Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Egyptian List of Missing Artifacts

The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities has released a list of all the recorded artifacts still missing since the ransacking of the Egyptian Museum. There are sixty-three objects, mostly statues, amulets, and jewelry. You can download a copy here, complete with height, description, and low quality images or sketches.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

News coverage of Donny George's death

There is finally news coverage of Dr. Donny George's death in The Telegraph and the New York Times. The Telegraph article highlights how he risked his life to protect Iraq's archeological heritage during and after the ransacking of the Iraq National Museum. The New York Times reports that Dr. George died of a heart attack.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Looting from Space.

Many thanks to Dr. Nathan Craig, professor of archaeology at Penn State, for pointing out to me that you can see the effects of looting from space.

These Google Earth images marked by Dr. Craig show the holes dug by looters to reach ancient tombs in the Huara Valley, Peru.

In this image, the actual breadth of looting in this one section of the valley becomes apparent:

Terrifying, but immensely useful in gauging the extent of looting in Peru and other countries.

However, these images do not communicate the violence and carnage of the disarticulated bodies, broken pots, and modern human waste that litters the ground. Dr. Craig uses photography to create portraits of these looted victims that will help us to make connections between what we see here and what actually takes place in these pits. You can see much of his work here.

RIP Dr. Donny George Youkhanna

Dr. Donny George Youkhanna died suddenly yesterday, March 11, in Toronto.

Donny George was an Iraqi archaeologist and professor who was the director of the National Museum in Iraq at the time of the U.S. invasion in2003. He was often called "the man who saved the Iraqi National Museum" due to his incredibly brave and selfless attempts to protect the museum from looters. His tireless efforts to recover the stolen artifacts made him the international face of the plight of archaeological sites and museums across Iraq. His passion, good-heartedness, and contribution to these issues will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Professor Charged with Stealing New Mexico Artifacts

An article by the Chicago Tribune (found via Derek Fincham) outlines a pretty sketch-sounding story in which Daniel Amick, a Loyola professor of archaeology, pleaded guilty to violating the Archaeology Resources Protection Act and was charged with one year's probation. Amick admitted to removing 17 artifacts from public lands on two field trips to New Mexico. Amick agreed to return the artifacts and help investigators track down the others that are still missing. If he adheres to the terms of his probation, the charges will be dropped and he will have no record. Two others were implicated in the investigation, including an arrowhead hunter who would document the location of his finds with a GPS device, pocket the artifacts, and pass the information along to Amick. Amick's attorney asserted that Amick's decisions were academically motivated.

Academically motivated my hindquarters. As an archaeologist, Amick would be well aware of the laws that require him to obtain a research permit before excavating or removing any historical objects on public lands. The fact that he failed to do so, and that he worked with a arrowhead hunter who sold artifacts on eBay, seems to indicate less than academic concerns for the objects he was handling.

Amick hasn't just blatantly ignored laws that exist for good reason, but he has failed his students and neglected to protect the archaeological heritage he is supposed to safeguard. No one expects their professors to act in opposition to what they teach. It's very disappointing to find this kind of corruption within the archaeological and academic communities.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Big situation.

Finding something to write about has been all too easy these past few weeks. For those of you who are new to these issues or who have had your head under a rock for the past month, Zahi Hawass has resigned as the director of antiquities in Egypt. According to his website, he is leaving his post because he is no longer in a position to prevent the sudden rise in looting of sites and storage houses, and cannot bring any tourism to the country in its current state. He stated that he would only come back if there were a police force in place to protect antiquities and sites, but that currently antiquities are in too much danger for him to stay and watch the mess continue. Paul Barford has reported that a replacement for Hawass has already been appointed, but so far I have found no other reports confirming it.

Hawass is most well-known for his success in bringing tourism to Egypt and for his constant demands for the return of some of Egypt's more notable pieces, like the bust of Nefertiti. He has generated huge interest in Egyptian archaeology and history by repeatedly making headlines for his brash requests that certain pieces be repatriated. Many find his approach obnoxious and believe Hawass is more interested in media attention than Egypt itself. However, it can't be denied that his admittedly loud-mouth approach has essentially created the tourist trade in Egypt and generated a huge amount of attention for cultural heritage and issues of repatriation. So, if you haven't already read about these issues, lemme just tell you this is BIG NEWS for those of us who care.

Since his resignation, Hawass has allowed the truth about the current situation to come to light. Since the Egyptian Army has withdrawn from protecting sites and storage buildings, there has been no armed force able to prevent armed looters from pillaging whole buildings and sites. On Friday, a group of 35 looters attacked the storage magazines at Tell el-Fara'in and took all the artifacts associated with that area. On Saturday, forty armed men attacked an antiquities warehouse in Kafr el-Sheikh. The looters shot and injured several security men at the site.

Even though it appears that storage facilities with already excavated materials are a major source for looters, there is no guarantee that there is a record of the materials inside. Many of the artifacts stolen have never been described or published, so the loss of information is almost as great as if they had been ripped right out of the ground.

If you don't already care about these issues, now's the time to start. What's happening in Egypt is a more highly publicized example of what has been going on in countries like Iraq and Peru for decades. With Egypt so present in our news media, the illicit antiquities trades' connections to violence and organized crime is incredibly apparent, and I think it's pretty impossible for the general population to ignore the huge losses and risks at hand. Egypt's tragedy is providing a great opportunity for you busy little student bees to generate some buzz. You can start by joining Say Yes to Egypt on facebook!