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A little-known rock covered in Buddhist carvings in Sichuan Province, south-west China, is said to be all that remains of a temple complex
Image credit Newssc.org.
 
Chen Binglin, writing in the South China Morning Post, reports on the damage being done to the 1,000 year-old carvings of Buddhas in south-west China –
 
A 1,000-year-old giant boulder covered with carved images of the Buddha statues has been severely damaged due to government neglect in southwest China, according to the official news website of Sichuan province. Local officials say they did not protect the site because they could not find any writings on the rock to tell them when it was created, Newsssc.org reported.
 
 
Detail of the One Thousand Buddhas
Image credit Newssc.org.
 
The intricate carvings were created between the mid-Tang Dynasty, more than 1,000 years ago, to the Qing Dynasty, according to archaeologists. Some farmers took rocks with carvings from the site to build or decorate their houses, archaeologists said. The main cause of damage to the relic was vandalism, although serious weathering also played an important role due to the lack of protection.
 
More here.
 
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Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and Italian Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, sign an agreement to pave the way for a heritage protection taskforce
Image Credit Domenico Stinellis/AP
 
The Guardian newspaper reports yesterday that –
 
Italy is to work with the UN’s cultural agency to protect ancient artefacts and archaeological sites in conflict areas from extremists. The Italian foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, and Unesco’s director general, Irina Bokova, signed an accord in Rome creating an Italian taskforce and a centre in Turin to train heritage protection experts.
 
Last year, activists reported that [Daesh] killed three captives in Palmyra, Syria, by blowing them up after tying them to ancient Roman columns. It also destroyed other monuments in Palmyra, a desert oasis standing at the crossroads of ancient civilisations, including the temple of Bel, temple of Baalshamin and the triumphal arch.
 
“We are witnessing a tragedy of destruction of heritage, systematic and deliberate attacks on culture,” Bokova said at the signing ceremony…
 
Full article here.
 
 
The stolen Woodhenge plaque (left)
 
Bruno Clements, Social media and web editor for The Wiltshire Gazette & Herald, reports on the theft of a pair of valuable, historic bronze plaques from Woodhenge in Wiltshire England –
 
The plaques, which have been stolen in the last two weeks, are inscribed and inlaid with coloured enamel. They date from the late 1920s and were installed by the Ministry of Works soon after excavations of the site led by Maud Cunnington. The site, only two miles from its more famous contemporary Stonehenge, was scheduled by the government as an Ancient Monument in 1928. The plaques describe Woodhenge and show a plan of the site, which was discovered by accident in 1925 by a passing RAF pilot.
 
Heather Sebire, Curator for English Heritage, which cares for this site, said: “Woodhenge is an incredibly important heritage site and these plaques are a landmark in the history of how the site was discovered, excavated and presented nearly a century ago.
 
Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for Historic England, said: “We are appealing to anyone who has any information that may lead the police to identify the suspects in this case, please call Wiltshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”
 
More here. See also Mike Pitts’ feature here.
  

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.

   

9781137357502

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.

 

   

 
 
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).
 
   

Writing in The Los Angeles Times on the 18 November, Louis Sahagun reports on the theft, damage and desecration of 3,500 year old petroglyphs on cliffs in the Eastern Sierra –

BISHOP, Calif. — Ancient hunters and gatherers etched vivid petroglyphs on cliffs in the Eastern Sierra that withstood winds, flash floods and earthquakes for more than 3,500 years. Thieves needed only a few hours to cut them down and haul them away.

Federal authorities say at least four petroglyphs have been taken from the site. A fifth was defaced with deep saw cuts on three sides. A sixth had been removed and broken during the theft, then propped against a boulder near a visitor parking lot. Dozens of other petroglyphs were scarred by hammer strikes and saw cuts.

The region is known as Volcanic Tableland. It is held sacred by Native Americans whose ancestors adorned hundreds of lava boulders with spiritual renderings: concentric circles, deer, rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep, and hunters with bows and arrows. For generations, Paiute-Shoshone tribal members and whites have lived side by side but not together in Bishop. But desecration of the site, which Native Americans still use in spiritual ceremonies, has forced reservation officials and U.S. authorities to come together and ask a tough question: Can further vandalism be prevented?

Full article and video here. For photos see The Daily Mail article here.

 

 
 
The badly damaged outer gate of Aleppo’s Citadel after government opponents try to blast their way into the ancient fortress. Aleppo, Syria. Image credit Nelofer Pazira
 
Writing in Time World on 12 September, Aryn Baker reports that –
 
Abu Khaled knows the worth of things. As a small-time smuggler living along the porous border between Syria and Lebanon, he has dabbled in antiquities as much as the cigarettes, stolen goods and weapons that make up the bulk of his trade. So when a smuggler from Syria brought him a small, alabaster statue of a seated man a few weeks ago, he figured that the carving, most likely looted from one of Syria’s two dozen heritage museums or one of its hundreds of archaeological sites, could be worth a couple thousand dollars in Lebanon’s antiquities black market. So he called his contacts in Beirut. But instead of asking for cash, he asked for something even more valuable: weapons.
 

“War is good for us,” he says of the community of smugglers that regularly transit the nearby border. “We buy antiquities cheap, and then sell weapons expensively.” That business, he says, is about to get better. Fighters allied with the Free Syrian Army units battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad have told him that they are developing an association of diggers dedicated to finding antiquities in order to fund the revolution. “The rebels need weapons, and antiquities are an easy way to buy them,” says Abu Khaled, who goes by his nickname in order to protect his identity.

More here.

 

Gandhāran statues at a police station in Karachi. Authorities seized dozens of precious artefacts belonged to the 2,000 year-old Gandhāran civilization, illegally removed from Pakistan’s terrorist-torn north-west region. Image credit AFP

Jaffer Rizvi, writing for BBC News Asia, reports on the 6 July that –

An attempt to smuggle ancient artefacts, possibly worth millions of dollars, out of the Pakistani port city of Karachi has been foiled, police say. A top archaeologist has said the goods are at least 2,000 years old and were illegally excavated. Police have called in experts to help assess their value.

Two men caught trying to ship the items have been arrested, police say. Karachi is often used by smugglers who can get criminal support to take valuable antiquities out of the country. Customs officers in 2005 foiled a similar attempt to smuggle nearly 1,500 artefacts worth more than $10m (£6.4m) out of Pakistan.

Gandhāran painting and sculpture displays a strong Greco-Roman influence, with its beginnings dated to around 75-50 bce when links between Rome and the Indo-Parthian kingdoms existed. “There is archaeological evidence that building techniques were transmitted between the two realms. Christian records claim that around AD 40 Thomas the Apostle visited India and encountered the Indo-Parthian king Gondophares.” (Source Wikipedia).

Full article here.

 

 
A statue of the Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana or Mahavairocana) Buddha, stolen from Enichi-ji Temple in Kochi Prefecture, Japan in March this year. Source KYODO
 
The Japan Times reports last  month on the theft and recovery of four Buddhist statues including an important statue of the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha – designated as an Important Cultural Property.
 

A 64-year-old Kochi resident was arrested Saturday for allegedly stealing four Buddhist statues worth about ¥140 million from a temple in Konan, Kochi Prefecture, in March. The suspect, Shunji Nishio, reportedly broke into Enichiji Temple in mid-March and stole the items. Among the items was a statue of the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha, which has been designated by the government as an Important Cultural Property. The statues have been all found and seized by the police.

Full article here.

 

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