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Reproduction of a bison from one of the Altamira cave paintings
Source Wikimedia Commons. Image credit Rameessos
BBC News Europe reports today that –
Spain’s famous Altamira caves are briefly being opened to the public, for the first time in 12 years. Five elderly Spaniards chosen in a draw can marvel at its ice-age paintings of bison, bulls and other animals. The visit, including time accessing the caves, will last only about half an hour – allowing the group just eight minutes to admire the paintings.
During the visit, dozen of sensors will monitor changes in the cave’s temperature and humidity, to see if more visitors can be allowed in in future, our correspondent says. As part of the experiment, a total of 192 people will be allowed to see the paintings in weekly visits until August, El Pais newspaper reports. Despite the historic nature of the viewing, taking pictures will not be allowed. Nor will visitors be allowed to touch the rock. They will be also dressed in protective clothing, to help prevent contamination of the site.
The caves were closed in 2002 to protect the paintings from microbiological damage caused by visitors. Perhaps they should stay closed to the general public. These 22,000 year-old paintings are just too precious and too vulnerable to risk further degradation from public viewing – no matter how small and restricted those viewings may be. 
Full BBC article here. Includes an excellent video, presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon, showing a visit to the replica Altamira caves housed in the National Museum and Research Center of Altamira.
Gertrude Bell, with Winston Churchill and T E Lawrence, in front of the Sphinx and Pyramids
Image credit Gertrude Bell Archive
BBC NEWS Tyne & Wear reports on the archaeologist Gertrude Bell who was –
A woman in a man’s world, Bell immersed herself in the Arab culture and became an “uncrowned Queen of the Desert”, according to Helen Berry, professor of British History at Newcastle University.
Born on 14 July 1868 in Washington New Hall, in what was then County Durham, Gertrude Bell was the daughter of a wealthy family of ironmasters. After being home schooled, she went to London to be taught at the age of 15, before going on to become the first woman to gain a first-class degree in Modern History at Oxford. Because of her sex, she was unable to graduate. Prof Berry said that Bell had the opinion that “what applied to other women didn’t apply to her. She thought that the fact she was a woman didn’t stop her from doing anything she wanted.”
In 1892, after leaving Oxford, Bell travelled to Tehran, in what was then Persia, to visit her uncle Sir Frank Lascelles, who was British minister to the country. Prof Berry said it was on this visit that she developed a love for the Arab people as she visited archaeological sites, learnt their language and travelled deep into the desert. “I couldn’t do it, it was very dangerous, but obviously she liked danger,” the professor said. “I think she decided she was going to play this role as ‘Queen of the Desert’. She surrounded herself with this grand ensemble of camels, prestigious gifts and male guides and travelled the Middle East. I don’t think they knew what to do with her, especially being a woman, [but] I think she won them over with her ability to communicate.”
A lone woman among Arab men, to many she became known as “El Khatun”, the Lady of the Court. She spoke eight languages, including French, Persian, Arabic and Turkish, and it was her knowledge of the tribes, geography and politics of the area that attracted the attention of British Intelligence.
Production has begun on a film telling the story of Gertrude Bell; archaeologist, writer and explorer who spent the early 1900s travelling alone across the Middle East.
Full BBC article here.

Mausoleum of Zeynel Bey, son of Sultan Uzun Hasan (Hasan the Tall) of the Aq Qoyunlu dynasty, or White Sheep Turkomans (1378–1508)
Source Wikimedia Commons. Image credit Htkava

The Wikimedia entry for Hasankeyf reads in part –

With its history that spans nine civilizations, the archaeological and religious significance of Hasankeyf is considerable. Some of the city’s historical treasures will be inundated if construction of the Ilısu Dam is completed. These include the ornate mosques, Islamic tombs and cave churches.

According to the Bugday Association, based in Turkey, Ms. Huriye Küpeli, the prefect of Hasankeyf, the Swiss ambassador to Turkey and representatives of the Swiss led consortium of contractors for the dam project have suggested what they believe to be a suitable nearby spot for moving the historical heritage of Hasankeyf, an operation for which the Turkish Ministry of Culture pledges to provide 30 million euros.

The threat of the Ilisu Dam project prompted the World Monuments Fund to list the city on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world. It is hoped that this listing will create more awareness of the project and prompt the Ilisu Consortium to develop alternate plans that are more sympathetic to this site of exceptional historical and cultural significance.

In December 2008 export credit insurers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland announced suspending their support for the project amid concern about its environmental and cultural impact and gave the Turkish government 180 days to meet standards set by the World Bank. These standards were 153 requirements on environmental protection, resettlement of villages, protection of cultural heritage, and resource management with neighbouring states. As Turkey did not fulfil any of them, the three ECAs indicated in a joint press release issued on the 7th of July 2009 that they withdrew from the project. Shortly after, in another joint press release issued on the same day, the three banks (Société Générale, UniCredit and DekaBank) financing the Ilısu Dam project also stated – in line with the decision of the ECAs – that the export credit granted by the three banks for the construction of the Ilısu Dam would no longer be available.

Meanwhile, writing for National Geographic last Friday, Julia Harte in Turkey reports that –

From the Neolithic caves riddling its cliffs to the honey-colored, 15th-century minarets looming over its streets, Hasankeyf, Turkey, is a living museum of epic proportion.

But today’s reigning power, the Turkish Republic, has a unique plan for Hasankeyf: submerging the ancient town beneath 200 feet (60 meters) of water. That will be the result of a hydroelectric dam now under construction in Ilısu village, 60 miles (97 kilometers) downstream from Hasankeyf. In February 2013, Turkey’s highest administrative court ordered construction to halt until an environmental impact assessment had been carried out.

Only one-fifth of the archeological sites around Hasankeyf have been unearthed so far, and local archeologists predict that 85 percent of the remainder will be flooded before they can finish excavating.

Video and full National Geographic article here. Sign the petition to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to urge them to take action against the construction of the Ilisu Dam here.



Knill’s Monument, St. Ives, Cornwall

High on a hill overlooking the British coastal town of St. Ives, Cornwall stands Knill’s Monument, a 50-foot-high granite obelisk steeped in local tradition dating back over two centuries. The imposing structure was the final work of the architect John Wood the Younger, and was built in 1782 as a mausoleum for and memorial to the mayor of St. Ives, John Knill (1733–1811). Exposed to the harsh coastal elements, Knill’s Monument suffered notable deterioration over the years, its ailing condition marked by missing and damaged pointing, vegetation growing on the structure, and the poor state of the original commemorative shield. This brief video produced by World Monuments Fund Britain highlights its restoration.

More from the World Monuments Fund here.


We seem to have missed this (though given the date when the article first appeared it’s not that surprising) so thought it might be worth a mention again here. Frequent visitors to the Avebury World Heritage Site will know of the Barge Inn at Honey Street, what they might not know, and according to the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, is that the Barge –
…is banking on a huge cash windfall after a Banksy mural mysteriously appeared overnight on the Sarsen stone in the pub’s beer garden. The mural depicts a dog peeing against the stone and is thought to be in protest at the pub’s proposed banning of dogs from the canalside garden.
Now Honeystreet Ales, the pubs owners, are planning to cash in by uprooting the stone and selling it at auction. Simon Pye, a spokesman for the company, said: “We feel privileged that Banksy has chosen the Barge for his artwork. Some customers might view it as graffiti, but I’m sure it would help trade. Unfortunately, our insurers have insisted it’s removed as it’s too valuable to leave outside”.
Full article here.  On a serious note, it appears that Banksy’s Kissing Coppers, taken from a pub wall in Brighton, England, has sold for $575,000 in the US. Details here. Another case for repatriation we wonder… what do you think George?
A guest feature by Chris Pearce, Founding President of the International Sake Association.
Woodblock illustration from the Nippon Sankai Meisanzue, a sake-making textbook published in 1799
Many places on earth have a fraught relationship with alcohol. Some view it as a convivial companion and enabler of happy occasions, others as a threat to the health of the nation. How countries regard social drinking gives a clue to their general level of forbearance: those that disdain alcohol seem lacking in tolerance while those that embrace it tend to be more liberal and forgiving. In the latter category one would have to place Japan first and foremost. No other populace on earth embraces alcohol with the affection, openness and enthusiasm that Japanese people do their traditional sake, as well as everything else drinkable in a bottle, keg or can.
The earliest Chinese account of Japan appears in a Han Dynasty record from the third century BC, where the natives are described as “short, tattooed and drinking all the time.” One can imagine those distant Jomon days, when Japan was heavily forested and rich in game, blessed by abundant water and free from the scourge of war. People lived in small hamlets as hunters and gatherers, rice cultivation not having yet arrived from Korea. All it took was some mulberries trapped between tree branch and trunk, some rain and warm weather, and natural fermentation would kick in to produce a few sips of mildly alcoholic giggle juice. When the Yayoi settlers introduced rice cultivation, there was even more joy to be had, and no doubt the villagers sloshed back the rice beer by the bucketful.
After awhile a discovery came along that kicked the alcohol content of rice beer up to more satisfying levels. Somebody must have steamed some rice, chewed it up for an invalid or small child and then left the masticated gruel in a corner on a cold winter’s day. The amylase in saliva converted the starch in rice into glucose, and natural yeasts in the air happily set to their work of converting glucose into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Since it was cold in the hut, and the yeast happened to thrive at low temperatures, outside bacteria were kept at bay so that after a few days the alcohol content shot up to 6% instead of the 3% or so of rice beer. Such a striking occurrence would not go unnoticed, and before long there must have been people all over the valley madly chewing away on whatever rice they could get their hands on.
When it came to volume though, this method of sake-production, which required large numbers of willing, cavity-free young girls as chewers for the premium grade, had obvious limitations, and it took another fortuitous accident of nature for sake to achieve the alcoholic impact that would entrench its pivotal position in Japanese culture. This time a few spores of mold landed on a bowl of steamed rice, left out on a warm, dry day, and as their rhizomes penetrated the rice kernels enzymes were released which converted the starch in the kernels into glucose. Then the weather turned cool as rain began to fall and dripped onto the molded rice–just enough to make a sweetish slurry that yeast could feast on. This time, though, as the yeast produced alcohol, the mold continued to release glucose into the mix as it broke down nutrients in the rice. Instead of fermentation ending after several days, as in the case of rice beer, it could continue for a week or more with the alcohol content rising gradually throughout the process.
These were days when shamans served as intermediaries between the human and spirit realms, able to leave their bodies at will and enter those of birds and animals. Illnesses were cured and curses absolved by interventions into the spirit world. The release from everyday reality that alcohol grants must have been enthusiastically endorsed by the village healers, bestowing on sake an aura of sanctity from very ancient times. Seasonal rites to propitiate the gods, as described in the Kojiki and Manyoshu, contain references to sake, which is seen as cleansing, pure and a catalyst to communication between human beings and the Shinto gods. But admiration for sake’s salutary affects was hardly limited to the shamans. While an ordinary man may not be able to abandon his body, he does need to abandon his cares for awhile and obtain, if only in his own mind for a few hours, release from the constraints of family, society and his own limitations. And sake would do it. Just a few sips and the tribulations of daily life were forgotten as the euphoria of sake enjoyment set in.
These two strains, one with sake as the intermediary between shaman and the natural world (in some parts of Japan a drunken man is said to be possessed by the “kamisama”) and the other as the congenial life companion that helps return us to our original guileless nature, combine to give Japan its positive outlook towards alcohol enjoyment. Of course there are plenty of countries where people enjoy wine, but the importance of inebriation in drinking aesthetics is somewhat depreciated as aficionados dabble with food pairing or go in for analyzing grape varieties, regions, vintages, etc., not to mention devising outlandish flavor descriptors filled with marshmallows, hazelnuts and gooseberries. Sake-drinkers, on the other hand, have few pretensions; they hold alcohol in genuine affection and believe that the consciousness-enhancing attribute of sake is basically a good thing in its own right.
At various sake tastings and staff trainings over the years I have trotted out the theory that one reason sake is picking up new admirers is the quality of the alcohol inebriation. Experienced drinkers agree that each alcoholic beverage has its own distinct footprint. A few hours of beer drinking produces plenty of manly camaraderie, but also a very full belly, making it hard to maintain a sharp edge to the conversation. Spirits on the other hand, even when cut with water, hit the body a lot harder than fermented recreational beverages. It’s hard to pace oneself for four or five hours with scotch, and the distilled alcohol seems to produce a deeper fatigue the next day. Wine, while it has a high enough alcohol content to maintain a lively atmosphere, has always seemed to me to be something you enjoy with a meal rather than on its own. There’s just too much acidity in alcohol made from fruit–on average wine has seven times as much acidity as you find in sake. As long as you pair it with food, wine is a great companion. On its own with a few appetizers, over a lengthy evening, I have some misgivings.
With an alcohol content of fifteen percent, sake metabolizes at just the right pace to sustain an animated–OK, highly animated–conversation. The low acidity and glucose content–now that most sakes are dry–mean that you can drink it without tiring for hours at a stretch, fortified by nutritious morsels of sake appetizers and frequent draughts of fresh water. (It helps too that the cups are so small, as this tends to keep gulping to a minimum.) Sake is the only one of the three great families of fermented beverages produced through dual simultaneous fermentation, during which over a dozen amino acids find their way into the sake vats. This too may contribute to the mental acuity many sake drinkers experience, or think they experience, when sipping away.
Getting back to why sake is so ingrained in Japan’s culture and religion, I think it all comes down to a reverence for rice, which stretches from prehistoric times up to the present day. I can vividly recall coming over the bluff from Shirahama harbor on Iriomote Island, where I grew rice for two years in the mid-70s. The fields of freshly planted seedlings opened up before us like an emerald lagoon on the approach to Sonae village. In those days everyone still practiced yuimawari, with each household helping the next with the planting, and receiving their help in return. Raising the rice seedlings was also a community effort. Everything in village life revolved around the rice planting and harvest. After the long, hard labor of preparing those paddies, your fellow villagers showed up to help you plant from morning until dusk. When you gazed out over your planted paddies and raised a glass of awamori with everyone afterwards, it was more than just sake in a glass. It was a toast to the natural world and to friendship, without which we could not exist in the world: a truly timeless sentiment, and surely worthy of another round.
The excavation of Carchemish (1912-13) with Leonard Woolley (right) and T E Lawrence (left)
Noah Charney writes in The Arts Newspaper that –
With the release of George Clooney’s drama about the Monuments Men and their adventures in saving Europe’s art treasures during the Second World War, viewers get a glimpse of a true, dramatic, epic story of the race to rescue an estimated five million cultural heritage objects, from paintings and sculptures to rare books and valuable archival materials, that were looted by the Nazis and were threatened with complete destruction. The Clooney film is only loosely based on historical fact—it necessarily compresses, condenses and alters reality to fit the rules of a Hollywood feature. But one aspect of the Monuments Men that most American accounts skip past or exclude altogether is the fact that the Monuments Men began as a British operation—and was led by a very British brand of hero, Sir Leonard Woolley.
In anticipation of the film, much has been written about the Monuments Men, but what tends to go overlooked is the role of British scholar-soldiers in protecting the world’s cultural heritage. It was the British who first recognised, early in the war, the need for a division of officers trained in, and dedicated to, the protection of art and monuments in conflict zones. In January 1943, during a pause in the fighting near Tripoli in North Africa, Mortimer Wheeler, the director of the London Museum and a renowned archaeologist, grew concerned about the fate of three ruined ancient cities nearby along the coast of Libya: Sabratha, Leptis Magna, and Oea (the ancient city around which Tripoli grew).
The Duveen Gallery at the British Museum. Present home to the Elgin Marbles
Source Wikimedia Commons. Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 3 December 2005. Website
Lara Prendergast in The Spectator last Tuesday couldn’t have put it better when she says, “George Clooney may be many things, but an art historian he is not.” That he isn’t, Lara, but he still seems to think himself qualified to voice an opinion on the repatriation of the Elgin (or Eljin as he pronounces it) Marbles to the Pantheon… Pantheon? Did you mean the Parthenon George and… oh dear… the actual Parthenon and not the Acropolis Museum?
Ms Prendergast goes on to say –
Clooney then waded in with a measly dose of cultural finesse:
‘Even in England, the polling is in favour of returning the marbles to the Pantheon [sic]. The Vatican returned parts of it, the Getty returned parts of it [the Vatican gave a section of the Parthenon frieze to the Acropolis museum in Athens on loan; the J Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles repatriated looted treasures last year]. There are certain pieces you look at and think, “That would perhaps be the right thing to do”.’
Which ‘certain pieces’ do you look at George? Do you even know the difference between the Parthenon and the Pantheon? The debate about the Elgin Marbles may be hackneyed, but it is still an intellectual one. And it is, in the grand scheme of things, more important than the promotion of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Hear, hear Lara, we couldn’t have put it better, but we’d also like to ask George whether or not he’s actually seen the Marbles at the British Museum and whether or not he’s aware of the restrictions in place on the Museum when it comes to disposing of any object in its collection – whether through sale, exchange, repatriation or disposal in some other way. It can’t be done – at least not without changing the law. That’s not to say there isn’t a case to be made for the Marbles repatriation (it would certainly free up much needed gallery space for, dare we say it, more interesting exhibitions) and we’ve presented both sides of the repatriation argument on these pages before (type Elgin Marbles in the search box above for more).

When all’s said and done however the debate is, as Lara Prendergast writes, “…an intellectual one. And it is, in the grand scheme of things, more important than the promotion of a Hollywood blockbuster.”
Full Independent article here.
Writing for the Asahi Simbun on 15 February 2014, Shunske Nakamura, Senior Staff Writer, reports on the oldest concurrent discovery of human bones and artefacts as yet found in Japan –
NAHA, Okinawa Prefecture–Archaeologists have unearthed shell tools around 20,000 years old that could help clear up mysteries surrounding the ancestors of modern Japanese people. The Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum said the shell tools–the first uncovered in Japan from the Paleolithic Age–were dug up at the Sakitari-do cave site in Nanjo, Okinawa Prefecture, near the site where the country’s oldest whole skeletons were found. It was Japan’s oldest concurrent discovery of both human bones and artifacts.
Around 40 fragments of shells of the Veneridae family, ledge mussels and other species were found that are believed to have been used as tools by humans. A human tooth and a foot bone were also found in the same geological formation. Carbon dating of charcoal from the same formation indicated the remains were 20,000 to 23,000 years old.
Full article here.
Latest British Archaeology magazine featuring the reconstructed bust of a Neanderthal
The latest British Archaeology magazine landed on our doormat a few days ago, sporting a stunning cover image of the reconstructed bust of a Neanderthal. As always, the magazine is packed full of fascinating and informative features for everyone (young and old alike) interested in archaeology or the past in general.
This addition includes articles on the recently discovered ancient footprints in Norfolk, the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story exhibition now showing at the Natural History Museum in London and much, much more (see the British Archaeology page here and editor Mike Pitts’ feature here for details.
The Council for British Archaeology reports today that –
The Petition for a Royal Charter of Incorporation put forward by the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) was considered by the Privy Council at its meeting on 11 February 2014, and Her Majesty the Queen was pleased to sign the Order of Grant.
This decision is a spectacular endorsement of the role of  archaeologists. IfA successfully made the case to the Privy Council that archaeology is a clear and distinct discipline working in the public interest. IfA established that IfA’s accredited members subscribe to an ethical Code of conduct, have demonstrated their competence and made a commitment to developing their skills through Continuing Professional Development, and are subject to the oversight of their peers – the essential elements of professionalism. We have also shown the Privy Council that we have robust and fair processes for accrediting individuals and organisations, measuring compliance with standards, and for investigating allegations of unprofessional practice; and we have set out a sound, efficient and transparent structure of governance – the necessary components of any professional institute seeking recognition.
More here.
A silver penny from the reign of Henry I (1100 – 1135)
The coin is unique as it is the first known to mention the moneyer ÆLFWINE at Hereford
Image credit the Portable Antiquities Scheme
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has recorded 900,000 archaeological finds since it was set up in 1997. Singling out those made by Tom Redmayne from North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, BBC News Lincolnshire reports that Mr Redmayne, “…has made more than 500 significant archaeological finds [and] has been praised by the British Museum [for helping] build a picture of the county with his finds.
British Museum data shows that Lincolnshire was one of the top three areas of the country for Portable Antiquities Scheme finds in 2012. People who find items can log them with the PAS database, set up in 1997. It has now recorded more than 900,000 finds in its 15-year history.
In its annual PAS report, the British Museum said: “His [Tom Redmayne’s] finds have been of a consistently high standard, and the information now produced is of great benefit to understanding the archaeological landscape of the Lincolnshire marsh region. Adam Daubney, finds liaison officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said Mr Redmayne was “an ambassador” for metal detector users everywhere.
Full article here.

Ear studs, buttons or hair adornments? The studs are believed to be the only ones ever found in south-west England

BBC News Devon reports on 7 February that –

When archaeologists unearthed the contents of a tomb in a remote part of Dartmoor [south-west England] 18 months ago, they had no idea they were about to find an internationally important treasure trove. Academics and scientists alike were fascinated by the well preserved findings from this prehistoric cremation burial chamber which allowed them one of the best glimpses into life in Bronze Age Southern England that they have ever had. The booty included prehistoric jewellery, animal pelts and finely executed tailoring. Most remarkable of all was that the find included beads made of amber, a substance that doesn’t occur within 1,000 miles of Dartmoor, prompting new insight into possible prehistoric trade routes between Britain and other countries.

This absorbing programme follows up on a BBC Inside Out South West programme from earlier in the year. It highlights ground-breaking work by internationally renowned archaeologists as they get to grips with how this discovery helps paint a picture of Bronze Age society; and as a consequence, how North Dartmoor is being reconsidered as an area of historical importance.

Presenter Mike Dilger is on hand as scientists examine more secrets from the tomb including bracelets and yo-yo shaped ear studs that would have stretched the ear lobe. Most thrilling is when Mike and the TV crew are present when archaeologists reveal the contents of an intricately woven bag, unopened for 4,000 years.

The video, Mystery of the Moor, is available on BBC iPlayer until 7:59pm on Friday, 14 February 2014. Duration: 29 minutes.


Putting aside Mike Dilger’s somewhat enthusiastic style of presentation, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the beauty and technical skill of the contents that emerged from the Dartmoor tomb. One or two things didn’t ring quite right however; the horsehair bracelet, with tin studs, was referred to as ‘woven’. To us it looked more like it was platted or braided, and the lady who was working on the reconstruction seemed to be using a platting/braiding technique not a weaving one. Given the right type of braiding stool, the tin studs could have been braided into the bracelet as it was being worked rather than being pushed through it. That thought led us to look at the ‘ear studs’ a little more closely as well. It would be interesting to know if similar wooden objects were being used in ancient Britain as ear studs. The tin studs in the bracelet and the wooden ear studs were very similar in shape, and the fact that there were two pairs of studs made in two sizes is puzzling. Why two sizes if they belonged to the same person? Surely someone who wore such a lovely necklace and bracelet would not have inserted rather crude wooden studs into their earlobes. The studs may, of course, have been covered in something to enhance their appearance but why two sizes if they were studs for the same person? Might they not just be a simple type of button or perhaps something else entirely? See mullien’s comment above.

Is it not possible that the wooden ‘ear studs’ were used in exactly the same way as the tin studs in the braided bracelet, but braided into the woman’s hair not inserted into her earlobes. They were, perhaps, decorated in some way but whatever that was has either been missed or has degraded beyond trace.

Finally, are these items really of ‘princess’ status? Because we find one set of grave goods of this standard doesn’t necessarily mean it belonged to a princess. Women everywhere, from all ages and from all social levels, would aspire to own things of beauty, and the woman whose grave has been found on Dartmoor would not need to be a princess to aspire to, or even own, such items.


Amitabha (Buddha of Eternal Light)
Japanese, Edo Period. Paint residue on wood. 22cm x 7cm x 4cm approx.
Private collection Great Britain


Image when the taller of the two Bamiyan Buddhas was destroyed by the Taliban in 2001
Source Wikipedia
In a bizarre and unauthorised attempt to reconstruct the Bamiyan Buddhas, blown up by the Taliban in 2001, a team of archaeologists from the German branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), led by Michael Petzet, has been ordered by UNESCO to halt further work on the shattered statues.
Alessandro Martini and Ermanno Rivetti, writing for The Art Newspaper, reports –
The international community has reacted furiously to news that a German-led team of archaeologists has been reconstructing the feet and legs of the smaller of the two Bamiyan Buddhas, the monumental Afghan sculptures blown up by the Taliban in 2001. News of this reconstruction, which has taken place without Unesco’s knowledge or permission, was revealed during the 12th meeting of Unesco’s Bamiyan working group, in Orvieto, Italy, in December.
A team of archaeologists from the German branch of Icomos (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), led by Michael Petzet, who himself served as the head of Icomos from 1999 to 2008, spent most of last year rebuilding the smaller Buddha’s lower appendages with iron rods, reinforced concrete and bricks, an operation that Francesco Bandarin, Unesco’s assistant director-general for culture, describes as “wrong on every level”. He says: “Unesco has nothing to do with this project. It was undertaken without the consent of the Afghan government and has now been stopped.”
Meanwhile, one glimmer of good news in this sad saga –
The largest initiative is a cultural centre and museum devoted to the area’s rich Buddhist and Muslim history. This “goes beyond the missing Buddhas”, says Andrea Bruno. The building, inspired by the traditional Afghan “fortress-house”, will sit on a plateau that faces the cliff into which the statues were hewn. South Korea has said that it will foot the $5.4m bill. The building is expected to be finished in October 2016, if conditions on the ground permit.
The proposed Bamiyan Cultural Centre and Museum, designed by Andrea Bruno and to be funded by South Korea, will look towards the site from across the valley where the Buddhas once stood.
Full article here.


February 2014
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