Cultural Heritage News

U.S. court suspends auction of ancient Iranian relief

October 28, 2017

A Green Light for Art Criminals?

By SCOTT REYBURN | September 1, 2017

The Art World Calls This Man When Masterpieces Go Missing

By  ALANNA MARTINEZ |  August 31 2017

Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors

by TOM MASHBERG |  August 1 2017

When Nigeria Celebrated Return of Stolen Artifacts

By NURUDEEN OYEWOLE |  July 16 2017

Why the Feds Were Smart Not to Throw the Book at Hobby Lobby for Buying Iraqi Loot

by LEILA AMINEDDOLEH |  July 12 2017

Hobby Lobby To Forfeit Smuggled Iraqi Antiquities

by RICHARD GONZALES |  July 5 2017

Satellite Images Reveal Mosul's Cultural Destruction

by KRISTIN ROMEY |  June 23 2017

The art born of destruction

by I.S. |  June 7 2017

  • 08 Mar 2016 9:09 AM | Anonymous

    Egyptian ambassador proposes plan to share Sekhemka

    Embassy offers to take ownership of the sculpture and lend it to British Museum and Egyptian Museum in Cairo

    by Martin Bailey  |  8 March 2016

    The Egyptian ambassador in London has proposed a bold plan to save Sekhemka, the 4,500-year-old sculpture that became mired in controversy after it was deaccessioned by Northampton Museum in 2014.

    The Egyptian embassy is prepared legally to own the sculpture and lend it for equal periods to the British Museum and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The proposal would represent an unprecedented compromise between two nations that want to display the same antiquity. Sekhemka is arguably the finest piece of non-royal sculpture from Old Kingdom Egypt in existence.

  • 07 Mar 2016 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    Timbuktu Shrines Trial: Why the Destruction of Cultural Heritage is History Repeating Itself

    By John Darlington On 3/5/16 at 2:00 AM

    On Tuesday, alleged Malian jihadi leader Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi appeared at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for a hearing on whether he should be put on trial for destroying part of the North African country’s rich cultural heritage.

    Al-Mahdi is accused of overseeing the destruction in 2012 of medieval mausoleums and the Sidi Yahia mosque, which formed part of Timbuktu’s World Heritage Site. Al-Mahdi is the first suspect in the ICC’s history to potentially face prosecution for attacks against cultural heritage as opposed to direct humanitarian reasons.

    The reasoning for Al-Mahdi’s alleged acts of cultural destruction? Because the targets were places of Sufi veneration and worship, considered by Islamist extremists to be a blasphemous affront to their view of Islam. Other purges saw the destruction of books and manuscripts that define Timbuktu’s place in history as a focus for learning and scholarship.

  • 07 Mar 2016 7:31 AM | Anonymous

    'When cultural heritage is under attack, human rights are under attack' – UN expert

    4 March 2016 – The destruction of cultural heritage is a violation of human rights, a United Nations-appointed expert said today, as the international criminal tribunal began a pre-trial procedure for the first-ever case in which charges were brought against the destruction of cultural and religious sites.

    “It is impossible to separate a people's cultural heritage from the people itself and their rights,” Karima Bennoune, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, said in a press statement. “Clearly, we must now understand that when cultural heritage is under attack, it is also the people and their fundamental human rights that are under attack.”

    On 1 March, a pre-trial procedure, known as a confirmation of charges hearing, was opened in The Hague by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a case related to alleged cultural destruction in Timbuktu, Mali.

  • 03 Mar 2016 10:14 AM | Anonymous

    ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation

    ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation

    ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation

    ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation

    MOSCOW – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) returned twenty-eight documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the Russian Federation. The documents were stolen from Russian State Archives and listed for sale by auction houses, art galleries and individuals. All of the returned items were recovered by HSI offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco between 2006 and 2012. The ceremony was attended by U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, Ms. Galina Khabibulina, Deputy Head, Department of Servicing Arrangements, Rosarchive, Ms. Tatiana Goryacheva, Director of the Russian Government Archive of Literature and Art, Ms. Alexandra Olegovna Arakelova, Director, Department of Education and Science, Ministry of Culture, and HSI officials.

  • 01 Mar 2016 8:55 AM | Anonymous

    Criminal gang convicted of stealing antiquities and rhino horn from UK museums

    The international burglary ring targeted objects for a growing Chinese black market

    by Martin Bailey  |  1 March 2016

    Fourteen men have been convicted for their roles in a criminal ring that targeted museums and auction houses across the UK, including the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Oriental Museum in Durham. The thefts and robberies involved Chinese antiquities and rhinoceros horn (valued by some for its supposed medicinal power), worth up to £57m.

    On 29 February, four Cambridgeshire men, all part of the same family, were found guilty of conspiracy to steal: Daniel “Turkey” O’Brien, John “Kerry” O’Brien, Richard “Kerry” O’Brien Jr and Michael Hegarty. They have links with Rathkeale, in County Limerick, Ireland and are part of a group known as the Rathkeale Rovers or the Dead Zoo Gang. The prosecution described them as the “generals” who worked behind the scenes, organising an international gang of criminals that stole the objects for a growing Chinese black market.

  • 01 Mar 2016 8:52 AM | Anonymous

    What do we really know about Islamic State’s role in illicit antiquities trade?

    Experts at London symposium warn against misinformation and lack of evidence

    by Cristina Ruiz  |  1 March 2016

    How are stolen antiquities being smuggled out of Syria? How much does Islamic State (Isis) profit from this illegal trade? Can we do anything to stop it? These were some of the questions broached by investigators and scholars at a symposium on art and terrorism co-organised by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (Arca) held at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London last Saturday, 27 February.

    Mike Giglio, an investigative journalist with Buzzfeed who spends much of his time reporting from Turkey’s 560-mile border along Syria, has witnessed firsthand the steady stream of objects smuggled out of the war-torn country. The border is long, porous and difficult to control, Giglio said, and some guards are involved in the trade. But he warned against demonising the people who dig for artefacts in Syria and then smuggle them out. “It’s a sign of the desperation of the people affected by the conflict… they see artefacts buried in the ground as their ticket out of their current hell.”

  • 01 Mar 2016 8:51 AM | Anonymous

    First cultural destruction trial opens at The Hague’s International Criminal Court

    Former teacher Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is accused of alleged war crimes for ordering the razing of mausoleums in Timbuktu

    by Anny Shaw  |  29 February 2016

    In the first case of its kind, the alleged Malian jihadi leader Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is due to stand trial on 1 March, accused of war crimes for ordering the demolition of historic monuments. Al-Faqi is charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague with razing nine mausoleums and the 15th-century Sidi Yahia mosque in Timbuktu in northern Mali. The court, established in 1998 through the signing of the Rome Statute, has never before dealt with the destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime.

  • 01 Mar 2016 8:43 AM | Anonymous


    Thursday, February 25, 2016

    United States Seeks To Forfeit And Return A Roman Statue Stolen From The Villa Torlonia In 1983

    Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the filing of a civil forfeiture complaint against a Roman marble peplophoros statue (the “Torlonia Peplophoros”) stolen from the Villa Torlonia in Rome in 1983.  The Torlonia Peplophoros had been sold in Manhattan in 2001 after being unlawfully brought into the United States in the late 1990s.  The current owner of the Torlonia Peplophoros, having discovered that it was stolen, voluntarily turned it over the United States.

    Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The Torlonia Peplophoros was stolen in a brazen theft more than 30 years ago, and we are proud to have recovered it so it can finally be returned to its rightful owners.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to recover and return stolen treasures no matter how long they have been missing.”

  • 16 Feb 2016 9:21 AM | Anonymous

    Egypt to Receive Stolen Ancient Artifacts Seized in Germany

    Egypt to Receive Stolen Ancient Artifacts Seized in Germany

    February 15, 2016

    Egyptian Streets 

    Germany’s Freiburg Court has issued a verdict affirming Egypt’s liability in repatriating a pre-dynastic Egyptian stone vase to its homeland, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh al Damaty said in a statement Friday.

    The ruling came as a result of Egypt’s antiquities ministry providing evidence showing that the vase in fact belongs to Egypt and that it had been illegally smuggled out of the country during the security vacuum that emerged in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution.

    The vase was part of a set of pre-historic Egyptian artifacts seized by German customs authorities in Stuttgart in 2014. The Freiburg Court issued the ruling “after the Ministry of Antiquities presented all sufficient evidences proving Egypt’s ownership,” the ministry statement read.

  • 16 Feb 2016 9:20 AM | Anonymous

    India must start working to reverse plunder of our national artistic heritage

    February 15, 2016, 10:23 am IST Economic Times in ET Commentary | India | ET

    By Sanjeev Sanyal

    The organised theft of the country’s artistic heritage is perhaps the biggest scandal of modern India and it goes on virtually unnoticed. It is not merely about the sheer scale of plunder but the erosion of the very soul of our civilisation.

    According to experts, around 20,000 idols, sculptures and other antiquities have been stolen and sold in foreign countries since 1980. This excludes colonial-era loot. The estimated market value of these antiquities is over $10 billion, although many of these artefacts are priceless from a cultural perspective. Even iconic national monuments such as the Jain temples of Mt Abu have not been spared, many of the idols there being modern replicas.

    The Gods Must Be Crazy
    It is important to note that the systematic plunder of national treasures is not due to petty local thieves, but part of a well-oiled international network run by a handful of criminal organisations. They identify specific pieces, buy off officials to smuggle across borders, use well-known auction houses and even have prominent art experts on their payrolls. 

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