Cultural Heritage News

  • 29 Oct 2015 3:27 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Senator targets ISIS antiquities smuggling

    By Rebecca Kheel - 10/29/15 01:59 PM EDT

    Days after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) tied three hostages to ancient pillars in Palmyra and blew them up, Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), is renewing calls to fight ISIS through its antiquities trafficking.

    “The loss of life, obviously the most objectionable,” he said in an interview. “With both the destruction of human life and destruction of these ancient sites or antiquities or artifacts, they are trying to send a message that they’re going to impose a new kind of religious caliphate on any group of people that they come across.”

  • 29 Oct 2015 3:21 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Stolen artifacts, ISIS money and a New Orleanian on the case

    Jed Lipinski, | The Times-Picayune By Jed Lipinski, | The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune

    Over the past decade, New Orleans resident Tess Davis has spent a good part of her time in the mountains and jungles of Cambodia, researching historic sites plundered by the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Partly as a result of her efforts, six 1,000-year-old statues were recently repatriated from auction houses and museums in the United States, marking a major victory for the southeast Asian country's cultural heritage.  

    Davis, a 33-year-old lawyer and trained archaeologist, is one of a handful of world specialists in "blood antiquities," stolen art and artifacts that terrorist organizations sell to fund their campaigns of death and destruction. Now, she is using her experience in Cambodia to target the latest practitioner of large-scale antiquities trafficking: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

  • 29 Oct 2015 2:54 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Did Hobby Lobby’s C.E.O. Unknowingly Sponsor Terrorism?

    With nefarious groups raising millions of dollars by looting and selling antiquities, the crafting billionaire and ardent evangelical might have inadvertently financed their activities.

    by Tina Nguyen

    On Tuesday morning, the Daily Beast reported that Hobby Lobby’s C.E.O. Steve Green, whose company successfully challenged Obamacare’s contraception mandate on the grounds that it violated the owning family’s religious beliefs, was being investigated for the allegedly illicit importation of biblical-era Assyrian and Babylonian artifacts into the United States.


  • 28 Oct 2015 1:07 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Spain Returning over 100 Pieces of Stolen Art to Ecuador

    Published 27 October 2015 (15 hours 42 minutes ago)

    Spain’s former ambassador to Quito took dozens of colonial works from Quito, while dozens more pre-colonial pieces were in the hands of drug traffickers

    Spain will return 74 colonial and 49 pre-Columbian works of art to Ecuador on Wednesday, 22 years after the former were handed to a museum for restoration and 12 years after Madrid police found the latter during a raid undertaken as part of a money laundering and drug trafficking case.

    The Museo de America took custody of the artworks from a former Ecuadorian ambassador and Interpol, respectively. Almost a decade after the police seized hundreds of archaeological pieces, Spain notified its embassy in Colombia that they originated in several northern South American countries.

  • 28 Oct 2015 9:45 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Walking an ethics tightrope: The business of collecting antiquities

    Ong Sor Fern


    Oct 27, 2015, 5:00 am SGT

    80 16 More


    The slack protection of cultural artefacts makes it hard for museums to protect themselves from fraud

    I once held a 10,000-year-old pot in my hands. After the initial terror that I'd drop it - never mind the fact that it was reconstructed from shards anyway - there was an ineffable moment of awe and humility.

    Some human, long dead, buried and turned to dust, had shaped this object. Other humans had touched it, used it, discarded it. And it had weathered the centuries to finally be carefully retrieved from the earth and lovingly reconstructed in a museum.

  • 27 Oct 2015 4:15 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Court rules stolen $200m Vincent van Gogh painting can stay at Yale

    Associated Press in New Haven, Connecticut

    Monday 26 October 2015 18.13 EDT Last modified on Monday 26 October 2015 18.54 EDT

    A federal appeals court has sided with Yale University in a dispute over the ownership of a $200m Vincent van Gogh painting

    The second US circuit court of appeals last week upheld a 2014 ruling by a lower court that dismissed the claims of Pierre Konowaloff. He says the Dutch painter’s The Night Cafe was stolen from his family during the Russian Revolution.

  • 27 Oct 2015 4:13 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Hobby Lobby Family May Own Stolen Art, Mayor to Artists: ‘Don’t Leave!’ … and More

    By Guelda Voien • 10/27/15 12:12pm

    The owners of raft store chain Hobby Lobby have been under federal investigation for acquiring ancient artifacts from Iraq—material that may have been looted—for their new Museum of the Bible, according to the Daily Beast.  The Green family which owns the company is best known for its federal lawsuit that successfully claimed a closely-held corporation should be exempt from the Affordable Care Act, because that law would have compelled Hobby Lobby to pay for contraceptives. The museum the Green clan is building is set to open in Washington, D.C. in 2017

  • 26 Oct 2015 1:09 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Crime, Punishment and Reconstruction in Timbuktu

    By Shalini Iyengar and Sukrit Rajesh Kapoor on 26/10/2015

    On September 26, 2015 Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an alleged member of the Ansar Eddine militia group, was transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for the “war crimes of intentionally directing attacks against historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion” in Timbuktu, Mali in 2012. This marks the first attempt by the ICC to prosecute an individual for the war crime of destroying cultural heritage.

    Sadly, the wanton destruction witnessed in Timbuktu is far from being the first or even the most egregious example of a “crime against culture” – a phrase used to describe the destruction of the legendary Afghan Bamiyan statues in 2001. Other infamous examples of cultural destruction in the context of armed conflict include the actions of ISIS in Palmyra and other places, blowing up of the spiral minaret of Samara in Iraq in 2005 as well as the shelling of the Krak des Chevaliers castle in Syria on multiple occasions.
  • 26 Oct 2015 9:21 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    An Exclusive Look at the Greatest Haul of Native American Artifacts, Ever

    In a warehouse in Utah, federal agents are storing tens of thousands of looted objects recovered in a massive sting

    By Kathleen Sharp

    Smithsonian Magazine
    November 2015

    106 134 2 7 2 555

    At dawn on June 10, 2009, almost 100 federal agents pulled up to eight homes in Blanding, Utah, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying side arms. An enormous cloud hung over the region, one of them recalled, blocking out the rising sun and casting an ominous glow over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. At one hilltop residence, a team of a dozen agents banged on the door and arrested the owners—a well-respected doctor and his wife. Similar scenes played out across the Four Corners that morning as officers took an additional 21 men and women into custody. Later that day, the incumbent interior secretary and deputy U.S. attorney general, Ken Salazar and David W. Ogden, announced the arrests as part of “the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts.” The agents called it Operation Cerberus, after the three-headed hellhound of Greek mythology.

    Read more:


  • 26 Oct 2015 9:18 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Looted in Syria -- and Sold in London

    By Rachel Shabi

    The Guardian

    Posted 2015-10-24 00:54 GMT

    Treasures from the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, pictured, which was recently captured by Isis, were found for sale on the black market in Lebanon in 2013 (Christophe Charon/AFP/Getty).Mark Altaweel is surprised at how easy it is. A few hours into a hunt around London, the near-east specialist from the UCL Institute of Archaeology has uncovered objects that, he says, are "very likely to be coming from conflict regions" in Iraq and Syria. The items -- pieces of early glass; a tiny statue; some fragments of bone inlay -- range from the second to fourth centuries BC. Altaweel says they are so distinctive that they could only have come from a particular part of the region: the part now controlled by the so-called Islamic State. That we were able to find such items openly sold in London "tells you the scale -- we're just seeing the tail end of it," he says.

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