Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

January 13, 2018

INTERPOL's Most Wanted stolen works of art lists

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Every June and December, INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization publishes a poster which highlights key works of art that the law enforcement organization designates as important stolen works of art taken in incidences which have been reported during the previous six months. 

Distributed via all INTERPOL NCBs (National Central Bureaus) biannually to law enforcement agencies worldwide and available to the interested public on the INTERPOL website, their ID tool raises awareness of specific works of art to be watching for.  

Since the publication of INTERPOL's first stolen works of art poster in June 1972, the organization has brought attention to 534 stolen objects; 51 of these  objects have been recovered. 

In addition to the biannual posters, INTERPOL sometimes publishes highlight posters designed to draw attention to serious multi-object thefts of substation value that occur at single locations.  

Recent examples of these include: 

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit
While Ukrainian border guards recovered 17 of the stolen Old Master paintings worth $18.3 million from the Italian museum, other historical objects in Iraq and Syria are still missing. 

January 10, 2018

2018 Scholarship: ARCA has 4 conflict country scholarships for its 11 course program in Italy

ARCA has four conflict country scholarships for 2018.  These scholarships cover tuition for the 2018 postgraduate art crime and cultural heritage protection program.

ARCA builds capacity in conflict zone source countries 

In response to scholarly concerns of heritage destruction and looting throughout Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art developed its Minerva Scholarship program so that heritage personnel from these conflict countries could receive specialized training in combatting art crime in furtherance of cultural heritage protection. In place since 2015, these scholarships are geared towards postgraduate level individuals with a background in, or current position within the museum or archaeological field, cultural heritage institutions or universities, who are living and working within their home country.

The Minerva scholarship has been created to equip scholars with the knowledge and tools needed to build the capacity of their home institutions and to advance the education of future generations. Scholarships are awarded through an open, merit-based competition and subject to available funding in 2018. Accepted candidates must be able to speak, write and study in English at a university level proficiency.

Awardees of the Minerva are granted a full tuition waiver to ARCA’s ten-week,  eleven course, intensive professional development postgraduate program in Amelia, Italy for the Summer of 2018

For more details about this scholarship and to request a prospectus and application materials, please click here (you will find our email address at the bottom of the page) and write to us in English for further information. In your email please include a 200-word statement giving us your country of origin, where you currently work and reside, and explaining briefly how the program will benefit you as you move forward within your chosen career.

September 27, 2017

Ar-Raqqah Museum - September 2017 Status Update

Image Credit: DGAM, Syria - November 25, 2014
The last time ARCA wrote on the status of the Ar-Raqqah Museum was in November 25,  2014, ten months after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known also as ISIL, Daesh, IS, ISIS) overtook the city of Raqqa.  In that post we reported on a bomb that had been dropped near Arafat Square which caused structural damage to the museum's facades, as well as damage to its doors, shutters and windows. Used by militants as a military headquarters, the museum already carried heavy scars and its collection had already been subject to plundering.

Image Credit: Twitter User @AfarinMamosta
- September 15, 2017
This month, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been making game-altering advances against Daesh in Raqqa's Old City.  At the height of this campaign, an estimated  two dozen air strikes rain down on the city each day.  Others observers (Airwars) have estimated that US-led forces dropped 5,775 bombs, shells and missiles onto the city in the month of August alone.  

Whatever the exact number, the push of Operation Euphrates Wrath seems to be well underway, with SDF forces reporting that 80 percent of the embattled city has now been liberated. Unfortunately much of what remains of the once vibrant community has been left smouldering and in ruin.

ISIL gained full control of Raqqa in January 2014, and made the city the capital of its self-declared "caliphate".  While under Da'esh's control, Raqqa will forever be remembered for being the backdrop of some of the militants' most gruesome executions.  Risking their lives to document these human rights atrocities, citizen journalists focused their efforts on documenting the human tragedy of the city's inhabitants.  Reporting on the status of the city's cultural heritage took an objectively necessary backseat.

But as this September campaign to recapture the city progresses, and hardline militants begin to lose their stranglehold on Raqqa, video and photos have emerged that give us more information on the current condition of Ar-Raqqah Museum.

Video credit: Twitter User @HassounMazen

The Museum of Raqqa was founded in 1981 and was primarily dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cultural heritage gathered from excavation research from the Ar-Raqqah province.  Its collection included objects from Tell Bi’a, Tell Munbaqa, Tell Sabi Abyad, and Tell Chuera, and artefacts that date from Roman and Byzantine eras as well as objects from the Islamic period (the epoch of Haroun al-Rachid) and from the period of more recent Bedouin domination.

When fully operational, the museum once contained roughly 6,000 artefacts. Many of those now, seem to have been looted, defaced or destroyed.

In Spring 2012 Syria's Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums (DGAM) reported that an armed group called Ahar al Sham had moved 527 artefacts from the museum under the pretext of protecting them.  In June 2013 robbers seized an additional six containers of museum objects that had previously been stored in the Raqqa Museum’s warehouse.  Through cooperation and negotiations with members of the local community three of these boxes were later identified in Tabaqa under the control of a group called “Cham Free People”.  While the found boxes contained 104 artifacts, no further information is available as to what happened to the remaining objects removed in 2012 and 2013.

A report of the archaeological heritage in Syria during the crisis from 2011 through early 2013 written by Professor Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's now former Director General of the country's Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) can be read here.

After Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated the area surrounding the Raqqqa museum a delegation from ATPA in Al Jazira Canton represented by Berivan Younes, Ristem Abdo, and Sipan Abdul Ghafoor visited the area on September 20, 2017. Their objective was to do initial damage assessments on some of what remains of the city's cultural heritage.

While SDF fighters have taken the museum under their protection and destroyed many mines around it, ATPA was not allowed to enter the museum itself, as SDF’s special units still need to deal with the mines rigged inside the museum.

ATPA’s initial report can be found here. 

A recently funded project at the University of Leiden called Focus Raqqa is aiming to make a digital inventory of the objects once housed in the Raqqa museum as many of the artefacts plundered were once excavated by Dutch archaeologists.  This digital record may become useful in the future in identifying looted objects should they resurface later on the commercial art market.

Image Credit: Twitter User @AfarinMamosta
 - September 15, 2017
Image Credit: ANF News - September 15, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: Twitter User @HassounMazen
- September 15, 2017
Image Credit: Twitter User @AfarinMamosta - September 15, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
Image Credit: ATPA in Al Jazira Canton - September 20, 2017
By:  Lynda Albertson

May 19, 2017

Look into my eyes, but also into my collection history.

Collecting ancient art can be an extension of a personal passion, a status symbol or a piece of cultural currency but it also serves as a defacto calling card for the current-day purchaser's own collecting ethics.

As this new video, produced by the UNESCO Beirut Office in the framework of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage project, underscores, conscientious and ethical antiquities collectors can and should demand that their source dealer or auction house provide a full and complete provenance record before making a purchase. 

UNESCO reminds collectors to keep an eye out for these red flags:

- Is there dirt on the object? 
- Does the object seem like a broken fragment of what could be a larger artifact? 
- Is there a reference number painted on the base of the object that could indicate it was looted from a museum? 
- Does the object's price seem too good to be true?

and finally...
- Can the seller provide you with the object’s provenance paperwork?

Likewise, ARCA reminds its readership that an object's reported collection history as reported by a dealer or auction house should not always be taken as complete or accurate.  Collection histories can, and often are, faked.

As this blog has reported frequently, many consignors and auction houses omit passages that sometimes reflect irregularities in acquisition or fail to advise would-be purchasers that an antiquity they wish to purchase has passed through the hands of a tainted individual or art dealer already known to have a reputation for illicit trafficking in the antiquities art market. 

The art market’s appetite for antiquities, and the profits to be had from this appetite, will always be a motivation for others to loot them.

It is ultimately up to the collector to demand ethical selling practices from the dealers or collectors they purchase antiquities from.  Prospective buyers should demand to see import and export licenses for the object they are considering and they should require the seller/consignor/auction house make those documents available.

The prudent purchaser should vet the trophy works that they purchase for their collections, cross checking all of the accompanying documentation.  Is there an export license? Does that document look authentic? Has the license been falsified?  Has the country of origin been falsified? Does the country of export match with the country of the object's origin?  Does the object have a find spot?   How far back does the chain of ownership go? and are there any other red flags like "property of an anonymous collector"?

Collectors should not discount the unacceptable buying and selling habits of those profiting from the ancient art market and they should especially be careful when purchasing antiquities from regions of conflict.

Just as property investors thoroughly vet the status and ownership of a property they are interested in, before entering into a business transaction, so should art collectors remember that it is their responsibility to conduct adequate due diligence on the artworks they purchase. 

March 19, 2017

Lecture: Criminals without Borders - The many profiles of the (il)licit antiquities trade.

For those interested interested in the realm of illicit trafficking who will be in Rome, Italy April 21, 2017 Lynda Albertson, ARCA's Chief Executive Officer will be giving a talk on "Criminals without Borders."

This one hour lecture, at 6:00 pm at John Cabot University will provide a brief overview of the profile of actors in the illicit art trade, giving examples of how those in the trade avoid detection and prosecution.

This presentation will discuss the motives of trafficking in art and antiquities, highlighting cases from source and conflict countries emphasizing that the trade thrives on commercial opportunity i.e., a means of dealing in high value commodities that are often poorly protected, difficult to identify and easy to transport across national boundaries.

Her presentation will examine specific case examples and will underscoring response mechanisms that work to proactively counter the illegal trade.

The discussion will highlight

--the interchangeable participants in the illicit antiquities trade
--varying motives/opportunities
--how connections through single interactions can form loosely based networks

Lynda Albertson is the CEO of ARCA — The Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a nongovernmental organisation which works to promote research in the fields of art crime and cultural heritage protection. The Association seeks to identify emerging and under-examined trends related to the study of art crime and to develop strategies to advocate for the responsible stewardship of our collective artistic and archaeological heritage. 

Ms. Albertson, through her role at ARCA seeks to influence policy makers, public opinion and other key stakeholders so that public policies are developed and based on apolitical evidence, and which addresses art crime prevention and the identification of art crimes in heritage preservation initiatives.

In furtherance of that, Ms. Albertson provides technical, scientific and regional expertise to national and international organizations such as UNESCO, CULTNET, ICOM, in furtherance of ARCA's heritage preservation mission.   For the past five years, Lynda has focused part of her work on fighting the pillage of ancient sites and trafficking of artifacts, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, conducting research on the illicit trade in antiquities in MENA countries. 

Ms. Albertson also oversees ARCA's inter NGO - Governmental engagement and capacity building in MENA countries in recognition of UN Security Council Resolution 2199, which among other provisions, bans all trade in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria and encourages steps to ensure such items are returned to their homelands. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM (CET)
Guarini Campus
Via della Lungara, 233

March 18, 2017

Exhibition - The Past Sold, April 3 - May 13, 2017

Beginning April 3, 2017 and running through May 13, 2017, the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, located on the campus of the University of Chicago, will host an exhibition on movable heritage.  The exhibition will highlight the importance of archaeological context, emphasizing that the movement of objects can be either positive; when removal is properly documented using approved methodology, or negative; such as when sites are plundered or destroyed.  It is that latter which renders them useless to archaeologists and historians seeking to understand and reconstruct the past from the remains of ancient cultures.

The exhibition's title The Past Sold, developed out of the Past for Sale research project undertaken at the Neubauer Collegium.  This initiative brought together experts in the field of heritage looting who shared issues of common concern regarding what is known about the looting of cultural heritage sites by both opportunistic and more systematically organised looters. 

The exhibit is designed to stimulate dialogue on the complexity of this important issue and encourages visitors to engage in the ethical debate of acquiring cultural heritage objects from around the globe.

Asking the important question "Where does the art you enjoy in any given exhibit come from?"  

The exhibit reminds us that sometimes whole sites are destroyed in the hunt for the best "marketable" objects and that individual objects on the less than transparent art market,  are often difficult to trace to the country of origin, never mind to the original site.  

The curators hope the exhibition will foster new conversations about the collection of pilfered objects of questionable origin. 

For information please see the exhibition webpage here. 

Exhibition Dates:
April 3 - May 13, 2017

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
Exhibition takes place on the 1st floor gallery 
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

11am-5pm, Monday-Friday

773-795-2329 (Front desk)

December 22, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016 - ,, No comments

A house dismantled - Beit Ghazaleh, the house of the Ġazaleh, غزالة‎‎

Beit Ghazaleh, the house of the Ġazaleh, غزالة‎‎. was named after the Ghazaleh family and is one the largest palaces in Aleppo from the Ottoman period.  Dating to the seventeenth century, the historic structure is located in the Al-Jdayde neighbourhood; a once-prestigious section of the city that sits adjacent to the old city of Aleppo. Between 2007 and 2011, well before the start of the ongoing  conflict, the palace underwent renovations carried out by Syria's museum authorities in preparation if hosting the city's Memory Museum.

Yesterday archaeologist student Obada Diar Bakerly posted recent photographs of Beit Ghazaleh to the Facebook Group "Aleppo Archaeology."  His photographs show the present condition of the external portion of the palace which seems to have suffered substantial damages during the intervening five years of war.

On July 4, 2013, the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield whose mission includes coordinating and strengthening international efforts to protect cultural property at risk of destruction during armed conflicts or natural disasters, included Beit Ghazaleh on its ‘no strike list’ of the 20 most important archaeological sites in Aleppo.

In February 2014 Syria's Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums (DGAM ) wrote of their own concerns for the building's future.

In August 2016 the head of Aleppo's Department of the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums, Eng. Khaled Masri, speaking to news journalists representing the SANA news agency reported that a DGAM inspection of the site showed that the building had sustained serious damage to the stone walls and ceilings, as well as its wooden ornamentation, a unique feature in Ottoman Aleppo. 

UNESCSO's dedicated pages for Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage state that the organisation has received reports that would suggest that the decorative elements inside the structure have been removed, possibly to be sold illicitly.  They have asked the public to be on the alert should they see anything similar being sold on the art market. 

Attached below are images provided by UNESCO, taken in 2010 of some of the rooms of Beit Ghazaleh. 

December 3, 2016

Geneva authorities report the confiscation of 9 artifacts from Palmyra, Syria, Yemen and Libya

Swiss authorities have confiscated nine archaeological objects originating from Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Through document records obtained by Swiss tribunal it has been determined that the objects were shipped to Switzerland between 2009 and 2010 and were stored at the Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève in their 6-story La Praille facility, located in a sprawling grey industrial building on the corner of a busy junction in southwest Geneva.

Back in September ARCA posted its own concerns about Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA attempt to reduce their risks surrounding the trade in stolen antiquities, both in terms of money-laundering and as a potential support for arms traffickers or terrorist groups. At that time, the free port was set to make changes that may or may not have been prompted to address this seizure, but still, in our opinion fall short of the thoroughly addressing the problem of storing looted artworks.

Originally set to be implemented this past summer, the new internal policy was implimented on September 19, 2016 and requires that anyone wanting to store ancient artifacts at the sprawling facility will have to undergo checks by an independent firm KPMG.  This group is tasked with investigating the validity of requests and the precise origins of any antiquities before the object is approved for transport to the complex for subsequent storage.  It should be noted that KPMG is a powerhouse accounting audit firm and in no way has had prior experience with this type of art-related transport auditing.

Back in October French finance minister Michel Sapin's, speaking on terrorism funding criticized security at Switzerland's free ports saying "there is a weak link, which is the existence of free ports."    And while it should be clearly noted that the recently publicized seizures in the tax-free zone predate both the Syrian and the Yemen conflict, ARCA agrees that controls by art provenance experts and not accounting experts would be a better means of addressing the continued problems seen at not just Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève but freeports as holding facilities for art world wide. 

The antiquities were discovered during an target-based Federal Customs Administration audit of the free port in April 2013 in a space rented by a private individual.  Presently that individual has not been publically identified.

In January 2015 Swiss authorities, through the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) confirmed the authenticity of the ancient objects, and have stated that some of the seized objects were shipped to the facility from Qatar (Items 1-6) and the United Arab Emirates (Item 7).  Swiss authorities have also stated that evidence gathered during the investigation has led the prosecutor to conclude that the goods seized were from looting and as a result, confiscation was ordered.  In addition a criminal case has been opened by the Tribune de Genève in March 2016 to be followed by Prosecutor Gregory Orci.

North-West Façade
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire
While the objects await permanent release to their countries of origin Swiss prosecutors have transferred the objects for safekeeping from Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève to the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire located at Rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206 Genève where they will be placed on public display.  

The objects have been identified by the Swiss authorities as follows with the following designations and in the order as they appear in official records.

Item 1 - A head of Aphrodite, origin Hellenic North Africa, Libya

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 2 - A priest wearing his miter head, origin Palmyra, Syria

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 3 - A circular table with decoration of ovals and head of ibex, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 4 - A praying [sic] origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 5 - anthropomorphic stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen

Item 6 - anthropomorphic stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen
Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 7 - A quâtabanite registration stele, origin southern Arabian Peninsula, Yemen

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor 
Item 8 - Funerary bas-relief from Palmyra, Syria

Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor
Item 9 - Funerary bas-relief from Palmyra, Syria
Image: Geneva Public Prosecutor

No longer simply Italian and Greek objects raising concern at the free ports, the Geneva port authority also recently relinquished a Nile Delta stele to Egyptian authorities following a two-year investigation after an inventory control by Swiss Federal Customs at the Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève SA facility at the Geneva airport.   The stele was identified as suspicious using the ICOM red list for Egypt and as a result was held pending authentication and then reported to Swiss prosecution for its irregularities. Criminal proceedings were conducted by the Attorney Claudio Mascotto and the object was returned in November of this year.

By: Lynda Albertson 

November 19, 2016

Conference: Iraq and Syria: Archaeological Heritage between Risks and Perspectives

CPAVO: Strategy-setting Conference of the Archaeologists of the Near East

Iraq and Syria: Archaeological Heritage between Risks and Perspectives

Location:  Palagio dei Capitani di Parte Guelfa, Florence, Italy

Dates:  16-17 December 2016

Cost:  Free, Deadline for Registration 04/12/16

Note:  The spoken language of the conference is Italian. 

The event, organized by CAMNES (Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies), in collaboration with the Municipality of Florence (UNESCO Office) and the Academy of Arts and Design of Florence, on the occasion of the anniversary of the inscription of the Historic Center of Florence in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which took place on December 17, 1982, is a part of active collaboration between the city of Florence and UNESCO and follows the latest initiatives, such as the third UNESCO Forum on cultural industries in 2014 and the recent global summit of Mayors 'Unity in Diversity 2015', after which the Charter of Florence was signed.

On the basis of what is reported in the Charter of Florence to the points set forth below this event will:

• support the UNESCO campaign #United4Heritage regarding the defense of the cultural heritage; encourage the establishment of scientific committees in support of the "Blue Helmets of Culture" - promoted by the Italian government - and support programs of international cooperation for the preservation and protection of heritage;

• make available to UNESCO and its National Commissions, Governments and local administrations a network of specialists, particularly in the field of conservation and heritage management, in order to activate a protection network of cultural and natural heritage, endangered by conflicts and natural disaster events;

CAMNES and the Municipality of Florence (UNESCO Office) have constituted a Scientific and Organizing Committee, which met in Florence on June 28th with the specific purpose to define and organize this upcoming event. The project behind this conference is based on the fact that the scientific community of archaeologists of the Near East is able to make an active and important contribution in addressing not only academic and field research issues, but most importantly those related to prevention, conservation and enhancement of archaeological and cultural heritage in contexts currently affected by conflicts, more specifically Iraq and Syria.

For these reasons they felt necessary to bring together all the scholars of this discipline – currently active, involved or potentially interested in projects of excavations and research in Syria and Iraq - with the aim of producing concrete proposals and projects based on the following topics:

HERITAGE AT RISK: elements related to specific contexts and issues pertaining to the critical assessment of specialists. Analysis of specific issues regarding archaeological sites, architectural monuments and museums in the affected areas, as well as preventive mode of action.

LOCAL STRATEGIES OF PROTECTION / OPERATIONAL MODELS: identification and development - including a critical approach to the past – of new research and conservation methodologies, which satisfy the changing requirements of action and the necessities imposed by specific contexts. Already implemented best practices/projects to be disseminated and shared in integrated projects developed jointly by various actors. Rules, laws and bureaucracy issues, including questions related to the illicit trafficking in antiquities. 

ARCHAEOLOGIST AS A SOURCE OF INFORMATION IN THE CONTEXT OF CRISIS: archaeology, as a social science, is strongly connected with the contemporary society. Archaeologists as "cultural mediators" – between, on the one hand, cultures of the past and present and, on the other, between the Western culture and those of  host countries - in addition to the official relations with the local authorities, operate completely immersed in the socio-cultural areas in which they operate; archaeologists’ privileged position, rendering them both witnesses and sources of information in times of conflict and crisis.

PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY and COMMUNICATION: analysis of critical issues pertinent to the relationship with local communities ("Local perception of cultural heritage") for the protection and enhancement of heritage. Development of communication and dissemination strategies based on activities undertaken and planned by archaeologists on-site.

STAKEHOLDERS: avenues of interaction with the scientific community and institutions in host countries (regarding both excavations and museums). Issues relating to training of the local staff.

For a detailed list of the event's Programme as well as details on the Scientific and Organizing Committee please see the CAMNES website here.

Posted BY:  Summer Clowers