Monday, March 19, 2012

New Book on Trade in Egyptian Antiquities

Ashraf El-Ashmawi was for more than seven years the legal consultant for Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the Ministry of State for Antiquities. He has a book coming out within days, published by the Lebanese Egyptian Printing House (the German version will be released in October, an English version is in the making). It is titled: 'Legitimate Robberies, on the illicit trade of Egypt’s antiquities'. This relates the history of trade of Egypt’s antiquities during the last 200 years (the blurb says 'illicit trade').
Due to his legal position at the SCA El-Ashmawi witnessed and collaborated in the restitution of almost 5,000 artefacts that have been illegally looted and smuggled out of the country. Legitimate Robberies reveals the mysteries behind several recent antiquities thefts and ones from all the way back to the end of Napoleon's French Expedition to Egypt in 1802. In his book, El-Ashmawi uncovers that laws and regulations that controlled Egypt’s antiquities in earlier centuries actually legitimated the antiquities trade - a major crim, robbing Egypt of its history and civilisation.[...] Among these stories is the controversy over the exhibition in Germany of the exquisite, painted bust of Nefertiti
Uh-oh. El-Ashmawi relates the stories behind several antiquities thefts and the efforts exerted by the SCA and himself to return those objects back to their homeland, Egypt. The ideology behind this book would seem (from this pre-publication blurb) to be that if it is from Egypt, it belongs back in Egypt, no matter under what laws (or lack of them) it was removed in the past. Personally that is not a position I accept. There is a legitimate trade in antiquities of documented collecting histories which take them back to beyond vesting ("retentionist" if you like) legislation.

Nevine El-Aref, 'New Release: Legitimate Robberies, on the illicit trade of Egypt’s antiquities', Ahram Online, Monday 19 Mar 2012

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