Cultural Heritage News

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  • 02 Jul 2015 1:21 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    IS destroys statues outside Syria's Palmyra museum

    IS captured Palmyra, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site on May 21

    Islamic State group jihadists have destroyed a famous statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra, the country's antiquities director said Thursday.

    Maamoun Abdelkarim said the statue, known as the Lion of Al-Lat, was an irreplacable piece and was apparently destroyed last week.

  • 02 Jul 2015 1:18 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    UN in plea to stop Islamic State's 'industrial scale' looting

    Published: 02 July 2015

    The United Nations today appealed to security experts in London to help stem the flow of stolen antiquities from Syria and Iraq, warning that treasures were being sold on an “industrial scale” to fund Islamic State terrorism.

    Irena Bokova, the head of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, said “huge volumes” of antiquities worth millions were being stripped from historic sites, adding that protection of the sites was a “security imperative” as their destruction by IS extremists reached “unprecedented” levels.


  • 02 Jul 2015 1:13 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    An ASOR and AIA Statement Regarding H.R. 1493  

    Recently, ASOR and the AIA received an open letter raising concerns about H.R. 1493, a bill designed “to protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural and other disasters, and for other purposes.” In particular, the letter raised concerns about an amendment added to the bill in the House of Representatives that allows the President to waive the import restrictions for Syrian cultural materials when the owner of the materials wishes to deposit them in the United States temporarily for purposes of safekeeping and preservation. This amendment is part of the bill that is now being considered in the Senate - See more at:

  • 02 Jul 2015 8:52 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    British Museum’s ivory icons denied US entry for loan show

    The US Fish and Wildlife Service blocked the importation of the Byzantine objects before they ever left the UK

    by Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  1 July 2015

    The US Fish and Wildlife Service blocked the importation of six Byzantine ivory pieces due to come to the US on a loan from the British Museum for the travelling exhibition Saints and Dragons: Icons from Byzantium to Russia. The show, currently on view at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts and due to travel to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, this autumn, centres on icons that are normally hidden away in storage at the London museum.

    Laura Garrity-Arquitt, the registrar at the Museum of Russian Icons, which organised the show, says that despite the age of the religious works (dating from the 9th through the 12th century) any animal remains entering the US must be cleared through the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. The head of the organisation denied permission, though “they didn’t really give a concrete reason why they wouldn’t allow them”, Garrity-Arquitt says, although she did add that it was likely due to the “whole issue with elephant poaching”.

  • 02 Jul 2015 8:49 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Isil holds heritage to ransom to fund fighters, US expert warns

    Terrorist group functions as a modern racketeering operation through sale of plundered cultural objects

    by David D'Arcy  |  2 July 2015

    A US academic working with Syrian heritage has warned that Isil’s tightening grip on heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra indicates its increasing reliance on the sale of plundered cultural objects to generate funds that it previously earned from kidnapping and oil smuggling. 

    Michael Danti, the academic director of the ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative, a joint project between the US Department of State and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), says Isil is “holding the site hostage. It’s the kidnap for ransom situation that Isil specialises in. In this case, it’s heritage they’re holding, rather than people.”

  • 02 Jul 2015 7:07 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Looted Indian Relic Is Recovered

    Stolen bronze statue worth an estimated $1 million recovered after collector voluntarily surrenders it


    Jennifer Smith


    July 1, 2015 8:04 p.m. ET

    A stolen bronze Indian religious relic worth an estimated $1 million was recovered Wednesday by federal customs agents as part of a continuing investigation into a former New York-based art dealer.

    The dealer, Subhash Kapoor, is now awaiting trial in India for allegedly looting artifacts worth tens of millions of dollars.

  • 30 Jun 2015 2:26 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    UNESCO unveils global campaign to counter deliberate destruction of cultural heritage

    • New York, June 30


    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday launched the Global Coalition Unite for Heritage campaign, which aims to strengthen the mobilization of governments and all heritage stakeholders in the face of deliberate damage to cultural heritage, particularly in the Middle East.

  • 29 Jun 2015 1:38 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Museums and looted art: the ethical dilemma of preserving world cultures

    How can western ‘universal’ museums acquire and display artefacts without stoking the illegal arts trade and reproducing colonialist narratives?

    Kanishk Tharoor

    Monday 29 June 2015 13.03 EDT Last modified on Monday 29 June 2015 13.36 EDT

    Every month produces new cases of the “repatriation” of antiquities from American museums to their countries of origin.

    In late May, Italian authorities displayed 25 looted artefacts retrieved from the United States. They included some objects smuggled by the infamous dealer Giacomo Medici, convicted in 2004 for selling thousands of stolen pieces of Greco-Roman art from Italy and the Mediterranean. A few weeks earlier, the Cleveland Museum of Art returned a 10th-century statue of the Hindu god Hanuman to Cambodia. The idol had been hacked from the Prasat Chen temple in Siem Reap in the 1960s before journeying via a litany of dealers into the holds of the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1982.

    In April, homeland security agents relieved the Honolulu Museum of Art of seven ancient Indian artefacts believed to have been acquired through Subhash Kapoor, a New York-based art dealer.

  • 29 Jun 2015 1:26 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    World Heritage Committee opens with an appeal to protect cultural heritage sites targeted for destruction

    Bonn (Germany), 28 June—An appeal for the international community to counter the new threat of violent extremism and cultural cleansing was issued at the opening of the World Heritage Committee, which opened its session in Bonn, Germany, today. The Committee will remain in session until 8 July under the chair of Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office and member of the Bundestag. In a video message, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the importance of heritage for our understanding of cultures. 

  • 29 Jun 2015 1:14 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Islamic State Is Selling Looted Art Online for Needed Cash

    by Sangwon Yoon

    June 28, 2015 — 7:42 PM EDT Updated on June 29, 2015 — 10:11 AM EDT

    The Whatsapp message appeared on his iPhone: photos of an ancient Mesopotamian vase worth $250,000, part of a highly-valued set, is waiting to be extracted.

    The recipient, Amr Al Azm, replied that he was interested. How to proceed? A message from a different account followed. The vase could be smuggled through Lebanon.

    Al Azm, an anthropology professor in Ohio, was faking it, as he does when photos of looted antiquities are sent to him in the belief that he is a collector or dealer. He is a detective - - self-appointed -- hoping to save some of mankind’s rarest and most vulnerable artifacts by tracking the burgeoning antiquities trade of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

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