

As a result of the repatriation of the excavated material,
alongside the hundreds of thousands of tourists who pass through Cuzco each year to visit the terraced stone ruins of Machu Picchu, the citizens of Peru will be able to see the historic relics which many have never seen before.
Diane Orson, 'Finders Not Keepers: Yale Returns Artifacts To Peru', NPR 18th Dec. 2011.

Photo: The ruins after excavation.

Jordan Will Submit UNESCO Complaint Over Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Jordanian media are reporting that Jordan may complain to UNESCO over Israel's exhibition of the Dead Sea scrolls in the US. The scrolls went on display in New York for the first time on Friday. The West Bank was under Jordanian administration between the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 and its capture by Israel in the Six Days War in 1967 and the manuscripts were discovered there between 1948 and 1957 by Jordanian archaeologists following the first find by Palestinian Bedouins in 1947. The scrolls were curated and first put on display in a Jerusalem museum administered by the Jordanian government.
A year after Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, the Jordanian government filed complaints to UNESCO complaining of Israeli appropriation of the manuscripts, which include religious and secular texts over 2,000 years old. [...] Faris al-Hamoud, Director of the Department of Antiquities in Jordan, told Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Youm that his office plans to notify UNESCO of the international exhibition currently on tour, and complain of Israel's use of stolen Jordanian artifacts.
Jordan's territorial claim to the region in 1948-67 was never formally recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom, though it seems that the United States de fact accepted the situation but never formally recognized it. When the scrolls went on display in Canada in 2009, the Palestinian Authority wrote to the government saying the seizure of the artefacts from Palestinian territories was illegal.

Source: 'Jordan to complain to UNESCO over Dead Sea scrolls', Ma'an News Agency 18th Dec 2011.
Map, the findspot of the scrolls (NE end of the Dead Sea), Photo, some of the Scroll Caves.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bloomsbury man makes historic contribution to Crisis at Christmas with magnificent gift to Greece

As reported today by the usually well-informed 'ArtNose':
LONDON: Saint Neil MacGregor, the quietly spoken patron saint of Bloomsbury today astonished the museum world by sending the Parthenon Marbles back to Athens. As the ancient fragments were loaded on to the back of a flatbed truck outside the front entrance to the British Museum, Saint Neil took a small chopped shallot from his inside pocket and wiped a tear from his eye. Visibly moved by his own magnanimity and clearly struggling to maintain his legendary composure, he clutched to his breast a copy of his recently-penned international best-selling blockbuster A History of the World in 100 Looted Objects Belonging to the British Museum and to Nobody Else, So There. "Greece is teetering on the edge of the abyss," said the frail Scottish saint as he watched the venerable ancient fragments being man-handled onto the back of the waiting lorry. Wiping his nose on a dog-eared replica of the notorious firman that had enabled Thomas Bruce, Seventh Earl of Elgin to desecrate the Parthenon in the early nineteenth century, Saint Neil's voice cracked as he delivered a rousing valediction to the objects that have for so long mired his museum in ignominy and shame.
[more here]

Percy Flarge [Editor], 'Bloomsbury man makes historic contribution to Crisis at Christmas with magnificent gift to Greece', Artnose (

Would that it were true.