From National Public Radio — 29 September 2014 — NPR host Rachel Martin interviews Boston University professor of archaeology Dr. Michael D. Danti about the growing crisis in Syria. LIsten to the interview.



Clashes between Assad forces and rebels have damaged historical sites and buildings throughout Syria.

Published by World Bulletin — September 23, 2014 — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday blamed ISIL militants and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for destroying cultural treasures in Syria and Iraq describing it as “ugly, savage, inexplicable, valueless barbarism”. Kerry broke away from meetings focused on the defeat of ISIL forces to attend a program entitled “Heritage in Peril: Iraq and Syria” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The event came just hours before the United States announced it had conducted air strikes inside Syria against ISIL forces. Read more


Jihadists looting ancient archaeological sites, including 244 BCE synagogue; officials warn 5,000 years of history being erased.

Fresco wall inside Dura Europas Synagogue in northern Syria. Photo: Reuters

By Ari Yashar in Arutz Sheva 7—September 19, 2014 — Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists not only threaten the current Middle East – according to antiquities officials in Iraq and Syria, the terror group threatens to erase 5,000 years of history and relics in upper Mesopotamia, including one of the earliest Jewish synagogues. Much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria, which is rich in the archaeological remains of numerous ancient civilizations, is now under the iron fist of ISIS which has been destroying pagan idols as well as selling relics on the international black market to raise funds, reports Associated Press (AP).

Syrian Director-General of Antiquities and Museums Maamoun Abdulkarim says looting from archaeological sites in the country has gone up tenfold since early 2013, with ISIS seizing numerous important ancient sites.  Read more


Press Statement — Jen Psaki, U.S. Department of State Department Spokesperson, Washington, DC — September 21, 2014 —Secretary of State John Kerry will join the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas Campbell, and its president, Emily Rafferty, on September 22 to highlight the destruction of irreplaceable cultural heritage taking place throughout Iraq and Syria at the hands of violent extremists like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Syrian regime. The event, to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City amid the United Nations General Assembly week, will feature a presentation by Professor Michael Danti and remarks from Secretary Kerry, Director General of UNESCO Irina Bakova, and other distinguished members of the preservation and museum community.  Read more

By Mark V. Vlasik in National Post —September 15, 2014 — As President Obama moves ahead with his plan to confront the so-called Islamic State, all options, as they say, should be on the table. Thus, while “kinetic force” is a likely focus, the terrorism financing must not be overlooked. By targeting one of the group’s funding sources, policy-makers can also help to preserve the history of ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization. What’s needed is an immediate, multifaceted initiative to curb the sale of “blood antiquities.” Read more

In this picture taken on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, the interior of the Leuven University Library in Leuven, Belgium. The German invading forces set the heart of Leuven alight during the early days of World War I, paying special attention to the gem of learning and history, the university library. The library was later rebuilt with donations coming from around the world. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press)

By Associated Press in The Washington Post — August 24, 2014 — LEUVEN, Belgium — A century after German forces burned down the Leuven University library, Marie Legrand still has visions of the horrid scene. Even the scent of smoke she smelled as a 3-year-old stings in her mind to this day.

“When I close my eyes like I do now, I see the whole city in front of me, and the flames,” she told The Associated Press at her home, fanning invisible flames with her frail hands.

“The old Leuven, the old town, the old history. In short: History itself all went up in flames,” she said of the fire that invading German forces started on Aug. 25, 1914, targeting the university library in the heart of the Belgian town east of Brussels.

World War I had started weeks earlier and Belgium had slowed Germany’s march on France much more than expected. German irritation turned to anger, then to atrocities.

The destruction of the university library served little strategic purpose beyond ruining what people held dear — a practice that continues to thrive today, especially in the Middle East and Africa, where roaming rebels and defiant dictators are robbing the world of some of the highlights of human history. “The strategy is destroying the identity of a community,” said Leuven University archivist Mark Derez.

“It is getting worse,” said Joris Kila, a heritage protection expert. “And strangely enough, the worse it gets, the less money and determination there is to do something about it.”

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict makes it mandatory for signatory nations to ensure that such destruction does not happen. But many of today’s conflicts rage in states with weak central governments and rebel forces that answer only to themselves.

In March 2001, the Taliban in Afghanistan dynamited the huge Bamiyan Buddhas, deeming them idolatrous and anti-Muslim. It was one of the regime’s most widely condemned acts.

Two years ago, Muslim extremists destroyed key parts of the heritage of the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, razing tombs and burning ancient documents, saying they acted on divine orders. Similar actions have happened in Somalia and continue in Iraq, where the Islamic State group is destroying the holy shrines of other religions.

“You try to demoralize a local population. It is an attack on the identity of the population. It is an attack on the collective memory,” Kila said.. … Read more

“It is getting worse,” said Joris Kila, a heritage protection expert. “And strangely enough, the worse it gets, the less money and determination there is to do something about it.”

By Tim Arango in The New York Times — July 30, 2014 — BAGHDAD— When the Sunni extremists ruling Mosul destroyed the shrine of a prophet whose story features in the traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism — the most important of nearly two dozen marked for destruction by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the first seven weeks of its reign — small groups of residents gathered to mourn.

“We were crying when they detonated it,” said Abdulmalik Mustafa, a 32-year-old unemployed man who lives near the site, believed to be the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah, which was razed last week. “We couldn’t believe that the history of Mosul has disappeared

. … Read more


By Nour Malas in The Wall Street Journal — July 25, 2014 — BAGHDAD—A campaign by Sunni insurgents to establish an Islamic caliphate across Iraq and Syria and expel other Muslim sects and religions is taking a sharp toll on the countries’ cultural heritage.

The latest casualty was a shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul said to contain the tomb of Jonah, who is revered as a prophet by Jews, Christians and Muslims—who call him Younes. The Nabi Younes Mosque, a towering structure that housed the shrine, was also destroyed in Thursday’s blast. … Read more


ISIS militants blow up the Imam Awn al-Din Mashad Mausoleum in Mosul 

Second significant site destroyed in as many days. 

July 25, 2014 — Video has been posted on YouTube that shows the bombing of the 13th century Imam Awn al-Din Mashad Mausoleum in Mosul. Erected in the year 1248 in the Zangid style, the mausoleum is described at the Archnet Digital Library as follows: “The mausoleum is located in a residential neighborhood of Mosul, in a cemetery surrounded by houses. It was built in 1248 by the Atabeg of Mosul Badr el-Din Lu’lu to house the tomb of Imam Ibn Hassan Awn al-Din, in reference to the Imam, grandson of Ali. The structure underwent several restorations the first of which took place in 1744, followed by another in 1776….” .Read more


ISIS militants blow up Jonah’s tomb in Mosul

Militants say revered Muslim shrine in Iraq, believed to be burial place of prophet swallowed by a whale, has become place for apostasy. 

By Associated Press in Baghdad, published by The Guardian — July 24, 2014 — Islamic State (ISIS) [see note 1 below] militants have blown up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah in Mosul [see note 2 below], residents of the city said. Residents said on Thursday that the militants first ordered everyone out of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, then blew it up. The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to the eighth century BC and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Qur’an is swallowed by a whale. It was renovated in the 1990s under Iraq‘s late dictator Saddam Hussein and until the recent blitz by Isis that engulfed Mosul, remained a popular destination for religious pilgrims from around the world. Several nearby houses were also damaged by the blast.. Read more.  

See more photos and reporting at Conflict Antiquities.

Note 1:  The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has also been referred to in media reports as (a) Da’ash, Da’esh, Da’ish; (b) the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); (c) the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS); and  (d) the Islamic State or Caliphate.

Note 2: The Nabis Younis Mosque Complex (previously a Nestorian-Assyrian church) was situated atop Al-Tawba Mountain, one of the two most prominent mounds that straddle the southern section of the ancient city of Nineveh in the eastern sector of Mosul. Dedicated to the prophet Younis (the Biblical Jonah). In Muslim tradition, the site is believed to be the burial place of Jonah. But Jewish and Christian tradition differs on this point: in 396-397 AD, St. Jerome described the location of Jonah’s tomb in the prologue of the Commentaries of Jonah: “Gath is located two miles from Sepphoris, which is now called Diocaesarea, when you are travelling to Tiberia: there is a small castle where [Jonah’s] tomb can be seen.This site is present-day el-Mashad, a village of about 6,700 mostly Muslim inhabitants, near Nazareth in northern Israel.

The Nabis Yunis Mosque contained a Shrine dedicated to Jonah, which held a sepulcher. In the sepulcher, a whale’s tooth (appropriate to Jonah’s well-known adventure at sea) was allegedly preserved. But the original tooth was removed long ago in unrecorded circumstances. In November 2008, a replica of the whale’s tooth was presented to elders at the mosque by the 2nd Military Transition Team, U.S. Fifth Army, who were escorted to the site by Iraqi soldiers from 2nd Division Iraqi Army.  

Nabis Younis was one of the most important mosques in Mosul and one of the few historic mosques found in the eastern part of the city. 

Below: see videos of the bombing of the mosque, and a tour of the site immediately after the bombing.


At euronews.com — July 17, 2014 — In this edition of U-talk, Paul from Paris asks the following question: “Given the escalating violence in the Middle East, how do we protect cultural heritage from destruction and looting?” Nada Al Hassan from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre responded.

“Prevention is part of our daily work. UNESCO has international conventions to protect heritage, such as the Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, the Convention against illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts and the World Heritage Convention.

We work closely with Interpol and the International Customs Organisation, and also with auction houses around the world. It is possible to work actively to prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts. It’s easy to act because trafficking happens at borders and on the international market. On the contrary, it’s very difficult to protect cultural property on the ground during conflict.This usually comes afterwards, during reconstruction.. Read more


Brazil fights cultural heritage traffickingBy Daniela Oliveira for Infosurhoy.com — July 15, 2014 — RIO DE JANEIRO – The Museu Mineiro, a Belo Horizonte museum focused on the history of Minas Gerais state, opened an exhibition in early June titled “Patrimônio Recuperado” (Recovered Heritage). It’s a collection of 150 stolen works of sacred art that were recovered by the Prosecutor’s Office of Minas Gerais (MPMG) and restored by the Minas Gerais State Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage.

“Even though they’ve been recovered, these stolen objects have not yet been returned to their places of origin, because we don’t know where they came from,” said Marcos Paulo Miranda, coordinator of the Minas Gerais Office of the Public Prosecutor for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (CPPC). The collection includes liturgical objects, sculptures and crucifixes dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. Read more


By Eleanor Robson in The Raw Story — July 12, 2014 — Iraq has a long and rich heritage, home for thousands of years to mighty empires – Assyria and Babylon, the Abbasid caliphate – that ruled the region once known as Mesopotamia, widely held as the cradle of western civilisation and as a major centre of classical Islam. The region is thick with history, and historical artefacts. But when in June the extremist Sunni group ISIS took over swathes of northern Iraq, within a day or two of taking Mosul the group issued edicts which included orders to destroy Shiite graves and shrines and other ancient relics – orders which appear to have been carried out, with six sites destroyed. Rumour and fears over the possible fate of the region’s even more ancient cultural heritage under this heavy-handed new regime have filled the gap since.

And there is much to lose. In the desert 100km southwest of Mosul lies Hatra.. Read more


Published by Gates of Nineveh — July 5, 2014 — In the past few days, pictures have been posted online which make it clear that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has engaged in widespread destruction of shrines and graves related to Shia Islam. While initial fears since the fall of Mosul nearly a month ago focused on the threat to Assyrian monuments and archaeological sites, it appears that the Shia are viewed as a more pressing threat to ISIS.

By destroying Shia holy sites, ISIS hopes to erase Shia culture from the regions they control and also provoke a response from Iraq’s Shia, which will in turn drive more Sunnis to supporting ISIS.

Shrine of Sheikh Fathi – Mosul

Last week, ISIS attempted to destroy the shrine of Sheikh Fathi but where prevented by local citizens who surrounded the shrine and threw rocks at them until they left. It appears that ISIS returned in the middle of the night with a bulldozer and at least seriously damaged the structure. The current shrine was built in 1760, but seems to contain mihrabs from the 13th century.

Local popular legend holds that the Qabr al-Bint or Tomb of the Girl is the tomb of a beautiful girl who died of a broken heart. Historians believe the tomb, which sat in the middle of the street in Mosul, is in fact the tomb of the noted 12th-13th century medieval historian Ali Ibn al-Athir, who traveled with Saladin in Syria and wrote a history of the Islamic world from the Crusades to the Mongol invasions.

The tomb sat in the middle of Ibn al-Athir Street in Mosul until ISIS fighters pulverized it with a bulldozer last month. Fortunately, it seems that the tombstone situated in the outdoor shrine is a modern replica and the original was long ago removed to the safety of a museum.

Ibn al-Athir was a Sunni, and shows that ISIS is not only targeting Shia sites for political reasons but also any graves that could be viewed as shrines. The destruction is not only political but also theological.

Tombs of Ahmad ar-Rifa’i and Sheikh Ibrahim - Muhallabiyah

Photos published by ISIS show the destruction of a building in the tiny town of Muhallabiyah, southeast of Tall Afar, labeled “Tomb and shrine of Ahmed ar-Rifa’i.” Ahmed ar-Rifa’i was a Sufi mystic and philosopher (died 1183) and founder of the Rifa’i order of Sufi mysticism. ISIS and other Wahabi and Salafist Muslims view Sufism as a heresy. More photos show the destruction of another building in Muhallabiyah labeled “Shrine and grave of Sheikh Ibrahim.” I have been unable to learn any other information about this monument. There is a village named Sheikh Ibrahim near Muhallabiyah, as well as a neighboring mountain.

Shia Mosques – Tal Afar

The city of Tal Afar, 35 miles west of Mosul, is almost entirely populated by Iraq’s Turkmen minority, a quarter of whom are Shia. Since capturing Tal Afar, ISIS has reportedly kidnapped forty Shia Turkmen and driven 950 from their homes.

On June 25 and 26, the attackers blew up several of Tal Afar’s Shia mosques, as documented in a series of photographs shown below. The Shia Sheikh Jawad Mosque in Tal Afar was rigged with explosives and destroyed. It had previously been attacked by suicide bombers in 2008.

Read the full report at Gates of Neneveh 


Published by al-Jazeera — July 5, 2014 — Images posted on social-media sites appear to show religious centres in Iraq’s Nineveh province being demolished. Fighters from the Islamic State have demolished numerous Shia shrines and mosques in northern Iraq, according to photos published by the group on social media. The images show Shia religious centres being attacked using bulldozers and explosives in the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar, in the northern province of Nineveh.. Read more


By Robert Carmichael for Australia Network News — July 3, 2014 — New research on Cambodia has shown the country’s rich cultural heritage has been repeatedly plundered by military and organised crime. ... American lawyer and archaeologist Tess Davis … is one of a group of scholars and researchers who conducted a University of Glasgow study that tracked the plundering of Cambodia’s temples between 1970 and 2005…. Speaking to looters, middlemen and others, the researchers revealed the links in the chain between the looted sites and the Bangkok-based dealer who laundered the pieces and sold them on to private collectors and museums around the world. Ms Davis says the study undid the assumption that the looting was the small-scale work of local villagers. Instead, they found it was well planned, and often involved the armed forces and organised crime. “The organised looting and trafficking of Cambodian antiquities was tied very closely to the Cambodian civil war and to organised crime in the country,” Ms Davis said.  … Read more

By Heather Pringle for National Geographic — June 26, 2014 — Three years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known as ISIS, was just a small group of extremist Sunni Muslim militants battling to bring down the Syrian government. But in recent weeks, ISIS has emerged as a major insurgency, expanding its Syrian territories and capturing a broad swath of Iraq, including the country’s second largest city, Mosul. And this raises an important question: How did ISIS grow so swiftly and raise enough money to buy weapons for its army?

Much evidence suggests that ISIS cashed in on the Syrian oil fields it captured. But two weeks ago, Iraqi intelligence officers discovered new sources of its income, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper. While securing the safe house of a dead ISIS commander, they seized more than 160 computer flash drives containing detailed financial records of the insurgents. Listed among ISIS’s key financial transactions were records of illicit antiquity trafficking. In one region of Syria alone, the group reportedly netted up to $36 million from activities that included the smuggling of plundered artifacts. Such profiteering fits well with a longstanding pattern in the region, says Thomas Livoti a PhD student at the University of Montana who is studying the impact of counterinsurgencies on archaeological sites.

A Pattern of Looting. “Both al Qaeda and the Taliban looted antiquities for the purpose of funding their operations,” he notes, and ISIS—an al Qaeda splinter group—is likely using the same funding model, particularly as cash flow from other sources dries up. “The U.S. is freezing bank accounts and cracking down on false charities,” Livoti adds, “so ISIS has to go to alternative methods of financing.”

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, looters have pillaged many of its important archaeological sites for marketable artifacts. For example, Google Earth images of the ancient city of Apamea—founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals and nominated in 1999 as a UNESCO World Heritage site—clearly reveal the massive destruction that followed the onset of the war. In less than nine months, from July 20, 2011, to April 4, 2012, the once pristine area was riddled with looters’ holes. … Read more

By Colin Freeman for The Telegraph (London) — June 26, 2014 — An ancient temple made famous in the film The Exorcist has fallen into the hands of the Islamic militants who have taken over northern Iraq, the Telegraph has learnt.

The pre-Christian worship complex at Hatra [UNESCO World Heritage List site  nr. 277], a vast network of 200-ft high sun-god temples that is a Unesco world heritage site, features in the opening sequence of the 1973 horror classic. But it now lies in the territory claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (Isis), prompting fears that its stone statues could be destroyed as idolatrous images by the militants.

Already, Isis fighters in the city of Mosul, 70 miles north-west Hatra, have demolished a statue of Othman al-Mousuli, a 19th Century Iraqi musician and composer, and the statue of Abu Tammam, an Abbasid-era Arab poet. A councillor from the Hatra area told The Telegraph that the 20-strong squad of Iraqi policemen who had guarded the temple from looters had fled after the area fell to tribal militants and Isis fighters a fortnight ago… Read more


CCHAG Editorial Note: An assessment of Hatra was performed by The Oriental Institute University of Chicago and The National Geographic Society on May 12, 2003: “Like Nimrud, Hatra has a round-the-clock US military guard. Damage to the standing remains prior to their arrival consisted of the loss of the head of a figure which decorated an arch in one of the smaller northern “iwans” or porches within the temple complex. This head had been shot off, and had apparently been taken away by looters. In addition, a small camel in relief from a doorway frieze from one of the outer temples had also been broken off and removed, but this was recovered by the Department of Antiquities staff and is now in storage.” 

Three years later, in May and July 2006, US Army National Guard Captain Jesse Ballenger with elements of the 412th Engineer Command under the 130th Combat Engineer Brigade visited Hatra with the 5th Iraqi Army Field Engineer Regiment commander, LTC Ra’ad, to survey the site and complete the design of a new security fence to encircle the entire site, outside the perimeter of an earlier security fence that had been penetrated in many places by intruders.  Ballenger saw evidence of looting not reported by the Oriental Institute and National Geographic was apparent, including freshly dug holes in an unexcavated part of the site, which local informants said were made by Kurds from Mosul searching for ancient coins. The fence design was fast tracked, and the project was approved, but construction was delayed due, in part, to criticism from a prominent US-based university, which argued that building the security fence to protect the site would violate the Geneva Convention. Construction was not completed by the time the 412th Engineer Command was scheduled to rotate out of theater. Read more about the 2006 Hatra security fence project here.  


Posted by Syrian Coalition — June 24, 2014 — The Ministry of Culture and Family Affairs for the Syrian Interim Government today announced the creation of a Heritage Task Force to help protect Syrian cultural heritage in the present crisis. Damage to museums, archaeological sites, religious buildings, and historic structures is known to be widespread. Just in recent weeks, a new wave of organized archaeological looting began at Dura-Europos, the Ottoman period gate at Deir Ez-Zor was bombed, the desecration of a medieval Christian graveyard, and the destruction of the Jewish Synagogue in Jobar and the Omayyad mosque in Aleppo. The Heritage Task Force was established in order to address these and other heritage preservation concerns.

The Heritage Task Force will coordinate its efforts with UNESCO and other international heritage organizations, such as ICOMOS, ICCROM, and ICOM. It will also work with the community groups and non-governmental organizations that are working diligently to protect heritage inside Syria. The Heritage Task Force will be chaired by Dr. Amr Al Azm, an associate professor of Middle East history and anthropology at Shawnee State University (Ohio, USA) and will consist of other internationally recognized Syrian technical experts.

“Many of Syria’s most significant cultural heritage sites are in parts of the country outside of regime control,” explained Dr. Al Azm at a May 2014 meeting convened by UNESCO about the current crisis to Syrian cultural heritage. “The Heritage Task Force will provide a structure for protecting heritage sites in these areas.” Read more


Reported by Petty Officer First Class D. Keith Simmons at africom.mil — June 17th, 2014 — STUTTGART, Germany —  Mr. Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen and Dr. Joris Kila visited U.S. Africa Command to speak about cultural property protection in Africa as part of the Commander’s Speaker Series at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany, Kelley Barracks Theatre on June 17, 2014.  (U.S. Africa Command photos by Petty Officer First Class D. Keith Simmons).


Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen and Joris Kila are among “The CCHAG Monuments Men and Women of Today”

USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

Mr. Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen visited U.S. Africa Command to speak about cultural property protection in Africa as part of the Commander's Speaker Series at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany, Kelley Barracks Theatre June 17. Habsburg-Lothringen is the President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield and has conducted several assessments of the effects of armed conflict on cultural property in northern Africa, including expeditions to Mali and Libya. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Petty Officer First Class D. Keith Simmons)
USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

Dr. Joris Kila visited U.S. Africa Command to speak about cultural property protection in Africa as part of the Commander's Speaker Series at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany, Kelley Barracks Theatre June 17, 2104. Dr. Kila is the founder of The International Military Cultural Resources Working Group and has conducted several assessments of the effects of armed conflict on cultural property in northern Africa, including expeditions to Mali and Libya. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Petty Officer First Class D. Keith Simmons)
USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

Mr. Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen visited U.S. Africa Command to speak about cultural property protection in Africa as part of the Commander's Speaker Series at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany, Kelley Barracks Theatre June 17. Habsburg-Lothringen is the President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield and has conducted several assessments of the effects of armed conflict on cultural property in northern Africa, including expeditions to Mali and Libya. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Petty Officer First Class D. Keith Simmons)
USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

USAFRICOM Commander’s Speaker Series: Cultural Property Protection

Dr. Joris Kila visited U.S. Africa Command to speak about cultural property protection in Africa as part of the Commander's Speaker Series at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany, Kelley Barracks Theatre June 17, 2104. Dr. Kila is the founder of The International Military Cultural Resources Working Group and has conducted several assessments of the effects of armed conflict on cultural property in northern Africa, including expeditions to Mali and Libya. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Petty Officer First Class D. Keith Simmons)

The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova calls on Iraqis to stand united around their cultural heritage

Reported by UNESCOPRESS— June 17th, 2014 — PARIS—  The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has expressed concern as an upsurge of violence causes renewed human suffering and loss of life in Iraq. She fears that cultural heritage will be looted and destroyed, just as it was several years ago in Iraq and again during the recent tragic events affecting Syria.

“I call on all Iraqis to stand united for the protection of their country’s cultural heritage.  It represents a unique testimony of humanity, of the origins of our civilization, and of inter-ethnic and inter-religious coexistence. It is also a key to resilience for building a better future,”  declared the Director-General.

In the present situation, the main threats to Iraq’s heritage are the military use and targeting of monuments and sites and the looting and illicit trafficking of cultural property.

 “I call on all actors to refrain from any form of destruction of cultural heritage, including religious sites. Their intentional destruction are war crimes and a blow against the Iraqi people’s identity and history.  Their perpetrators must be held responsible for their acts.  I urge Iraqi leaders and communities to safeguard their country’s cultural heritage. UNESCO stands ready to assist the people of Iraq in this endeavor”.


How ISIS Pillages, Traffics And Sells Ancient Artifacts On Global Black Market

Reported by Kathleen Caulderwood in International Business Times, June 18, 2014 — Days before the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took control of the major city of Mosul, Iraqi officials seized more than 100 computer flash drives with detailed information about the group’s activities. When they saw that ISIS had taken $36 million from an area called al-Nabuk, in Syria, authorities had a pretty good idea how it happened.

“The antiquities there are up to 8,000 years old,” an intelligence official told The Guardian this week.

Modern-day Iraq and neighboring Syria lie on top of what was once known as Mesopotamia or the Fertile Crescent, home to many of the world’s earliest cultures. Today it’s the resting place for things they left behind, and amid conflict, enterprising insurgents are taking advantage.. Read more

See also: ISIL/ISIS Fundraising by Antiquities Trafficking, in Conflict Antiquities, June 16, 2014.

See also: How an arrest in Iraq revealed Isis’s $2bn jihadist network, reported in The Guardian, June 15, 2014.

See also: How ISIS Pillages, Traffics And Sells Ancient Artifacts On Global Black Market, in International Business Times, June 18, 2014.


Pentagon OKs War Crimes Trial For Abd al Hadi al Iraqi; al-Qaeda Commander Allegedly Led Taliban Forces That Destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001 

Reported in Stars and Stripes — June 3, 2014 — A Pentagon official on Monday approved for prosecution the case of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a former CIA prisoner who got to Guantánamo in 2007 and allegedly ran al Qaeda’s army between 2002 and 2004. Unlike in the other active prosecutions at the war court, in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole terror attacks, prosecutors seek life in prison as the maximum possible punishment for conviction, not military execution. Hadi’s approved 12-page charge sheet alleges he had ties to a series of plots, including a failed one to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and had his troops attack U.S. targets in Afghanistan that killed unnamed U.S., British, Canadian, German and Norwegian troops at various times.

It alleges classic war crimes — targeting medical works and civilians as well as foreign troops in Afghanistan — of denying quarter, attacking protected property, using treachery or perfidy in a series of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan between about 2003 and 2004.

It also alleges that Hadi, as an al-Qaeda commander, led troops who helped the Taliban in March 2001 destroy the monumental Buddha statutes in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site Read more

See also: Release No: NR-286-14 — June 03, 2014 — DOD Announces Charges Referred Against Detainee Abd al Hadi al Iraqi.

Egypt ups efforts to protect cultural heritage

Reported by Elisabeth Lehmann, Deutsche Welle — June 7, 2014 — “Look at the cracks – the pyramids are really in danger,” says Osama Karar, as he points to the screen of his laptop, and flicks through countless photos showing damage to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Karar and his colleagues have founded an organization called The People’s Front in Defence of Relics.

He turns from his laptop, and looks outside at the huge pyramid stretching out before him. “These stones can’t speak, so we try and give them a voice,” he says. Indeed, the stones of the Great Pyramid would have a lot to tell…. Read more


German Museum Returns Two Greek Antiquities

Reported by Ioanna Zikakou, Greek Reporter Europe — June 6, 2014 — Two pieces of ancient Cycladic art, the figurine of a woman with a height of 88cm and a copper utensil which resembles a frying pan were returned to Greece by the German State Museum Baden in Karlsruhe, which illegally had them in possession. After intense pressure from Greece and the museum director’s negative response, the two artifacts will return to their country of origin and will be displayed at the Greek National Archaeological Museum.

The stolen Greek antiquities were found by Sir Colin Renfrew professor at the University of Cambridge who discovered that certain objects from the Museum of Karlsruhe were acquired after 1975. That means after the Treaty of UNESCO in 1970, according to which stated that the trafficking of antiquities of unknown origin was illegal.

After this discovery, the Greek Culture Ministry submitted an official request for the return of the two antiquities, which was initially rejected…. Read more


In Egypt, Antiquities Looters Use Bulldozers

egypt_recover_june_2014_330_216Reported by Mary Beth Griggs, Smithsonian.com — June 4, 2014 — In Egypt, political turmoil and small numbers of underpaid guards have left the country’s cultural heritage vulnerable to looting. Teams of looters sometimes use bulldozers to uncover hidden treasures, and archaeologist Sarah Parcak has started tracking the damage using satellites. The satellite evidence shows holes made by looters marring the Egyptian landscape and multiplying like mushrooms.” …. Read more


Archaeologists Warn of Pillaged Egypt as U.S. Weighs Tougher Antiquities Laws

Reported by Dan Vergano, National Geographic — June 3, 2014 — Looters will strip Egypt of most of its archaeological heritage within the next quarter century, an archaeologist warned at a U.S. State Department hearing this week. “Wholesale looting is occurring all over Egypt, and we are seeing a big spike that came after the revolution,” says archaeologist Sarah Parcak, who testified on Monday, opening a three-day hearing at the State Department. “If we don’t do something to stop it, most sites in Egypt will be gone in 25 years.” …. Read more Related stories: Egypt steps up fight against antiquities thieves. By Howard Johnson in BBC News, May 31, 2014. Egypt’s Looted Antiquities, by Erin Thompson in The New York Times, May 30, 2014. Egypt fights looters stealing its antiquities with spacecraft and statecraft. By Katherine Boyle in The Washington Post, May 16, 2014.


UNESCO to create an Observatory for the Safeguarding of Syria’s Cultural Heritage

UNESCO to create an Observatory for the Safeguarding of Syria’s Cultural HeritagePublished by UNESCO — May 28, 2014 —UNESCO will establish an observatory in Beirut (Lebanon) to monitor and assess the state of Syria’s cultural heritage. The decision was made during an international meeting of experts held at UNESCO from 26 – 28 May. The Observatory will monitor the state of buildings, artefacts and intangible cultural heritage to combat illicit trafficking and collect information to restore heritage once the fighting is over…. Read more


Smugglers Thrive On Syria's Chaos By Alice Fordham (GPB News) — May 27, 2014 — Smuggling is a way of life in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, just over the border from Syria. Driving along it, you see pale smugglers’ trails snaking through mountain passes, and the guys who run touristy little antiques stores here say they can get you anything.

“Everything that have traditions and everything found in old houses,” says Reda Ismail, who runs one of the many stores in the valley. Dealers say most things here are smuggled from Syria, and Ismail thinks these days it’s more prevalent…. Read more


Italy Returns over 4,000 Archaeological Artifacts to Ecuador

Reported by Latino Daily News — April 27, 2014 — Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa hailed the return to his country of thousands of archaeological pieces from Italy, the European nation where he broadcast Saturday his traditional weekly activity report, which was retransmitted to this Andean country. “Returning from Italy is the greatest return in history, more than 4,600 archaeological pieces,” Correa said, adding that the items being returned came largely from the Tolita culture. The head of state said that these elements of national heritage were plundered from Ecuador because “there was no control,” so that “tens of thousands of archaeological pieces” were lost, but said that now, under his administration, “thousands of these pieces are coming back.” Correa attended a ceremony Saturday at which the mayor of Genoa, Marco Doria, presented him with a symbolic example of the 4,858 archaeological pieces recovered in three cases… Read more → 


U.N. Focuses on Underwater Cultural Heritage of Small Islands

By Lusha Chen, IPS (Inter Press Service) — April 25, 2014 — UNITED NATIONS — Large amounts of underwater shipwrecks are bringing new opportunities to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through scientific cooperation and tourism, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “These wrecks are time capsules of history as they have carried with them the technology, material culture, and objects from their current time, place, and culture of origin,” said Reginald Murphy, Secretary-General of the Antigua and Barbuda National Commission for UNESCO, during a side event Tuesday to discuss the potentials, preservation and use of Underwater Cultural Heritage in SIDS. Read more → 


Amid Devastation of Aleppo, Syria, Archaeological Museum Fights to Preserve Heritage

Wall Street Journal Online — April 25, 2014 — ALEPPO, Syria—One must dodge sniper bullets these days to get to the Aleppo National Museum, located on the edge of the historic center of this war-torn northern Syrian city. Inside, the place looks more like a bunker than a cultural institution housing treasures from archaeological excavations across northern and eastern Syria over the past 100 years... Read more → 


To Smuggle Antiquities Out of China, Traders Make Them Look Cheap

By Vernon Silver, Bloomberg Businessweek — April 22, 2014 — Every year, millions of dollars worth of ancient Chinese objects undergo a mysterious transformation. Jades, porcelain vases, and classical paintings depart the country with one set of export valuations declared to Chinese authorities. The antiques arrive in the U.S. worth at least twice as much on average based on declared import values. Alice Lovell Rossiter, who crunched those numbers for her master’s thesis at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, says she’s found a reason for the transoceanic jump: widespread circumvention of Chinese laws meant to restrict export of high-value cultural property.”Objects over 100 years of age are misclassified in order to avoid scrutiny by Chinese export officials, then reclassified properly when brought to the United States,” Rossiter writes in her thesis. … (Her findings were earlier reported in The Art Newspaper.) ... Read more →    See also: “Where is China’s Hidden Money?” by Charlotte Burns in The Art Newspaper, February 4, 2014.


Egypt foils smuggling of Jewish artefacts

AhramOnline — April 18, 2014 — Boxes used to hold Torah scrolls, a silver knife and a chandelier are among objects seized at Damietta harbour. Police have seized a collection of Jewish artefacts and historical objects at Damietta harbour. The collection was found inside a parcel due to be transported to Belgium. Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that early inspections reveal the objects are authentic and protected by Law 117 of 1983. The objects reflect a period of religious tolerance in Egyptian history, he said. They are being studied in order to identify their provenance... Read more →   


Spike In Stolen Artifacts In Latin America Spurs Concerns Over Rising Black Market Trade

Fox News Latino — April 17, 2014 — Ecuadorean authorities have reported a recent uptick in thefts of historical artifacts from museums, churches and private collection, causing worry in the Andean nation and abroad about a possible surge in the lucrative antiquities trafficking market in Latin America. In the first four months of 2014 there have been 17 reports of stolen artifacts in Ecuador – compared with just two thefts in 2012 and none in 2013 – with the stolen good garnering anywhere between $4,000 and $8,000 a piece on the black market, Ecuador’s National Institute of Cultural Patrimony (INPC) reported. Ecuador’s rise comes as Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Colombia are also seeing an increase in the number of archeological relics being pilfered... Read more →   


Retired army general wants Egypt’s St. Catherine’s Monastery demolished

AhramOnline — April 13, 2014 — A retired army general says he has filed a court case pushing for Egypt’s historic Saint Catherine’s Monastery to be demolished and its Greek monks deported on the grounds that they pose a threat to national security. In May 2012, Ahmed Ragai Attiya obtained 71 administrative orders regarding the demolition of the monastery’s multiple churches, monk cells, gardens and other places of interest on the grounds, which he claims were all built in 2006 and thus not historic, according to Ihab Ramzy, the monastery’s lawyer. However, in an interview with private channel ONTV on Thursday, Attiya said that he has now used the 71 orders to file an official demolition suit... Read more →   


Peru: new law could target crimes against cultural heritage

By Sophia Guida, This Week in Peru — 10 April 2014 — Peruvian Congressman Aldo Bardález has put forth a bill in Parliament that could increase the penalty to 15 years in prison for crimes against cultural heritage, according to RPP Noticias. Crimes against cultural heritage are defined as destroying or harming important cultural artifacts, such as defacing important monuments or the theft of archaeological finds. Bardález argued that these crimes have increased in recent years, a total of 5,226 incidences from 2000 to 2013. He also argued that these crimes affect everyone because cultural heritage is owned collectively... Read more →


Taking on Looters on Twitter

The New York Times — 09 April 2014 — Monica Hanna stood inside the Malawi National Museum in Minya, Egypt, last August, armed only with a cellphone and her Twitter account, as looters ran rampant. Nearly all the objects she had loved since childhood — mummies and amulets, scarabs and carved ibises — were gone. In their place lay shattered glass, shards of pottery, splintered wood and the charred remains of a royal sarcophagus... Read more →


Philippines: Bohol task force sets up system to prevent illicit traffic of cultural properties

By Edgar Allan M. SembranoPhilippine Daily Inquirer — 07 April 2014 —Reconstruction of ancient churches and other heritage structures in Bohol destroyed or damaged by the earthquake last year can start only by yearend. … In the meantime, painstaking studies are being made to determine the proper reconstruction and conservation approaches to be made. The Bohol Hertiage Task Force has also set up a system for the prevention of illicit traffic of cultural properties. Although there has no finding yet of pilferage. cultural properties must be registered with the National Museum. In damaged heritage churches, items that are usually pilfered are  the antique icons and chalices and other exquisite items used in the Eucharistic celebration. In order to prevent illicit traffic of cultural properties, needed are documentation of cultural properties; issuance of licenses, certificates and permits to dealers of antiques; surveillance, information dissemination and research... Read more →


Five Reasons We Support the Antiquities Act (And You Should Too)

By Denise Ryan, Director of Public Lands Policy, Government Relations and Policy, National Trust for Historic Preservation — WASHINGTON, DC — 03 April 2014 — This past week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on H.R. 1459, the “Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monument Act.” The bill’s title is misleading: What the legislation actually proposes is to curtail the President’s ability to act swiftly to establish or expand the designation of national monuments on federally owned or controlled property in order to protect sites, objects, and landscapes of historic, cultural, or scientific interest. Read more → 


Egypt: Antiquities Minister, U.S. Official Discuss Efforts to Protect Egypt’s Heritage

Egypt State Information Service — 03 April 2014 — Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and Counselor of Press and Cultural Affairs at the US Embassy in Cairo Patricia Kabra discussed on Wednesday 2/4/2014 preparations for an upcoming visit to Egypt by a senior US official. Assistant US Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan will arrive on Monday 7/4/2014 to discuss a proposal submitted by Egypt to illegalize trading of Egyptian monuments in America. This comes as part of the Egyptian antiquities ministry’s endeavors to maintain Egypt’s heritage. During their meeting, Ibrahim briefed Kabra on the proposed items of the deal. For her part, Kabra said the USA is keen on cooperation with Egypt in this domain, expressing her deep appreciation for calls to protect Egypt’s cultural heritage. She also said she would take all needed actions to have this agreement signed as soon as possible... Read more →   


Battles loom over Crimea’s cultural heritage

By Gabriela Baczynska and Pavel Polityuk (Reuters ) — YALTA, Crimea / KIEV , Ukraine — 02 April 2014 — From the 16th-century Tatar Khans’ palace in Bakhchisaray to the former tsarist residence that hosted the World War Two Yalta conference, Crimea’s heritage sites have become a source of bitter contention since Russia seized the region from Ukraine. For Kiev, which does not recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, losing the cultural and historic legacy of the Black Sea peninsula would be another major blow and Ukraine is readying for long legal battles with Russia. “We will never give up the valuable heritage in Crimea because that is the property of Ukraine,” the country’s Prosecutor General, Oleh Makhnitsky, told Reuters on Wednesday... Read more →   


Syrian Cultural Heritage Must Not be Overlooked, Says UNESCO

02 April 2014 — CNN — Three years of conflict have left parts of Syria in ruins, CNN looks at the impact on the country’s historical sites and arts.  UNESCO warns that the world should not overlook that precious Syrian cultural treasures are being destroyed in the conflict.

Bring Back the Monuments Men

By Bonnie Burnham — Wall Street Journal Online — 02 April 2014 — Two weeks ago, the famed Crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers, one of the irreplaceable Syrian heritage sites named to the 2014 World Monuments Watch, again found itself a target in the Syrian civil war. This winter, the film “Monuments Men” told the story of how, over two years, with virtually no resources or support, a ragtag division of 345 volunteers from 17 countries working under the aegis of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) program rescued six million stolen artworks from Nazi depots, including some of the world’s most esteemed masterpieces, and saved hundreds of historic buildings, objects and archival collections from destruction in Europe and Asia. Yet there has been no sequel to the work of the Monuments Men. Time and again, major cultural treasures have been destroyed, museums looted and archaeological sites despoiled during conflicts. Even after civil law was re-established in Afghanistan, Egypt and Iraq, the destruction has continued under the noses of authorities… Read more → 


Palmyrenes: Risking their lives to preserve our Global Cultural Heritage

By Dr. Franklin Lamb — IntifadaPalestine.com — 28 March 2014 – This observer, seemingly ever miscalculates life’s realities.   For example, he deluded himself recently into believing that Hezbollah guys were about the wildest, luckiest and fastest drivers from the archeological sites in Baalbek in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, or for a fast trip from the charming village of Britel, to Beirut’s southern suburbs… Read more → 


U.S. Victims of Jerusalem Bombing Can’t Claim Iran Artifacts

By Andrew Harris — Bloomberg Businessweek — 28 March 2014 — U.S. victims of a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem who blamed Iran for the blasts and later obtained a $71.5 million judgment against that nation can’t claim Persian antiquities at the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History (86753MF:US), a federal judge ruled. The attack in September 1997 killed five people and wounded 200 others. Nine Americans sued Iran, alleging it provided support for Hamas, the Palestinian group held responsible for the triple suicide bombing. When Iran didn’t contest the 2003 judgment, the victims sought to collect by pursuing its assets in the U.S, targeting artifacts including 2,500-year-old clay tablets mainly found on the site of the ancient Persian city of Persepolis and now at the university and the natural history museum in Chicago. Those institutions and Iran, which joined the Chicago federal court proceedings in 2006, opposed the seizure, claiming the items were protected under the law. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ruled yesterday the antiquities were legally beyond the victims’ reach… Read more → 


Ukraine asks UNESCO to protect cultural heritage sites in Crimea

Reported by ZN/UA — March 25, 2014 — Ukraine has appealed to UNESCO to protect cultural heritage sites in Crimea, says Ukraine’s Minister of Culture Yevhen Nyshchuk, as reported by Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, March 24. “On the territory of Crimea is the Khersones Tavriysky (Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese), which is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and which belongs to the Ukrainian state. We have been given the mission to protect it. However, since we no longer have physical access to the site in order to protect all the rarities and exhibits located there, which are priceless not only for Ukraine but also for the entire world, we appeal to UNESCO to help us,” he said. According to Yevhen Nyshchuk, Ukrainian scientists have lost all access to cultural sites after the military occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. Chersonese became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.… Read the report in Ukrainian → 


Treasure trove of U.S. Army artifacts in need of a home

By CBS News — FORT BELVOIR, Va. — 03 March 2014 The U.S. Army has been on the front lines of history for well over two centuries, but in all that time, it has never had a national museum of its own to display a vast collection of artifacts. Now, there’s a plan to change that. Chris Semancik is chief of collections at the U.S. Army’s Museum Support Center, a massive, climate-controlled facility at Fort Belvoir, Va. Here, the nearly 240-year history of the U.S. Army is preserved….  Read more → 


Loss of world heritage and currently inhabited places due to sea-level rise

By Ben Marzeion and Anders Levermann in 2014 Environmental Research Letters 9 034001. The world population is concentrated near the coasts, as are a large number of World Heritage sites, defined by the UNESCO. Using spatially explicit sea-level estimates for the next 2000 years and high-resolution topography data, we compute which current cultural heritage sites will be affected by sea-level rise at different levels of sustained future warming. … If the current global mean temperature was sustained for the next two millennia, about 6% (40 sites) of the UNESCO sites will be affected, and 0.7% of global land area will be below mean sea level. These numbers increase to 19% (136 sites) and 1.1% for a warming of 3 K. At this warming level, 3–12 countries will experience a loss of more than half of their current land surface, 25–36 countries lose at least 10% of their territory, and 7% of the global population currently lives in regions that will be below local sea level. Given the millennial scale lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, our results indicate that fundamental decisions with regard to mankind’s cultural heritage are required.  Read more →


Researchers complete map to highlight endangered traditional Afghanistan water systems

LAWRENCE, Kansas — March 4, 2014 — You could consider this University of Kansas multidisciplinary research team the modern day “Monuments Men (and Women).” Instead of George Clooney leading a band of scholars behind enemy lines into Nazi Germany to save artistic masterpieces, this group of academics for months pored over satellite images and has created what is believed to be the first complete map of karez water systems in southern Afghanistan. The systems for centuries in the Middle East and Central Asia have steered runoff water from the mountains so that villages can use it as drinking and irrigation. “It’s like the ribbon of life, really,” said Rolfe Mandel... Read more →   


Egypt Allocates EGP 48 Million for Antiquities Sector

Egypt State Information Service — February 28, 2014 — Egypt is set to allocate EGP 48 million for the financing of current projects in the antiquities sector, said State Minister for Antiquities Affairs Mohamed Ibrahim. The slowness in implementing some projects was due to a drop in the ministry’s revenue owing to the decline in tourist movement to Egypt after the 25 January Revolution, the minister added... Read more →   


Read the International Blue Shield Committee Statement of Concern on Ukraine

February 27, 2014 — Following the civil conflict that has been shaking the Ukraine, the Blue Shield wishes to express its deep concern regarding the safeguarding and protection of the country’s invaluable cultural and historical heritage, as well as the institutions that house them and the people that care for them. Ukraine’s museums, libraries and documentary heritage, monuments, churches and monasteries are under risk of threat from looting and destruction. The international heritage community wishes to warn of the potential harm that cultural property may suffer... Read more →   


The Apollo of Gaza: One fisherman’s amazing catch

By Shahdi Alkashif for BBC — February 20, 2014 — A statue thought to be an ancient bronze of Apollo, Greek God of poetry and love, has dropped off the radar after being found in the sea off Gaza last summer and surfacing briefly on eBay. It is 2,500 years old and priceless..Read more →   


German treasure hunter finds Roman gold hoard

german_treasure_hunter_finds_roman_gold_silver_160_93Archaeology News Network — February 20, 2014 — A hobby archaeologist with a metal detector has discovered a trove of gold and silver in a German forest dating back to late Roman times, fueling speculation it could be the legendary Nibelung treasure that inspired Richard Wagner’s opera cycle. The haul from the western state of Rhineland Palatinate, worth about 1 million euros, includes silver bowls, brooches and other jewelry from ceremonial robes and small statues that adorned a grand chair, said archaeologists. “In terms of timing and geography, the find fits in with the epoch of the Nibelung legend,” Axel von Berg, the state’s chief archaeologist was quoted by German media as saying. “But we cannot say whether it actually belongs to the Nibelung treasure,” he said, adding that whoever owned it had “lived well” and could have been a prince.Read more →    See also: Could Roman Gold Found in Germany be Nibelung Rhinegold Treasure? — International Business Times (UK) — 02/20/2014 Looter caught Trying to Sell a Hoard of Roman Gold and Silver — io9 — 02/21/2014 Legendary Nibelung Treasure May Have Been Found By A Guy With A Metal Detector — Huffington Post — 02/21/2014 Has Richard Wagner’s mythical Nibelung treasure been found? — The Telegraph (UK) — 02/21/2014


UNESCO Director-General condemns military presence and destruction at World Heritage Sites in Syria

February 20, 2014 — In the face of a deteriorating situation inside Syria, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, made the following statement : “The situation in Syria is deteriorating at a rapid pace with incalculable human suffering and loss. Syria’s unique cultural heritage is also subject to tremendous destruction from the conflict. To date, three UNESCO World Heritage Sites — Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers, and Aleppo including the Aleppo Citadel — are being used for military purpose and this raises the risk of imminent and irreversible destruction, in addition to that which these sites have already suffered. This presence constitutes an infringement of the rights of the Syrian people. Read more → 


U.S. troops saved art as the ‘Monuments Men’ of Iraq

By Lance M. Bacon — Army Times — February 17, 2014 — What once served as a national bank looked more like a tomb. And it was, for the enemy soldiers who had recently tried to blast their way into the vault. The reinforced confines and simple physics left little of them. A new team of unlikely allies pressed deep into the dark recesses. The temperature, already in triple digits, increased with every step. The stench of stagnant sewer water was almost unbearable. Read more → 


Fisherman finds 2500-year-old statue of Greek god Apollo

(CNN) — February 17, 2014 — GAZA — When Jwdat Abu Ghrb spotted a dark shape last summer in the waters off Gaza, where he was diving for fish, he initially thought it was a corpse. “I was afraid,” he told CNN. “I put on my goggles, dove underneath and still couldn’t tell what it was. I resurfaced and got some help from other people and family members and came back, and after full four hours of trying we managed to get it out of the water and I was shocked by what I found.” It was a life-size bronze statue, believed to be a 2,500-year-old depiction of the ancient Greek god Apollo. He described the half-ton object as “treasure pulled out of the sea. I thought it was made of gold; I was going to be rich,” Ghrb said. “So I took it home to hide it.” But then others got involved.  Read more →  


While Elgin Marbles debate rages, there is still a market for looted antiquities

By Simon Mackenzie — February 14, 2014 — Several members of the cast of the film The Monuments Men made headlines for expressing the view that the British Museum should return the Elgin Marbles to Athens after their “very nice stay” of 200 years in London. That reignited the debate around the ethics and intentions of their removal from the Parthenon in the early 19th century, as well as the controversy around what to do with them now. But whether or not the removal of the sculptures should be considered “pillage or protection”, as the Guardian put it, we might take the opportunity to reflect on other more contemporary and unambiguous examples of international cultural heritage plunder… Read more →


Spanish team in Egypt finds 3,600-year-old mummy

By Mariam Rizk (Associated Press) — February 13, 2014 — CAIRO — Spanish archeologists have unearthed a 3,600-year-old mummy in the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister said Thursday. Prosecutors accused nine people including three Germans of smuggling stone samples from pyramids. In a statement, Mohammed Ibrahim said the rare find in a preserved wooden sarcophagus dates back to 1600 BC, when the Pharaonic 17th Dynasty reigned.He said the mummy appears to belong to a high official. Read more →


Destruction of the Idols

By Patrick Cockburn — February 12, 2014 — DAMASCUS —  Islamic fundamentalists in Syria have started to destroy archaeological treasures such as Byzantine mosaics and Greek and Roman statues because their portrayal of human beings is contrary to their religious beliefs. The systematic destruction of antiquities may be the worst disaster to ancient monuments since the Taliban in Afghanistan dynamited the giant statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in 2001 for similar ideological reasons. In mid-January the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), an al-Qa’ida-type movement controlling much of north-east Syria, blew up and destroyed a sixth-century Byzantine mosaic near the city of Raqqa on the Euphrates. The official head of antiquities for Raqqa province, who has fled to Damascus and does not want his name published, told The Independent: “It happened between 12 and 15 days ago. A Turkish businessman had come to Raqqa to try to buy the mosaic. This alerted them [Isis] to its existence and they came and blew it up. It is completely lost.” Read more → 


The Monuments Men are Still at It

By Malek Kaylan for The Wall Street journal – February 08, 2014 — Americans have good reason to be proud of the World War II officers played by George Clooney and his co-stars in the new movie “The Monuments Men.” They genuinely recovered a vast trove of Europe’s looted art treasures, some five million objects according to accepted estimates—a rare act of impartial decency in the annals of combat. Less well known, however, is the fact that Americans in the military and in civilian life are still busy protecting the world’s cultural heritage in war zones. The tradition of monuments… Read more


Civil War Puts Syria’s Cultural Heritage In Peril

npr_logo_150_52On National Public Radio – February 07, 2014 — In addition to the lives lost in Syria as its conflict rages on, the country’s cultural heritage is also being lost. Art and artifacts have been looted, important archeological sites and museums damaged. Renee Montagne talks to UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture Francesco Bandarin about the destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage and what’s being done to protect it. Listen to the interview


Minister of Antiquities reveals full account of damage to Museum of Islamic Art

By Omar El Adl  — Daily News Egypt — February 02, 2014 — Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim on Thursday gave a final tally of damage done to the Museum of Islamic Art as a result of the car- bomb attack on the Cairo Security Directorate on 24 January. Of 1,471 artefacts, 47 were destroyed, 26 will be pieced together and 64 will be restored, according to the minister. Ibrahim’s remarks came during a press conference held in cooperation with a delegation sent by UNESCO to assess the damage… Read more → 


UNESCO team ‘shocked’ at Egypt Islamic museum loss

By Marian Rizk (Associated Press) — February 2, 2014 — CAIRO – UNESCO pledged Friday to help restore a renowned museum dedicated to Islamic history in Cairo that was devastated by a bomb last month, with officials expressing “shock” at the scale of the damage.

The Museum of Islamic Art was across the street from the truck bomb that targeted the Egyptian capital’s security headquarters on Jan. 24. It killed four people and caused damage to buildings for hundreds of yards around, smashing the museum’s facade and sending debris crashing onto exhibits. Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said that 164 of the 1,471 items on display were damaged, of which 90 could be reassembled or restored. Most of the 74 irreparably damaged items were glass and porcelain, smashed to powder. On a tour of the building… Read more→

Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS), Mission Report, January 13 – 19, 2014, Civil-Military Assessment Mission for Malian Heritage.

blue_shield_135x90By Dr. Joris Kila and Karl von Habsburg LLM. The objective of the mission was to evaluate the current situation of Cultural Heritage (including monuments, archaeological and historical sites and archives) in Northern Mali after the recent armed conflict. Especially possibilities to establish contacts with the Malian Armed Forces resulting in support for their eventual endeavors to help protecting Cultural Heritage following international legal obligations had to be assessed. The latter should preferably lead to military participation in a, yet to be created, National committee of the Blue Shield in Mali… Read more→


Egypt seizes 1,524 illegally excavated ancient artifacts

(Reuters) — January 07, 2014 — Police in Egypt this week seized a stash of more than 1,500 ancient artifacts believed to have been illegally excavated by armed gangs, authorities said. Political turmoil and social unrest since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 have allowed for an increase in antiquities thefts and illegal digging in the country, home to a rich trove of some of the world’s oldest works of art. Ancient statues, amulets and limestone false doors – found in some tombs as gateways to the afterlife – were among the pieces seized Monday in a raid on a house in the Zawiyat Abu Musallem suburb of Cairo. The 1,524 objects sized had important archaeological value and spanned several eras of ancient Egyptian civilization, according to a statement issued by Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim. “The variety of the seized antiquities indicates that they are the result of illegal digging by armed gangs,” Ibrahim said. He said ammunition found on one of the suspects underscored “the danger of these organized gangs that carry out digs in secret and trade illegally in Egyptian antiquities.” Thieves broke into a museum in southern Egypt in August and made off with more than 1,000 artifacts. Read more→


Pakistan seizes 1,155 smuggled artifacts; majority found to be genuine

ISLAMABAD — 12/30/2013 — Excavating artifacts without reporting them is causing loss to Pakistan’s natural heritage. This was highlighted when the Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation Karachi recently shared a report with Dawn regarding a bid to smuggle 1,050 antiquities abroad by sea in February this year. This could have been one of the biggest attempts to smuggle genuine artifacts out of Pakistan which was foiled by the customs office, a senior official in the Ministry of National Heritage told Dawn. A team of archaeologists from Islamabad later examined the 1,155 artifacts which had been confiscated. The archeologists declared 1,050 artifacts as antiquities while the remaining 105 came under the purview of counterfeiting as defined under the relevant sections of the Antiquities Act 1975. The confiscated artifacts ranged from the prehistoric ages dating back to 2000BC to the Islamic period… Read more→


UNESCO adopts document on protection of cultural property in occupied territories

Reported in Trend (Azerbaijan) – 19 December 2013 –  BAKU – UNESCO has adopted a document on the protection of cultural property in the occupied territories. The document was adopted at the eighth session of the UNESCO Committee for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflicts, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on Dec.19. The initiative to discuss in the committee the issue of protection of cultural property in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan was made by Azerbaijan in 2012. The document prepared by the Secretariat of the UNESCO committee reflects the mechanisms and the aspects of application of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property. The document also addresses the possibility of UNESCO technical mission visiting the occupied territories in order to monitor the state of cultural properties. Despite the attempts of the Armenian side to prevent sending UNESCO missions to the Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia, the document was successfully adopted. A majority of committee members supported the inclusion of items in the document that meet the interests of Azerbaijan.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 per cent of Azerbaijan since 1992….. Read more→ See the Agenda and Working Documents of the 8th Meeting of the Committee on Armed Conflict and Heritage, held at UNESCO Headquarters, Room XI, Paris, France, 18-19 December 2013 and the Document on the Protection of Cultural Property in Occupied Territory, adopted by the Committee on 19 December 2013. See also: UNESCO adopts document on protection of cultural heritage in occupied territories, reported by Sara Rajabova in AzerNews, 19 December 2013. See also: Document on protection of cultural property adopted at UNESCO Committee session, reported in APA, 19 December 2013. 


Egypt Wins Membership of UNESCO Committee for Protecting Cultural Property During Armed Conflicts

Reported by Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) in  for AllAfrica.com – 18 December 2013 –  Egypt has been elected as a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict for a four-year term. Egypt’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador Mohamed Sameh Amr said it is the first time for Egypt to win the committee’s membership since its accession in 2005. By winning the membership, Egypt becomes the only Arab member state in the committee, added Amr. The Committee was established by Article 24 of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (Paris, 1999). The Committee is composed of 12 States Parties to the Second Protocol. The main tasks of the Committee focus primarily on monitoring the implementation of the Second Protocol and managing the system of enhanced protection…. Read more→


Egyptian antiquities ministry tries to stop sale of 23 artifacts in US

Reported by Nevine El-Aref for Ahram.org – 17 December 2013 –  The Egyptian antiquities ministry on Tuesday asked the foreign ministry to take all legal measures necessary to stop the sale of 23 ancient Egyptian objects on display at Sotheby’s auction hall in the United States. The antiquities ministry has reported the case to Interpol and asked the organisation to carry out comprehensive investigations to verify how the objects left Egypt. It has also asked Sotheby’s to prove its ownership of the objects. If Sotheby’s fail to prove ownership and show the correct export certificates, the ministry would take steps to get the artefacts returned to Egypt, said Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim. Ahmed Ali, head of the Restitution of Antiquities Department at the ministry, told Ahram Online that the collection in question includes marble statues of deities and kings, limestone statue heads and clay pottery. The objects are from different periods….. Read more→


Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities receives five artifacts repatriated from France

Reported by Al-Masry Al-Youm for Egypt Independent.com – 15 December 2013 –  Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim on Sunday said that the ministry will receive on Monday five artifacts repatriated from France and handed over to the Foreign Ministry. The pieces were stolen from Egypt during the state of lawlessness that had prevailed in the wake of the 25 January revolution. “We have been monitoring sites that sell cultural property of countries of civilizations to see if they came out of Egypt in legitimate ways or were stolen and smuggled,” the minister said. Two of the pieces were displayed in an auction in Toulouse and the other three in a bazaar. They date back to the Ptolemaic era in the third century BC. A ministerial committee is taking the pieces to the Egyptian Museum for restoration. Ali Ahmed, director of the Repatriation Department, said the first piece is of a head carved in glass, the second features part of a chest and the third features a full arm. They were discovered by the French mission in East Kantara in 2010. The ministry has recently repatriated several artifacts from the United Kingdom and Germany, in addition to more than 90 artifacts that were displayed in an auction hall in Jerusalem… Read more→


These Playing Cards School US Soldiers in Archaeology

Reported by Elise Craig for Wired – 12 December 2013 –  When Laurie Rush, an army archaeologist and anthropologist, heard that the military had built a helipad directly on top of ancient Babylon, she realized she needed to do more to educate US soldiers about historic places. It wasn’t just for art’s sake. Disrespecting venerable sites can set off military and diplomatic crises. “When people destroy the culture, it’s incendiary for the conflict,” Rush says. This isn’t a new problem. George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, in theaters this winter, follows men and women working to protect and recover priceless works of art at the end of World War II. But Rush has a solution that doesn’t require Clooney: playing cards. Soldiers used decks of cards to identify some of the most wanted officials in the Iraqi regime; Rush’s cards depict art and architecture (like the minaret at the Great Mosque at Samarra), with tips themed by suit (diamonds mean artifacts; spades mean “be careful where you dig”). The cards have been popular enough that soldiers asked for a deck for Afghanistan, and Rush and colleagues created cards, plus pocket guides for architectural awareness and handbooks for commanders. … Read more→[hozbreakup]