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Ancient Cycladic civilization meets modern Beijing March 24, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Hellenic Light Asia.
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Archaeological exhibition will open on April 3

24-03-08_cycladic.jpg  A marble female figurine from the early Cycladic II period, circa 2700-2300 BC.

With the Olympic Games in Beijing almost upon us, the Chinese capital is getting ready to welcome some of the wonders of one of Europe’s oldest civilizations. “The Cyclades: Masterpieces of an Aegean Culture” is an archaeological exhibition that will go on display at Beijing’s Imperial City Art Museum on April 3 and is scheduled to run to May 15.

On loan from the Museum of Cycladic Art and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, figurines, tools and pots, dating to the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, are set to travel to China for the first time. The exhibition is part of the ongoing Cultural Year of Greece in China, which started last September and includes more interesting cultural events.

“This is the first archaeological exhibition of the Cultural Year of Greece in China,” said Sandra Marinopoulou, the new President of the N.P. Goulandris Foundation [who took over after the death of Dolly Goulandris], at a recent press conference. She pointed out that a display of artifacts from the ancient Cycladic civilization – the culture that flourished on the islands of the Cyclades – is of particular importance in a country that has not had much contact with Greek culture, because the exhibits are highly reminiscent of modern artworks by 20th-century artists whom they have inspired.

24-03-08_cycladic_art.jpg  The exhibits have been carefully arranged so as to reflect a sense of familiarity, as Nikolaos Stambolidis, Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art, explained. “We had at our disposal a huge space with glass displays which could have made the few statuettes almost disappear,” said Bessy Drouga from the National Archaeological Museum. Yet the opposite effect was achieved, since the exhibition has been enriched with maps of Europe as well as colors reminiscent of the Aegean Sea. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog in Chinese and English.

Situated in the center of Beijing, in Chang Pu He Park, the Imperial City Art Museum opened its gates to the public in June 2003. The two-floor structure houses traditional Chinese art but is also keen on showcasing international artwork.

Further events organized in the context of the Cultural Year of Greece in China, as Sofoklis Psilianos, general secretary for the Olympic Utilization explained, include an exhibition of costumes from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, a large exhibition in collaboration with Greece’s National Archaeological Museum, a performance of Dimitris Papaioannou’s staging of “Medea” as well as Sophocles’ tragedy “Ajax” by the Attis Theater, among other activities.

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World’s momentum growing for Parthenon Marbles’ return March 20, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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World’s momentum is growing for the return of the prized Parthenon marbles, taken from the Athens Acropolis some 200 years ago by Britain’s Lord Elgin, as major Museums handed back more ancient objects.

Museums around the world have in recent years started returning ancient artefacts to their countries of origin and have tightened checks on acquisitions to avoid buying objects that were illegally excavated or smuggled abroad.

20-03-08_acropolis_new_museum.jpg  “More and more Museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments promote bilateral and international cooperation (for the return of ancient objects),” Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference at the new Acropolis Museum. “So an ideal momentum is being created … for clear solutions on this issue,” he said.

The trend towards returning artefacts was strengthened by the high-profile affair involving former J. Paul Getty Museum curator Marion True and smuggled artefacts that were acquired by the Museum. Italy dropped a legal case against the Getty Museum last year after the institution agreed to return 40 items Rome believed had been stolen and smuggled out of the country, and the Getty has returned several such items to Greece. Both Italy and Greece have charged True with offences linked to trafficking in antiquities. She denies any wrongdoing. New York’s Metropolitan Museum has returned a prized 2,500-year-old vase to Italy, which recently displayed nearly 400 looted ancient objects that have been recovered in the past three years.

20-03-08_parthenon_marbles.jpg  The Parthenon marble friezes and sculptures were removed [stolen] from the Acropolis above Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, with permission from the Ottoman Empire officials then in power. Lord Elgin acquired his collection between 1801 and 1810. It was bought by the British Museum in 1816. The Museum refuses to return them to Greece on the ground that its statutes do not allow it to do so.

Liapis told the conference “This museum is ready to embrace all important artefacts taken from the sacred rock of the Acropolis and I hope the same goes for the foreign-based Parthenon marbles… so the unity of the sculptures can be restored.”

Britain said for many years that the marbles were better preserved in London than in Athens’ polluted air. Greece has said this argument is now obsolete given the completion of the new Acropolis state-of-the-art Museum, where an empty gallery awaits the Parthenon marbles.

Ancient Mycenaean harbour town discovered in Greece March 20, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Archaeologists recently announced what they call a ‘remarkable find”, the discovery of a relatively intact Mycenaean settlement, dating from 3,500 years ago, in the southern part of Greece.

The site, called Korphos-Kalamianos, is partly underwater and lies along an isolated and rocky shoreline in the Saronic Gulf in the western Aegean Sea, about 100 kilometres southwest of Athens and about 40 miles (65 km) east of Mycenae, one of the major Mycenaean capitals when Korphos-Kalamianos was active. Considered by archaeologists to have been a military outpost, the entire town’s plan is preserved and consists of more than 900 walls, as well as building remains and alleyways and streets.

The discovery is remarkable because it is so well-preserved and over the ground. Usually, Mycenaean sites, built in the Late Bronze Age, are covered underneath soil and archaeologists have to dig underground to discover them. The Mycenaean civilization thrived in Greece between 1600 and 1100 BC. It was the historical setting of Homer’s epics and many ancient Greek myths.

Though the settlement was built 3,500 years ago, hundreds of walls are still standing. The site is unique because the remains of most Mycenaean towns are completely buried by now under a few millennia’s worth of dirt and detritus. This one stands above ground, with many walls incredibly intact.

Although historians debate whether or not the Trojan War was a real event (many think the stories of Helen of Troy and the Trojan horse are likely myths), if it did occur, it would have been shortly after Korphos-Kalamianos was built. Though Korphos-Kalamianos did not seem to have a palace, many of the structures were built in palace-style architecture, leading the scientists to think that nobles or representatives of the King would have stayed there.

Archaeological excavations at the areas of Hellenic Cosmos March 20, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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In the summer of 2007, in the areas of the FHWʼs Cultural Centre Hellenic Cosmos, archaeologists unearthed important antiquities that contribute significantly to the study of Attica in the Byzantine and the post Byzantine period.

MEDIEVAL WINE PRESS > THE AREA AND EXCAVATION RESEARCH > The area of the excavation is on the property of the Foundation of the Hellenic World, on 254 Pireos Street, behind the Athens School of Fine Arts. Significant antiquities were unearthed during the works for the construction of the new facilities of Hellenic Cosmos.

The excavation researches were conducted initially by the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and then by the 1st Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities. Thanks to the intense efforts of the Archaeological Service and the unconditional and direct assistance by FHW, the excavations were completed in short time and with remarkable diligence.

THE FINDINGS > Eight walls were found that defined two square areas, with good quality plaster on the interior surface of walls and the floor. Area II partly overlaps area I on its northeastern part. At that point a cistern was discovered, constructed in the shape of a pithos, with diameter of 1,35 m. maximum, a mouth of 0,55 m. and 1,95 m. deep. The cistern communicated with the two areas through canals of triangular cross section, approximately 0,20 m. wide and has good quality plaster on its interior surface. The bottom of the cistern creates a small cavity with a cornice approximately 0,15 m. wide. Three carelessly constructed walls have been revealed to the east of the two areas.

20-03-08_fhg.jpg  A significant amount of pottery dated to the Late Classical/Hellenistic Period was found in the area (mainly small fragments of black glazed pottery), as well as a large quantity of Byzantine glazed pottery (with burnished polychrome and monochrome ware) and kitchen ware of the Middle and Late Byzantine Period (11th-14th century). The intact vases found in the cistern were of particular importance. All in all, we cannot distinguish a clear stratigraphy in the excavation area, since the pottery sherds appear to be disturbed. On the upper strata we detect traces and findings of the Middle Byzantine Period (15th-17th century).

EVALUATION > During the excavations it was evaluated that this was a workshop for the production and storage of food. Based on the findings it was interpreted as a wine press, with two areas for pressing grapes (“lenos”) and a cistern (“hupolenion” a wine-vat), where must was collected. The two lenoi were used successively.

This was a complex workshop area, which was most probably used during the 11th-13th/14th century, while there are elements to suggest a later use, during the Middle Byzantine Period.

The morphology and variety of the findings, pottery in particular, as well as the morphology of the construction, lead us to the conclusion that the wine press is an important monument that should be systematically studied and methodologically evaluated.

We will be able to answer these questions regarding the exact date of the construction and the various stages of its use and operation after a careful examination of the findings.

Foundation of the Hellenic World, 38 Poulopoulou Street and 254 Pireos Street, Athens, tel 212 2543800.

Related Links > http://www.fhw.gr

A Meeting at the Athens Ancient Agora March 20, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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The Foundation of the Hellenic World presents its new exhibition “Meeting at the Ancient Agora” and which focuses on the values that were born in the Ancient Agora of Athens and shaped contemporary political thought: freedom, justice, education, isonomy, freedom of speech, sociability and participation to common affairs.

With natural exhibits and interactive applications of advanced technology, the exhibition brings to life the social, political and intellectual reality of the city of Athens in the period in which the Agora was constructed.

Related Links > http://meeting.athens-agora.gr/index_en.html

http://www.fhw.gr/fhw/index.php?lg=2#

Athens conference told of artifacts looted March 19, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Shows & Conferences.
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Antiquities smuggling is helping to finance terror > Athens conference told of artifacts looted in war-torn regions

19-03-08_entrance_new_acropolis_museum.jpg  The entrance of the new Acropolis Museum, which this week hosted a UNESCO-organized conference on the return of antiquities to their country of origin. The fate of antiquities looted from Iraq was in the spotlight yesterday at a UNESCO-sponsored conference in Athens on the return of cultural property.

When Baghdad fell to the US-led coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein, the world watched in horror as looters ransacked the museum that housed some of the nation’s most prized treasures. Today, trafficking of stolen Iraqi antiquities is helping to finance al-Qaida in Iraq and Shiite militias, according to the US investigator who led the probe into the looting of the National Museum.

United States Marine Reserve Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, a New York assistant district attorney called up to duty shortly after 9/11, said that while kidnappings and extortion remain insurgents’ main source of funds, the link between terrorism and antiquities smuggling has become “undeniable.”

“The Taliban are using opium to finance their activities in Afghanistan,” Bogdanos told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of the conference. “Well, they don’t have opium in Iraq. What they have is an almost limitless supply of antiquities. And so they’re using antiquities.”

The murky world of antiquities trafficking extends across the globe and is immensely lucrative, private collectors can pay tens of millions of dollars for the most valuable artifacts. It’s almost impossible to put an authoritative monetary value on Iraqi antiquities. But as an indication, the colonel said one piece looted from the National Museum – an 8th-century-BC Assyrian ivory carving of a lioness attacking a Nubian boy, overlaid with gold and inlaid with lapis lazuli – could sell for $100 million.

Bogdanos, 51, an amateur boxer with a master’s degree in classics who won the Bronze Star fighting in Afghanistan, said it was not until late 2004 “that we saw the use of antiquities in funding initially the Sunnis and al-Qaida in Iraq, and now the Shiite militias.”

Although security has improved dramatically in Iraq since mid-2007, the country is still violence-ridden, and it is all but impossible for Iraq’s 1,500 archaeological guards to protect the country’s more than 12,000 archaeological sites.

“Unauthorized excavations are proliferating throughout the world, especially in conflict zones,” Francoise Riviere, the assistant director-general of UNESCO’s cultural branch, said at the conference. She said UNESCO was deeply concerned about the “decimation” of Iraq’s cultural heritage. “The damage inflicted on the National Museum in Baghdad, the increasingly precarious state and the systematic pillage of sites are alarming facts which are a great challenge to the international community,” Riviere said.

Bahaa Mayah, an adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told the conference that looters sometimes use heavy machinery to dig up artifacts – destroying the site while they loot. He decried a lack of cooperation among some European countries, which he refused to name, in returning trafficked goods seized from smugglers. “We are facing now, especially in Europe, tremendous difficulties in recovering our objects that are seized,” he said.

Bogdanos said smuggling networks did not appear with or after the war. “It’s a pre-existing infrastructure; looting’s been going on forever.”

But it was in the days after the fall of Baghdad in March 2003 that the National Museum was looted. The United States came under intense criticism for not protecting the museum, a treasure trove of antiquities. Bogdanos said that according to the latest inventories, a total of about 15,000 artifacts were stolen. Of those, about 4,000 have been returned to the museum, and a total of about 6,000 have been recovered.

Much of the museum’s looting was carried out by insiders and senior government officials of the time, said Bogdanos, who co-authored a book about the investigation, “Thieves of Baghdad” with William Patrick. Royalties from the book are donated to the museum. Bogdanos said not enough is being done by organizations such as UNESCO to protect Iraq’s heritage. “There’s no other way to say it. There’s a vacuum at the top,” he said.

Greek push for return of Parthenon Marbles March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Shows & Conferences, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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Changes in museum policies and an increase in instances of cooperation between different countries for the repatriation of looted artifacts could pave the way for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told an international conference in Athens yesterday.

“More and more museums are adopting tighter ethics codes and governments are promoting cooperation, so the ideal momentum is being created for clear solutions,” Liapis told the UNESCO event at the New Acropolis Museum.

Museum officials and archaeologists gave several examples of repatriated artifacts, such as the Obelisk of Axum, returned to Ethiopia from Rome in 2005. Experts also remarked upon the increase of works being smuggled out of war zones.

Christiane Tytgat, former curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels and director of the Netherlands Institute in Athens, said the Parthenon Marbles, currently in the British Museum, should be sent back too.“I support their return unreservedly… this is where they belong,” Tytgat said.