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We received the following (edited for clarity) last week from Dr. Mustafa Elhawat, Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology, University of Elmergheb, Al-khums in Libya. If any of our readers can assist Dr. Mustafa Elhawat please contact him at the email address below.
Dear The Heritage Trust
The political situation and the war in Libya has several complications. The problem lies in the risk to archaeological sites and buildings by militant Islamists, and exploration of these sites by thieves and vandals. There is also the illegal trade in stolen artefacts from some sites and cemeteries which are then sold on the internet and smuggled out of the country. Also, there are numerous monuments in Libya that need to be archived as they are not registered at present. There are two sections in Libya – East and West – but staff there are inexperienced and are in need of training.
We are doing as much as possible and are campaigning to raise awareness among the Libyan population. We are also setting up workshops and seminars but we need to acquire more skills, set up courses etc because archaeological sites in Libya are currently in crisis and at severe risk.
Cultural heritage in Libya belongs to all of humanity and the duty of everyone is to protect and preserve it. So we extend our hands to you, in the international community, to work with us together in order to preserve these treasures and this heritage. I hope there will be close cooperation between us all which will provide an appropriate solution to this crisis.
Dr. Mustafa Elhawat
Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology. Faculty of Archaeology and Tourism. (Near Leptis Magna). University of Elmergheb, Al-khums. Libya. Member of the Commission for the Conservation of Libyan Cultural Heritage. email email@example.com
Two 15th century painted panels in Holy Trinity Church, Torbryan, Devon, England before the theft. The two figures on the right, in the left panel, went missing.
Photo credit: The Churches Conservation Trust
Nearly two years ago we reported on the theft of two priceless 15th century painted oak panels from a church in Devon, England (feature here). The panels are said to be of national importance but had been viciously hacked out of a screen in the church and stolen. The panels were feared lost forever but now, thanks to a collector who recognised them from media coverage and who reported their illegal online sale to the police, the panels have been recovered and are currently in safe storage in Bristol.
Sadly, the damage done to the panels when they were hacked from the screen will cost in the region of £7,000 to repair and conserve. The Churches Conservation Trust therefore has launched and appeal to help restore this priceless masterpiece. Details here.
Heritage is identity, don’t steal it! A UNESCO video
Dear tourist, make sure that the souvenir you take home from South East Asia [or from any other part of the world] hasn’t been looted from a museum or illegally excavated from an archeological site. Please check its provenance and verify that it can be exported out of the country! Keep in mind that a cultural object is not simple merchandise: it embodies history and has a symbolic value for the local people. Help stop illicit trafficking!
Heritage Crime: Progress, Prospects and Prevention
Heritage crime is an area of growing interest for scholars, but also for enforcement agencies and heritage managers, as well as the communities affected. Whether it is the looting of cultural objects, theft of lead from churches, or vandalism of historic monuments, this timely collection brings together debate and international examples to demonstrate the diversity but also commonality of heritage crime across the globe.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Mark Harrison FSA, National Policing and Crime Advisor, English Heritage and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Kent, Great Britain.
1. Introduction; Suzie Thomas and Louise Grove
Section I: Heritage Crime around the World
2. South African Perspective on Thefts from Museums and Galleries: 2006-2010; Bernadine Benson and Henri Fouché
3. Archaeological Heritage in Peru: Definitions, Perceptions and Imperceptions; Henry Tantaleán
4. Forestry as Heritage Crime: Finland; Vesa Laulumaa
5. Archaeological Heritage Crimes in Romania and Moldova: A Comparative view; Sergiu Musteata
6. Threats to Cultural Heritage in the Cyprus Conflict; Sam Hardy
Section II: Tackling Heritage Crime
7. A Situational Approach to Heritage Crime Prevention; Louise Grove and Ken Pease
8. Understanding and Preventing Lead Theft from Churches: A Script Analysis; Victoria Price, Aiden Sidebottom and Nick Tilley
9. Understanding and Attitudes – Heritage Crime in Norway; Brian Kristian Wennberg
10. Developing Policy on Heritage Crime in Southern Africa; Helene Vollgraaff
11. Improving the Treatment of Heritage Crime in Criminal Proceedings: Towards a Better Understanding of the Impact of Heritage Offences; Carolyn Shelbourn
12. The Global Trade in Illicit Antiquities: Some New Directions?; Kenneth Polk
13. Conclusion; What’s the Future for Heritage Crime Research?; Suzie Thomas and Louise Grove
Published this month by Palgrave Macmillan. Details here.
Video credit Al Jazeera English
Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reports this month that –
An auction house in the US state of New York has agreed to return an ancient statue that was looted from a remote Cambodian temple in the 1970’s. The statue is among seven missing statues that have been traced to the United States. Cambodia says it wants all of the statues back to be displayed together at the country’s national museum.
Source Al Jazeera English.
The excavation of Carchemish (1912-13) with Leonard Woolley (right) and T E Lawrence (left)
In an impassioned piece of writing for The Wall Street Journal, Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund, says –
This winter, the film “Monuments Men” told the story of how, over two years, with virtually no resources or support, a ragtag division of 345 volunteers from 17 countries working under the aegis of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) program rescued six million stolen artworks from Nazi depots, including some of the world’s most esteemed masterpieces, and saved hundreds of historic buildings, objects and archival collections from destruction in Europe and Asia.
Yet there has been no sequel to the work of the Monuments Men. Time and again, major cultural treasures have been destroyed, museums looted and archaeological sites despoiled during conflicts. Even after civil law was re-established in Afghanistan, Egypt and Iraq, the destruction has continued under the noses of authorities. In Syria, cellphones have captured the obliteration of the historic center of Aleppo. The director general of antiquities in Syria reports that 420 monumental sites have been damaged in the two years since the civil war began, many in the cities of Aleppo and Homs. The costs of reconstruction would run to the hundreds of millions of dollars and require highly specialized technical capabilities. Also troubling is the widespread looting that has occurred in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Yemen during the past decade. Estimates of antiquities looting and theft in Egypt and Syria since 2011 run into the billions of dollars; but sadly, we’ll never know its full extent.
Cultural heritage links us to our history and identity through structures, objects and traditions. It gives places meaning through references to the past. It enriches our quality of life, contributes to a community’s economic well-being and is fundamental to a healthy society. People in places under siege are no less concerned about their heritage than those who watch from the outside. But people caught in these circumstances are often powerless to intervene, which is why we need a dedicated effort on their behalf.
The ancient site of Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Turkey
Video the Global Heritage Fund
The Global Heritage Fund reports that –
Göbekli Tepe is an Early Neolithic site of enormous significance, featuring 5-meter-high monolithic pillars carved in relief and dating to 10,000 or more years ago. Erected within circular “temple” structures, the latest excavations have revealed that these structures likely covered the entire hillside and could number as many as 20 in total. Göbekli Tepe has been interpreted as the oldest human-made place of worship yet discovered. Until excavations began, a complex on this scale was not thought possible for a community so ancient. The massive sequence of stratification layers suggests several millennia of activity, perhaps reaching back to the Mesolithic. The oldest occupation layer (stratum III) contains monolithic pillars linked by coarsely built walls to form circular or oval structures. So far, four such buildings, with diameters between 10 and 30m have been uncovered. Geophysical surveys indicate the existence of 16 additional structures.
However, the site and its extant remains are threatened by looting, exposure and insufficient management of the site and its resources. GHF’s goals at Göbekli Tepe are to support the preparation of a comprehensive Site Management and Conservation Plan, construction of a shelter over the exposed archaeological features, training local community members in guiding and conservation and aiding Turkish authorities in securing World Heritage Site inscription.